Senior Privileges: Excessive or Well-Earned?

(Artwork/Hannah Park24)

(Artwork/Hannah Park’24)

Navaneeth Rajan, Online Features Editor

It’s an incredibly human tendency to begrudge that which we don’t have. From the elementary school chant: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset,” to the inevitable groans when you lose out on that English elective you really liked, it’s inherently disappointing when you miss out on something you want. Recently though, a lot of this disappointment has been directed towards something else entirely: Senior Privileges.

For those unaware, Senior Privileges are a set of perks afforded to seniors who have logged at least 25 volunteer hours, allowing them to sign in to school by 9:00, and leave at 2:45, provided that by doing so, they’re not missing any academic commitments. In addition, seniors are allowed to leave in the middle of the school day for up to an hour during free periods. 

The dissatisfaction around them primarily stems from their restrictiveness, especially in comparison to last year’s generous sign-in and sign-out policy, which permitted students of all grades to sign in and sign out as early and late respectively as they chose, so long as they didn’t miss any classes. Yet, the relaxed sign-in and sign-out policies of the 2020-2021 school year are relics of the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, put in place to prevent students from congregating in the school when they did not need to be there. They were never intended as a perk, but as a safety precaution, and it makes sense that with the return to regular schooling, early sign-in and late sign-out would go with the plexiglass screens and the D-Tens.

As senior Christian Mayer rationalizes, “It is great to have that option to go out and come back, but the school is responsible for our safety first and foremost, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want us off-campus for more than an hour at a time.” The administration’s logic is simple: as COVID-19 transmission becomes less and less of a risk, the school’s priorities need to shift from keeping students off-campus to being able to account for them at all times.

Still, they’ve done a poor job sharing these intentions. Senior Joe Lippman argues, “Instead of making us come by 9:00, why is it not 9:15. Instead of signing out after 2:45, why not just make it 2:15? I understand the administration wants us to have a closer community, but some people have jobs and other commitments.” His sentiments are echoed by many other members of his class– seniors are angry, not because the administration made the changes, but because they did so with no apparent thought to student opinions and concerns. Lippman continues: “We could easily have open discussions about this. As long as we prioritize healthy discussion over misguided debate, I’m certain we could reach a good compromise.”

Most of the senior class has been trudging through PDS for four years, many of them longer still. They’re going through arguably the most stressful year of high school, simultaneously handling applications, heavy course loads, and time-taking clubs like master jugglers. After all that, it seems unfair to fault them for wanting to have the same freedoms they did last year or being frustrated with the lack of information provided.

But convenience cannot come at the cost of safety. So, while I sympathize with the wish for better senior privileges and I understand students’ dissatisfaction with the school’s administration, I’m still glad PDS has elected to put the welfare of its students first and foremost.