The last four years have been riddled with scandal, administrative alterations, and social movements. They’ve been characterized by some of the most drastic changes the Stuyvesant community has witnessed in recent times. Still, as in years past, the seniors will leave the school behind, content to turn their attention to college and beyond. Sooner rather than later, they will fail to remember that while they walked through its halls, Stuyvesant underwent momentous change. As current seniors, the only class to have experienced the period from 2008 to 2012, prepare for their college careers and juniors ready themselves for 12th grade, a pressing question remains: will anyone remember? We, as Stuyvesant students, are all too content to let our histories dissipate.
In doing so, we not only forget our good, but also take our bad with us. When a new policy is implemented, the underclassmen don’t know enough to speak out and the upperclassmen don’t tell them, instead counting down the days until they can escape these increasingly restrictive policies and graduate. This creates a haze of “institutionalized amnesia,” wherein Stuyvesant’s four-year turnover rate allows the school’s collective memory to perpetually erase itself, forgetting everything from our achievements to the downward trend of freedoms we’ve slowly been losing.
So many things have happened since the members of the class of 2012 were freshmen. Recent curriculum changes, such as the introduction of mandatory year-long computer science classes for sophomores and a new dress code, are fresh in everyone’s mind, but many lesser-known events from years past have grown foggy in our communal memory. Seniors, think back to your freshman year: do you recall that 2008 was when Frontrunners, a full-length documentary about Stuyvesant, was released to critical acclaim? Have the two intentional poisonings that shocked the football team and the entire school slipped your mind?
Our school was plagued by an arsonist during the end of the fall term in 2009. Crush lists, a tradition dating back decades, were ripped down by a furious administration after the media seized upon the “I’d tap that” category on many of the lists in 2010. The next year, we continued our trend of reaching the headlines of local newspapers when five seniors were featured in a racist rap video that sparked citywide fury and protesters heckling students in the surrounding neighborhood. This year, “‘Slutty’ Wednesday” protests have caused a worldwide stir and an uptick in student activism that we hope to see continue on into the future.
Even SING!, Stuyvesant’s favorite pastime, has witnessed dramatic downsizing. The year after an unprecedented junior victory in the 2010 show, a student was injured during the mosh pit held in the first floor atrium, and the ritual has been banned since. This ban was far from the only change, though. In 2009, SING! lasted nearly two months from the beginning of work to the last performance. In 2010, we were given six weeks, and in 2011, five. By 2012, students only had a month to prepare their entire productions. This year also saw the introduction of the penny wars and the end of the live results announcement.
On a darker note, the Stuyvesant community has been greatly affected by four deaths in the past four years. Senior Ava Hecht passed away on Thursday, January 8, 2009. Hecht, an Art Editor for The Spectator, died of a bacterial meningitis infection. A tribute to her still hangs in the chorus room, serving as a reminder of the wonderful life she lived. On Saturday, June 4, 2011, sophomore Aileen Chen was struck and killed by a car while riding her bike that evening. The next day had been slated as the posting date for senior crush lists, but the seniors chose to delay their tradition out of respect for her death. On Tuesday, November 1, 2011, beloved math teacher Mr. Geller lost his battle with cancer after teaching at Stuyvesant for 29 years. Since his passing, the school has remained peppered with signs bearing his trademark, “Math is #1.” On Saturday, December 7, 2011, senior Terence Tsao passed away after being struck by a drunk driver the previous night on his way home from school. Tsao had been an avid member of the coral reef club and an invaluable member of the school community. It’s important to commemorate these four outstanding lives and hope that the future will not be as tragic.
We’ve had our low points, but there have been some magnificent high points in the past four years. It’s easy to say that Stuyvesant has embarked on a steady downhill route, and that this trend will continue for years to come. However, we only need to readjust our cynical viewpoint to recognize that our school has continued to thrive. This year’s seniors have seen a remarkable number of academic awards bestowed upon the Stuyvesant community. In the last four years, Stuyvesant has produced 37 semi-finalists in the Intel Science Competition, four of whom went on to become finalists. Stuyvesant students also won second place in the 2010 Toshiba Exploravision competition. This year seven students qualified for the deeply prestigious United States Of America Mathematical Olympiad.
Our school continues to prove that it holds the cream of the crop when it comes to math and science. That being said, Stuyvesant students’ achievements were not limited to these areas of study; seven seniors were recognized by the Random House Inc. Creative Writing Competition in 2010, and 28 Stuyvesant students won awards in the 2011 Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.
Even outside the realm of academics, Stuyvesant students have proven themselves able to make a difference. When machinist Kerneth Levigion’s job was threatened, students, especially seniors, rallied to create petitions to save his position. Thanks to the administration’s negotiations with the DOE, Levigion’s job was secured for the year.
Stuyvesant also progressed on a smaller scale of government this year, holding an official debate for the Student Union presidential election. After controversy surrounding the sophomore caucus election of the fall of 2011, the presidential election of 2012 was the first to have loosened election rules allowing online campaigning and multiple voting stations. The changes, while seemingly minor, caused an increase in voter turnout of over 100 percent, with 25 percent of the electorate participating.
For good or for bad, the events from the class of 2012’s Stuyvesant careers can serve as a reference point for our futures. As students, we’ve made mistakes, and as a school, we’ve had our ups and downs. But each up and every down is something we can learn from. It’s something we have to learn from. Times are changing, and it’s important that we adapt and use what we’ve gained to better ourselves as a community. The trend of increased student involvement the school seen in recent months is something we need to hold on to and harness to create a more connected relationship between the administration and the students.
We can’t reasonably expect graduating seniors to stay involved in Stuyvesant’s daily operations after they collect their diplomas. In two weeks, the class of 2012 will graduate, and with them, the last living record of the 2008-2009 school year’s stories—that is, unless we break this trend. We need to remind each successive year of what came before and what changes they never realized were made. Members of the Stuyvesant community, alumni and current students alike, must continually strive to make a difference in our school. Only by doing this, no matter which generation of students it will affect, can we create real change.