Students and faculty discuss the presence of exclusivity within the High School and the ramifications it has on members of the community.
Former student Kathryn Rickert (’19) cited the negative aspects of her social life at ASL as a factor in her decision to move to St. Andrew’s School, a boarding school in Middletown, Delaware, at the conclusion of her sophomore year. Throughout her 10 years at ASL, she noticed a “clique culture”: where there were concrete friend groups, and students who existed outside of them often felt excluded.
While Rickert felt she had many friends across several friend groups, she never felt as if she belonged to a concrete group of her own. “By not really being in one friend group, I felt that at times I was somewhat excluded or couldn’t really hang out with certain friends just because I wasn’t a member of that group,” she said.
High School Counselor Stephanie Oliver agrees with Olsher and sees cliques as an issue for the majority of high school students. “I don’t think [exclusivity] is a bigger problem here than it is anywhere else. I don’t think it is a special thing that is worse at ASL,” she said.
In addition, Oliver has become aware of the social groups in the High School and an inherent social hierarchy amongst these groups. “[Hierarchies] exist within every microcosm of society,” she said. “I think that everyone knows who is in the popular group, who is in the next level of popular, who’s on the bottom and who the outsiders are.”
Max Olsher (’21), who attended an all boys school before coming to ASL, believes cliques are an aspect of student life that happen naturally and are not exclusive to ASL. “Unintentionally, [ASL] becomes exclusive because we hang around the people who we want to hang out with,” he said. “I don’t think [cliques are] necessarily an ASL thing because we are social animals. We find people, we bond with them and then we stick with them.”
Although Olsher has not been intentionally excluded at ASL, he explains that “at my old boys school I was very intentionally excluded, and now I am excluded but not intentionally, so I guess it’s a little bit better.”
However, Olsher has seen and noticed that those students naturally “get quite upset about [being excluded] and then try really hard to reconnect with people.” While he believes this can be a positive thing, as students make more of an effort to have an active social life, it can be hard for them if their efforts are unsuccessful.
New student Markos Vardinoyannis (’19) believes that although cliques do exist at ASL, they are welcoming to new students. “I think the students accept new students very well because there are many groups of different types of people that people fit into,” he said.
Rickert disagrees with Vardinoyannis, noticing that the clique culture is particularly damaging to new students and discourages them from attempting to meet people and find friends. “For new people, that hesitation [to socialize] comes from two things. One could be the fact that people are comfortable with their friends, and at a school where a lot of change happens it can be nice and more comfortable to stick with what you are more comfortable with… and [secondly] there is a fear of what other people would think of them,” she said.
In order to combat feeling excluded, Oliver believes “that it is important for students who are having a hard time breaking into a group or feeling like they are not a part of things to start their own [groups], because there are a lot more students who are sitting around waiting to be invited to something.”
A significant aspect of ASL’s social life for some students is venue parties: events hosted at bars, clubs or venues around London, often with selective guest lists and an entry fee per grade. To Rickert, venue parties were one of the most exclusive parts of the social scene at ASL. “A lot of times, those parties got to the point where only 20 or so per grade weren’t being invited,” she said. “For those people, venue parties felt a lot more exclusive and a lot more important just because of the hype they got by other people.”
In addition to the exclusion of many upperclassmen from these parties, the freshman class is often entirely excluded from such venue parties. Olsher thinks that in most cases freshmen aren’t invited to venue parties because of a social gap between the underclassmen and the seniors, rather than purposeful exclusivity. “I feel like we forget to include the fact that some people just aren’t friends with [other grades],” he said. “It’d be weird to invite someone to something if you just don’t know who they are.”
In addition, Helen Craig (’18) remembers the competition that spurned amongst underclassmen prior to venue parties. “Freshman and sophomore year when you were invited to venue parties it was always the ‘cool people’ who got invited,” she said. “There was that time in freshman and sophomore year when you were trying to climb your way up to be cool enough to have the seniors invite you.”
However, Vardinoyannis believes that freshmen are not invited to venue parties simply because their age is not appropriate for the party culture present and the mature activities at these events. “I find that [freshmen not being invited] is reasonable because of age… at their age people should not be going out that late, they are not as mature as juniors or seniors,” he said.
Although Vardinoyannis acknowledges the negative aspects of venue parties he believes that “the people who are invited… are people who are naturally social, not shy and are outgoing.” In addition, he believes “that [venue parties] definitely bring people together… and at the end of the day the people who are invited to parties fit in very well with the ASL [social] environment.”
Recently, Oliver has seen many underclassmen, including freshmen, talk to her about not being invited to a venue party. “I have heard very specific comments about feeling left out about not being invited to a venue party, especially from freshmen that wouldn’t normally be invited,” Oliver said.
In order to include more underclassmen and upperclassmen in school-wide events, Oliver believes it is important for ASL to promote and plan more socials. “I think it would be cool if there were more events that everyone was invited to. For example, I always thought it would be nice if we had dances here at this school… a social event where everyone is invited,” Oliver said.
Craig believes that there is a way to solve this issue of underclassmen feeling socially excluded. She suggests that upperclassmen students hosting the parties should be “inviting all of the seniors and all of the juniors and cutting it off there, and having sophomores and freshmen have to wait until they get their time.”
Craig, who has deleted all of her social media accounts except Facebook due to distraction and unproductivity, believes that social media can also contribute to a culture of exclusivity. At times, she notices that social media can aggravate the fear of missing out that many students have. She notes that this happens especially “[in] Snapchat stories when you see all of your friends hanging out and you’re not there.”
Olsher agrees, explaining that social media is somewhat of “a Catch-22 because it has a good side and then it also has a bad side for people who are left out because they are seeing what they could be a part of but then they aren’t.”
In agreement, Rickert believes that Snapchat is the most harmful form of social media. “Snapchat stories are often just another reminder that you’re not there and a lot of your friends are,” she said.
Written by Opinions Editor Sophie Ashley and Features Editor Martha Duff
Illustration by Gaby Iwegbue