Project week. These two words swirled through the rumor mill and flitted through the hallways of the Upper school much like the first gust of spring air. Or an airborne virus. Though by far one of the most interesting and unique parts of Latin, many students have a bone to pick with their assigned Project Week, casting a shadow on the giant fluorescent light that is the second week of March. Whispers of “SCORE! I got my first choice” are silenced by the weeping junior in the corner who has been placed on their 4th choice for the third year in a row. This begs the question: is a lottery system still fair, or even ethical?
This seems quite a heavy question for such a seemingly trivial topic, but Latin students tend to take their Project Weeks very seriously.
Personally speaking, I have chosen Chicago-based trips as my top choices for two years running, as my parents wanted me to wait to travel abroad until I can really appreciate it. This idea works out pretty well hypothetically; I get my two in-town p-weeks out of the way, leaving only incredible experiences ahead of me. But what if this doesn’t work out? What if I become the crying senior in the hallway? What if I become a cynic, and spend the rest of my life not trusting corporations due to this traumatic experience? (Well, maybe not.) Regardless, this draws attention to the nature of a lottery system itself; yes, first choice is taken into account, but your records will not guarantee you a spot in a coveted trip.
Sophomore Christina Bianco agrees that this logic is slightly faulty. “I’m very disappointed about my project week this year,” she laments, “especially since I am now a sophomore. I turned in my form on time, and I did a Chicago project week last year. Since I didn’t get my out-of-town project weeks of choice, I figured that they were given to mainly juniors and seniors, but when I looked at the rosters for the project weeks that I wanted, I saw that there were many freshman in them. How is that fair? Now I’m stuck in Chicago for the second year in a row.” Christina’s story is far from rare; for every happy student I have talked to, there is another who was just as upset.
And yet, those who are given their last choice somewhat brought it on themselves; they had to have picked it at some point, right? Actually, the project week committee offered an ultimatum to students whose project week disbanded; choose something you did not request (something probably undesirable, as the choice slots have already filled) or be stuck with no project. This unfortunate fate befell sophomore Charlotte Collins, who resents being placed into her last choice two years in a row.
It is true that out of state and out of country projects are extraordinarily enriching, meaningful experiences that seem to influence everyone who is lucky enough to be chosen for them. Sophomore Tina Czaplinska seemed to have been holding a lucky penny in her pocket, as she was “pleasantly surprised at getting [her] first choice of Peru.” Though she initially felt that “the odds were against [her],” she believed that “[the decision] depended on whatever was supposed to happen.”
With the capacity to influence and even change lives, why is the Project Week selection treated like a game of chance? Should it instead be a selection based on merit, or teacher recommendation, or submissions of essays to be graded and assessed on who seems to have the most valid reasons for requesting the p-week? Though none of these seem particularly reasonable (or even plausible), it is obvious that some changes need to be made. Even so, one cannot disregard the efforts of the administration to create a fair, and not too laborious selection. I am sure that they try their best. It is just the very process itself that so many have problems with. Even so, we will all have to accept the decisions, and find closure with our assigned projects.
As March draws closer with every blast of winter wind, I for one, look ahead with only hope. Even if I am the only girl in my project week, I know that someway or another, I will be looking back at the experience with a smile. (Whether that smile is a “that project week was so bad it was funny” type of smile remains to be known). Good project week or not, things have a way of working themselves out. As preachy as this may sound, we should be lucky that we do have such an incredible program to look forward to. Worst case scenario, there’s always karmic retribution.]]>