On Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, Concord Academy’s 9th and 12th grade students collaborated in small groups to write open letters to the school. These letters addressed issues students felt were pressing, widespread, and fixable. The letters listed both concerns and solutions, and each group chose who they wanted to address the writing to. The process gave students a way to voice large-scale, structural concerns about CA without their critiques feeling overwhelming. One anonymous group has agreed to share their letter, which is very lightly edited for grammar and pasted in full below.

Dear CA Community and Student Life Office/C&E/Residential Life:

We are integral members of the CA community as 9th and 12th graders with both experience and experiences still to come. We have different perspectives on the school, know the ways rules are broken and hidden from adults and know the ways systems and policies at CA are frustrating. We appreciate the cohesive community, individualized education, academic freedom, the ways CA challenges us, and the overall classroom environment. Yet, each community is not without its flaws. We have two concerns we would love to see the community tackle.

Concern #1:

We believe that CA resists arguments and discourse. The school desires to be a close-knit community but this can mean resistance to disagreement and arguing. We see a disconnect between what happens and what the administration knows. Additionally, students do not necessarily know how some situations are being dealt with and it can feel like something uncomfortable is not being talked about. We discussed the way issues are often presented with one viewpoint, and we see the fear of cancel culture within CA. A herd mentality means there is a tendency to try to adhere to similar beliefs. This is exacerbated when the adults who lead the conversation, existing between students and the discourse, have their own perspectives that limit the discussion.

Some solutions we propose:

Academically, humanities classes should focus more on the importance of discourse. Many of us feel that everyone has to come to a consensus to reach a resolution, but in reality, that is far from true. We should create opportunities to hear from all sides on an issue, even if it is uncomfortable, or not the majority belief. We should continue to emphasize speaking from the “I” perspective, and not trying to speak for others.

Concern #2:

Our second concern relates to the boarding and day student divide and the ways both students and CA policies contribute to divisions. Some things that accentuate the problem include limited access to houses for day students, pass policies for boarders that limit off-campus bonding with unnecessary hassle, lack of a good space for students to hang out altogether, and the boarding schedule which means boarders’ days are blocked out and they have to do things at specific times whereas day students do not have the same time blocks, such that free time does not always align.

Some solutions we propose:

We could build or identify a Student Center, as the SHAC Atrium feels too far. The Lower PAC is one possibility. Day student IDs could be set with access to houses during school and study hours. There should be more uniformity in the enforcement of boarding rules, with options to text and communicate with house faculty rather than a pass system. Boarding rules could be looked at as guidelines with some flexibility when needed. We should also look at the pass system to increase common trust, making it similar to extended campus during the day. Overnight trips or missing a commitment could require a pass, but trips off campus that do not interfere with anything else should not.

Thank you for your consideration,

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