ANDOVER — Head of School John Palfrey said the Phillips class of 2014, while “delightful,” had a tendency to challenge the authority of the school’s adult leaders, which sometimes felt “uncomfortable and unnerving.”
Palfrey’s speech, while generally lauding the graduates, was tinged with wry observations about the class, which he said had a “high collective spirit” and who were “never complacent.”
The 331 seniors from all over the world — including more than 30 from Andover — graduated yesterday morning under warm, sunny skies at the hilltop campus off South Main Street.
This year all graduating seniors — both boys and girls — held red roses as a show of support for gender equality following a debate last year over why there had never been a female student president at the school.
This year, debates erupted over diversity and new rules on visiting members of the opposite sex on campus, known at the school as “parietals.”
A new policy was put in place recently requiring students to leave a light on and the door ajar when members of the opposite sex are visiting in their dorm rooms — a change from past, more liberal policies, according to school spokesman Steve Porter.
“There was a lot of chatter on social media,” he said. “A lot of discussion among students, faculty and alumni about how we handle sex education, how we handle kids’ rights and privacy and a certain set of values.”
The diversity debate focused on what it means to be a diverse community and “how we can do it better,” he said.
Palfrey referenced these discussions several times, saying, “You have made your voices heard. You have not agreed with everything we have said and done as adults.” Nor, he added, have adults on the campus agreed with everything done and said by the students.
“We have argued, cried and thought hard about what it means to live together when we come from such different places and backgrounds,” he said. “I have found it uncomfortable and unnerving. It is not, actually, a lot of fun, much of the time, because it makes us face up to hard truths.”