Recently, the lack of input from the student body regarding administrative regulations has been a cause of much concern among the Stuyvesant community. In many recent articles in The Spectator, including the staff editorial “Stuyvesant Activated,” students have bemoaned the degree of power that the administration has over the student body simply because the students are unable to band together to fight the policies that they view as unjust. Students have become increasingly aware of the dire consequences that can result from this hesitance to act and have begun to stand up for their views.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, the Stuyvesant administration introduced
a policy that would necessitate students swiping in upon entry or exit of the building. Previously, there had not been scanners at the entrance to the school; students simply needed to show their ID cards. Students protested in defiance of this new policy, leading to a compromise between the Student Union and the administration. This compromise was that students only had to swipe into school in the morning and would not have to swipe in or out for the rest of the day. However, the agreement was not upheld, and students are now required to swipe in and out for out-of-school lunch as well.
“I don’t have any problem with students protesting but what they need to understand is that sometimes I don’t have a choice,” Principal Stanley Teitel said. “The scanners are a good example. This was not a choice. They were being put in place by the Department of Education. All high schools now have scanners.”
Many students still consider the fine for not having one’s ID card unfair. “Forgetting your ID isn’t really a big issue as long it isn’t a constant recurrence. But it is slightly unfair that we have to pay a dollar each time for a thin piece of paper,” junior Mengdi Lin said.
Sophomore Jiten Patel agrees. “The purpose of the temporary ID is to let the school track the attendance, so there shouldn’t be a need to make us pay,” he said.
The Stuyvesant administration has continued to impose rules, restricting many privileges Stuyvesant students enjoy, and student movements to challenge these decisions have become nothing more than talk.
Most recently, the administration implemented new restrictions on SING!, which has been a Stuyvesant tradition for 40 years. In the past few years the administration cut the amount of preparation time for SING! and banned the mosh pit, as well as the live announcement of the winners, citing as reasons
for such actions as the distraction that SING! causes and un-safe behavior, respectively.
There were a few unsuccessful attempts to fight the administration’s new policies. Some students tried to create a petition to allow the mosh pit if there was parental supervision.
A Facebook petition stated that though the elimination of the mosh pit and the live announcement of the winner may be small changes, if left unchecked, “it will ultimately lead to even more strict rules and the eventual demise of SING! and other long-standing Stuy traditions!” the petition said.
Regardless, Teitel’s primary concern is the safety of students and after two students were hospitalized last year, he believed he could not allow mosh pit anymore.
“My first concern always is for the students’ safety. Nothing takes precedence over that,” Teitel said.
SING! participant junior Nancy Ko affirms this concern of student safety. “Punishment for the mosh pit injuries should be finite and should be effective in making a justified point,” she said. “I agree that cancelling the mosh pit this year was the safe and responsible thing to do, but in future years I hope that the ban will be lifted, given that the student body is aware of the dangers of taking advantage of the exciting tradition.”
Many students were also disappointed last spring when the new dress code was announced for the coming school year, prohibiting shorts or skirts shorter than fingertip length as well as sleeveless shirts, stating that inappropriate choices in clothing were inhibiting the learning community. The consequences for breaking the dress code include the removal of out-to-lunch privileges and, in more serious scenarios, a meeting with a parent.
Because this was the first time that the Stuyvesant administration had ever imposed such regulations, there was plenty of outrage. However, almost no notable action was taken. A Facebook event was created that called on students to dress in violation of the code on the first day of the current school year, but the protest did not occur. Whether out of lack of leadership or for fear of being alone, students did not come together in unified protest.
Junior Jake Soiffer blames this on the Stuyvesant focus on academics and lack of a more holistic perspective among students. “Everyone at Stuy is completely engrossed in their own kind of thing. Everyone is really involved in clubs and stuff but only to the extent that it helps them get into college,” he said. “So everyone is doing something but they don’t actually think about changing the school, which is such an individualistic way of looking at the world.”
Another complaint regards the uneven enforcement of the dress code, and how it is at times random in its punishment.
“It’s ridiculous,” junior Saru Nanda said. “Girls who wear shorts and skirts that are barely shorter than their fingertips get called into Ms. Damesek’s office, while others wear ridiculously short shorts and skirts get away with it. If you’re going to enforce the rule, enforce it the right way.”
Soiffer agrees that the enforcement of certain policies is unfair. “[The administration] enforces rules to the extent that they aren’t really useful anymore,” he said. “Everyone just walks in with a sweater on. If they’re going to enforce [these] rules they should be better at it.”
Another problem students have with the administration is its detachment from the student body. Soiffer cited the administration’s “refusal to listen to the students” as one of the main causes of the problems the Stuyvesant community faces. Along those lines, many teachers refused to comment for this article.
Teitel believes that among the numerous plausible solutions to this problem would be an increase in involvement in the Student Union. “Since it’s a small number who elect students, you get what you paid for. If 20 percent are going to vote, then 80 percent have no right to say a word,” he said. “If 80 percent vote, then you’ve got a right to say something.”
Teitel also added that some of the elected students leaders have never even gone to speak with him. “If you’re elected as president of the Student Union, you represent 3300 students. How come you don’t find your way to the principal’s office,” he said. “It may not amount to anything, but at least you as the elected official have made the attempt to represent the student body.”
Soiffer also believes that students need to take a more involved approach. “I think if people actually start caring about what future generations at Stuy will be getting and voicing that and stop being so apathetic about that, things might actually change,” Soiffer said.
Though change is clearly on the minds of both the administration and the student body, an effective solution to appease both parties will require improved communication and cooperation between the students and the school administrators.