This past February, the L Bench was officially reopened to the junior class after the administration deemed the bench safe to reopen after multiple sexual harassment claims this past year.
The bench, located between the 9000s and 2000s staircase, has traditionally served as a gathering spot for the junior class, but after these claims came to light, the administration prohibited its use as a way to eliminate the vehicle for the harassers.
Junior Andrew Pratt acknowledges that these claims needed addressing, but thinks that closing the L Bench was not the most effective resolution.
“Closing the L bench for an entire grade felt like an unnecessary resolution… I think some people will be more careful about what they say and do, but there will always be people that disagree with the rules or have different motives,” Pratt said.
The theme of punishing all for the actions of a few remains embedded in schools, yet it continues to be met regularly with grief. Students tend to feel as though they should not face punishment for others actions, but do reflect that this remains an effective strategy by the administration as it places pressure on the few agitators to reform their actions.
Junior Juliet Cable agrees with Pratt on the stance of closing down the L Bench was not a fully suitable punishment; however, Cable introduces a new perspective.
“Closing the L bench was only effective as a temporary solution, and was more or less a decision made to allow time for a better solution to arise. I think better solutions exist; given that the perpetrators of harassment can do the same thing elsewhere,” Cable contended.
These students point out tangible flaws in the administration’s actions including the fact that taking away the L bench does not provide a solution for any underlying causes. While the L Bench issue does remain a complex subject, students including Pratt and Cable overall continue to be unsatisfied with the administration’s response.
Agreeing with Pratt, junior Marco Mercurio says that this punishment was unsuitable for the crime, but he does admit that the message sank into the junior class.
“I do think students will act differently because the closing for an extensive period of time taught a lesson. For example, I saw student the other day cleaning up after themselves which was not seen previously. Additionally, I do think this closing sets a precedent for future classes,” Mercurio observed.
Mercurio raises an alternative point of the precedent administration’s action set as how the upcoming juniors will approach the L Bench, after witnessing the current class’ punishment.
In response to Mercurio’s point, Cutler House Dean Josepha Blocker, reflects that closing the L Bench does not set a precedent an administrative precedent at South.
“I don’t know that it sets any precedent. We have previously closed various parts of the school, if those areas were not being used productively by students; this is sort of just one example of that,” Blocker affirmed.
Blocker also defends the administration’s decision to close the bench as the severity of the allegations warranted the closure.
“Both teachers and deans tried to intervene in that area, so we were planning to meet with a group of students who sort of self-identified as kids who hung out there. And we had this open meeting…, and at this meeting it became clear there were other issues in behavior going on at the bench, that warranted a bit more action,” said Blocker.
Additionally, Pratt hopes and sees the attention placed on L bench as a way to address the false notion that only a few are welcome.
“A lot of people think it is a place for just some junior boys to hang out, but it is a place for the entire school to enjoy, so no one should feel embarrassed or uncomfortable sitting there,” Pratt asserted.
Cable cautions that those who feel that the L bench incident is an isolated event should understand that though South can feel removed from worldly issues, the issue of sexual harassment remains a common occurrence across the globe.
“This is and will never be just about the L Bench- it’s about every hallway of this school and every street corner in America where catcalling and harassment take place…. It’s about the athletes getting wolf whistled while being in uniform, and it’s about the kids who left South years ago feeling unsafe walking to work or to their car. Street harassment is a real issue that affects more people than we know. [The Administration] can shut down the L Bench, but we really need to shut down this cultural phenomenon of catcalling. That should be our real goal,” Cable stressed.