October 13, 2023 at 4:00:00 PM
Maia Somma ‘24
When reflecting on the quality of student life at Mercersburg, there is one thing that consistently comes up among students as a routine stressor: the sheer number of “required appointments” we have. A required appointment at Mercersburg means that the student body collectively has an obligation to attend some event or function; behavior points are allocated to anyone who does not show up. The menu of required appointments includes, but is not limited to: classes, PGAs, school meetings, X-Blocks, lunches, Monday night dinners, and dorm and class meetings. From the aforementioned list, one can already see that Mercersburg students have a multitude of obligations on a day to day basis.
It is understandable that as a school we must require students to attend their classes and after school activities. However, what is very odd is the lack of flexibility regarding all the other things on that list, and the complete over-scheduling regarding non-academic matters.
A typical Mercersburg schedule consists of mandatory lunch every school day, and attending dinners on Monday nights. We have dorm meetings on Sundays every week at 9:30 at night, even when there are no new announcements to be made. We have X-Block meetings every week that erode the “half-day” concept of Wednesday schedules. Quite ironically, sometimes the subject matter of these meetings concerns “mental health” or “well-being.” To me, my well-being comes from actually having a minute to spend by myself taking care of my never-ending to-do list, rather than listening to someone else spend an hour restating generic ideas about mental health that I could’ve looked up on the internet in 5 minutes. Even “class fun” is required for all students at the beginning of the school year, something that surprised me when I first arrived.
School is naturally more entwined with our personal lives in a boarding school environment. However, I don’t think personal time and space is valued and prioritized enough on our campus. Between the rigorous academic environment and PGA scheduling, unscheduled moments are few and far between. If Mercersburg wants their students to excel, we must be granted enough time to study and complete our schoolwork. If the school values our mental health, personal time should feel like a given rather than a luxury. If we are truly a college-preparatory school, we should recognize that our current schedule does not reflect the amount of freedom and free time granted to college students. A greater degree of choice regarding how we spend our time would teach us far more about time management than a uniform structure which forcefully hand-holds us from 8 a.m. until lights-out.
I believe Mercersburg needs more flexibility regarding non-academic required appointments. Missing a meal or a dorm meeting should not equate to missing a class. If Mercersburg really values the mental health of their students, they should consider giving them more autonomy. At the bare minimum, we should be able to decide for ourselves whether we feel like eating or not. Perhaps the scheduled X-Block time could instead connect with club and publication initiatives, which would give students a chance to more deeply connect with groups that they enjoy being a part of, but oftentimes lack the flexibility to do so. Changes like these could allow students to spend more time doing homework or even resting, both of which are just as important as connecting with the community.