Students Reflect on Pep Rally Policies

Photo by Julie Samuels

By Aidan Fitzmaurice, Zoe Heywood, & Melanie Mcleod
With contributions from Brendan Locke, Zandra Baskin, Rayna Song, Claire Kroger, Erin Acosta, & Kimiya Ehsan

As Principal Joel Stembridge announced new regulations for the annual Newton South Pep Rally, South students reflect on the rule’s effectiveness and possible unintended repercussions.  

During advisory on Monday morning, Stembridge announced changes including

limitations on entering the building before 7:15, congregating in the hallways, or chanting before the pep rally, and the elimination of the longstanding tradition of the junior and senior classes entering the rally together.

The new rules are intended to help unify the school and ease the conflicts between the junior and senior classes, as tensions have flared leading up to this year’s pep rally. In addition, during the past few years, South has dealt with an increasingly hostile environment surrounding the rally, thus prompting the shift in policy.

As a student body, South remains torn on whether or not they agree with the administration’s new pep rally policy. Some find it too harsh, while others are grateful for any attempt to alleviate the tension.

Senior Caitlin Connell acknowledges that Stembridge was justified in attempting to address the current issues by enforcing new regulations.  

“I kind of get why he would say it, ‘cause I think senior and junior girls are getting very dramatic with how they’re acting and I get how it’s a joke or tradition. But I think what’s happening enforces terrible stereotypes about women,” said Connell.  

However, Connell says that this attempt to unify South with these limitations will not succeed in the long run, as they fail to address the real issues at hand.

Other students, like senior Alana Borer, are worried that Stembridge’s address will rid the pep rally from the remaining excitement and positive school spirit that still exists around it, as the hype that surrounds the event does not bother them.

“I think it [the shouting/rowdiness] is fine. Like, they’re seniors, they’re playing around before they have to go to the real world,” added Borer.

In addition to Borer’s concerns, junior Sam Linder remains wary that Stembridge’s announcement won’t carry any large impacts.   

“I think that the juniors and the seniors are always going to be feuding right before the pep rally, and I think that’s always going to happen and there’s no real way to stop it,” said Linder.

Though Linder acknowledges that the feuding will continue, he says the pep rally will still be a fun and exciting event due to the friendly competitions.  

Some students, like Connell, say that South’s administration does not deal with the deeper issues of harassment at the school. South has been accused by these students of unknowingly foster a culture of misogyny, and say that how these new rules continue to avoid actual progress.

“I think it’s appropriate that he acknowledged it and try to do something, but the way he’s trying to do it is to threaten us and say ‘we’re watching you’, which is true, but it doesn’t make everyone think about what they’re doing, it just makes them think about how they’re being watched by the administration and how we are, at the end of the day, less powerful than the administration,” said Connell.

Connell admits that Stembridge had good intentions when he announced the regulations, but says that, in reality, the limitations were portrayed by students as more of the administration’s reassurance of power than unifying initiatives.

The administration, however, does hope to “have [the pep rally] be more of a celebration of South,” according to guidance counselor Dan Rubin.“We want to be able to work with students to make the day special, and simultaneously make sure that it’s not disruptive to the overall school process.”

Stembridges announcement attempted to unify and connect all South students; however, the conflicting responses to it show the disconnect between the administration and students.

Connell reflects that a more effective method to create bonds and encourage unity remains to build a more positive and less threatening community.

“By uniting people by making them feel threatened is a really weird thing to do. I think you need to empower your students and make your students feel good, and make them come together. I think of unity as more of a joyful thing and not a thing you are forced into. If somehow his solution turns into unity, it will be terrible, forced and not going to last long,” said Connell.