Anyone who has ever been a freshman at ASL was warned early on that Bottom-O belongs to the senior class. But where does that leave everyone else?
According to a recent Standard survey, 42 of the 56 seniors who responded said that most of the time they sit in Bottom-O. Conversely, about 68 of the 73 who sit in the Learning Commons most of the time are Grade 9 and 10 students. Additionally, the gym foyer is exclusively occupied by them. As for juniors, only 26 of the 56 of respondents said they sit at the black chairs, with other areas such as Top-O and the library frequently used as well.
Some students, like Chloe Chace (’20), believe there is an unspoken social understanding that certain areas belong to certain students. “Grades think they have entitlement to being more comfortable at lunch, having more space and think that freshmen should sit elsewhere,” she said.
While Chace believes that the separation of grades is unnecessary, she has noticed a difference in behavior from the beginning of her high school experience to now. “In recent years, people would get ridiculed if they were sitting in different places,” she said. “But as years have gone on we’ve evolved a lot.”
Chace believes that this separation of grades is mean and does not see a reason for it.
Similarly, Caroline Harms (’19) agrees with Chace that having designated grade areas creates an environment of exclusion. “The younger grades or underclassmen don’t necessarily have a place to go,” she said.
With juniors reserving the black chairs and seniors Bottom-O, freshmen and sophomores are left to find their own place. Harms added this is also because “there’s just a lack of space.” Regardless, she feels that the experience of sitting in Bottom-O feels like “a rite of passage.”
Why these specific places of campus are claimed by certain grades is a mystery. Harms is unsure why this area under the orange staircase is so desirable. “I was new last year, and when I came that is where all the seniors congregated,” she said.
9th Grade Dean Rodney Yeoh believes the reason for having such self-designated areas is down to the fact that “there’s not a lot of space” with the school being in a city. However, the students themselves continually follow the “rituals” or “traditions” of occupying places like Bottom-O year after year.
Now in his fourth year at ASL, Yeoh notes a shift in student behavior. Certain areas, the Learning Commons in particular, are shared by multiple grades at once. “Spaces are not so much more fixed now,” he said.
The unveiling of the new seating and working area gave students more options for where to spend their time. “The Learning Commons has really centralized all the spaces,” Yeoh said. As a result, division between grades is seen less and less. “It has become way better from my perspective,” he said.
Recently, Yeoh even observed that there were juniors around Bottom-O, which would have been a rare sight just a few years ago. “[Students are] much more dispersed now,” he said.
One student, Iulia Savescu (’22), observed how people were influenced by where others in their grade chose to sit when she and her friends began sitting in the gym foyer. “You want to be around people you know,” she said. “Someone just sits somewhere and then people see that it’s someone in their grade…so then they just sit together.”
Additionally, Savescu believes that freshmen are spread across multiple spaces, rather than having one area to call their own. “I especially see freshmen in the gym foyer and the Commons, but I think some people eat a lot in the Learning Commons as well.”
Similarly, Reagan Skaggs (’21) believes that the sophomore class is also “spread out.” Skaggs noticed her grade usually stays in the Learning Commons or the foyer, but the freshmen class have come into both these areas, too.
Chace believes that one positive to this comfortability in one place, or assigned seating, is that the day can run smoother. “If you know where you’re going sit for lunch it makes it a lot easier for everyone to sit down and eat rather than trying to find a place for 10 or 20 minutes,” she said.
From Skaggs’ experience, underclassmen and upperclassmen do not enjoy each other’s company. “Grades just don’t really intermix,” she said. Although, freshmen and sophomores now seem to be occupying the same spaces. Still, juniors and seniors “stay in their own areas and they don’t want people intermixing into those areas.”
Occasionally, Harms will sit with her friends at black chairs, an area which is typically associated with juniors. “Me and my friends don’t really adhere to [the norm] as much because we still sit at black chairs sometimes,” she said.
Even though Harms thinks “it technically is a junior spot,” she doesn’t mind going back to the black chairs because her friends gather there, and she sees other seniors around as well.
Like Harms, Dylan Sweidan (’20) and his friends don’t sit in their “designated” grade area. Every conference and lunch time, they occupy the hallway outside the yellow music pod. “The majority of our grade either sits in the Commons or the black chairs,” Sweidan said. Despite this, he doesn’t feel the need to follow that norm “because we have our own area where we sit together.”
Sweidan believes his friends’ enjoy each other’s company more because they can consistently return whenever they like, and they now have a kind of ownership over the yellow hallway.
As a junior, Sweidan would not want to hang out in Bottom-O before his time. “It’s their area so I don’t really want to intrude,” he said.
Alternatively, Harms claims that the “seniors have tried to not be as scary.” In future, she hopes they will make more strides to achieve this so that “it’s more of an open and not a scary thing to talk to other people in other grades.”
For the time being, Sweidan looks forward to this “tradition” being upheld by his grade. “I just can’t wait until next year when we have Bottom-O,” he said.