In my freshman year of Berkeley High School (BHS), back in 2013, my spirit week was exciting, eye-opening, and a little scary. I remember the colorful get-ups and of course the approximate quarter of students who were dressed up in something entirely different than the rest of the school. We soon learned these were seniors who were given their own dress-up themes. Truthfully, I didn’t really care back then; it made sense that it was “their time,” this year was for them to celebrate their hard work in high school. Now, reflecting as a senior, I understand the sentiment, although my reasoning is more nuanced.
With seniors having their own themes on certain days of spirit week, it gives students something to look forward to for their senior year. I know I’ve worked pretty hard the last three years in school, and I think many of my senior peers hold the same sentiment. We’re gearing up for our next stages in life, whether it be college, a gap year, or other. Is there really no precedent for a celebration of our seniors, the students that are the most experienced, have interacted with the school the most, and are nearing the end of their childhood? I think there is. Yes, there are senior nights for sports teams, but not all seniors play sports. There is the senior spell out as well, but that is a smaller event which isn’t during school hours.
Senior days offer a time where seniors can bask in the success of their past three years of high school. Opponents of senior-only themed days also point to prom as enough of a celebration for seniors, but for many, prom simply isn’t accessible from an economic standpoint. Spirit Week is one of the very few times where all seniors have the choice to participate, without many consequences whether they do or don’t.
One main argument against senior only days is that it promotes class divisiveness, or worse, the dreaded class warfare. It’s understandable; many feel that seniors can — whether they are trying to or not — antagonize other students by acting superior in their senior-only costumes. But Berkeley High students are not inherently mean; there is very little clear cut class conflict that goes beyond spirit week.
Principal Sam Pasarow believes the school can find a balance between celebrating the seniors and keeping the relationship between classes healthy and positive.
“I do want to work very hard to end class warfare … and I want to create the conditions where we as a school celebrate our senior class every year,” Principal Pasarow said. “My first thought is that [senior only dress-up days] are divisive … twelfth graders are getting a lot of attention and they are interested in having more, and that is potentially at the cost of the unity of this school.”
I, however, think most students, seniors included, are not interested in class divisiveness during the build up to Red and Gold day. Seniors simply feel that they should be given the privilege of having their own dress-up days after having maneuvered and succeeded at BHS academically, athletically, artistically, or other in the past three years. Ms. Dorf, a math teacher, agrees that it’s a nice, small way to celebrate seniors, and she says that “I don’t see a problem with it unless seniors use it as an excuse to bully.”
Administration’s staunch opposition to senior only days in the past has caused much more harm than good. For one, it immediately assumes that there would be class warfare, and that the senior class can’t handle the responsibility of being celebrated, which doesn’t make seniors want to behave any better. Furthermore, it results in the senior class simply making their own days, because let’s be honest: every senior class is going to feel like they “deserve” senior only theme days, and it’s going to happen whether the administration likes it or not. Take last year for an example: the senior class technically wasn’t allowed to make their own dress up days, but they did it anyway, coordinating it through polls and discussions on their senior Facebook page.
This year it looked like the same story again: on the senior Facebook page, there were arguments made by the student leadership heads trying to sell the idea that we would be in fact dressing up with the school. Almost everyone on the senior page send something along the same lines: : “screw the Administration. If they’re not going to give it to us, we’re going to do it anyway”.
I think that Pasarow’s stance should quell some of these sentiments. He clearly wants to support the seniors in a year which he described as “embarking onto adulthood”; however, we as seniors also have a role to play in leaving our school better than we found it.