Project Week Cancelled? What the Real Problem Is

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Danielle Martin Co-Editor-in-Chief This isn’t the first time that the administration has threatened to take away out of town project weeks. As I walked out the theater last week, I heard my fellow classmates refer to Mr. Coberly’s words as “empty threats.” Since he never explicitly said that out of town project weeks would be revoked, many thought his words were designed to “scare us for prom weekend.” The question crossing everyone’s mind was: how could he possibly take away project week? This argument is dogmatic—it’ll just end with disappointment. If history is any indication, Latin very well may cancel out of town project weeks next year. In the spring of 2009, the Band and Mexico trips were caught for similar alcohol related misbehavior, and everyone suffered the same punishment: out of town project weeks were cancelled for the spring of 2010. This year there was a record number of individuals who violated project week rules since 2010. If Latin were to act, now would be the time. The student body’s primary concern is the administration’s inequitable punishment. “The actions of a few reckless people shouldn’t condemn the rest of the school to a year where we can’t leave town—I think the punishment should also be specific to that person,” said one junior who requested to remain anonymous. Punishing all students assumes the worst in everyone. Although the number of individuals who behaved improperly seems plentiful, the reality is that they were a small minority of students. Should the students who went to Giving Kids the World be punished for their generosity? Should the students who hiked through the Amazon Rainforest be punished for their perseverance? Now, an argument can be made that in-town project weeks are just as informative. And they can be, just in different ways. But there is something about hiking the mountains of Bolivia with a group of students 4,000 miles from home that cannot be recreated by biking the boulevards of Chicago. Sam Souleles said, “Sophomore year, I went to the Grand Canyon for project week, and I was the only 10th grader there. Through the trip, I formed friendships I would have never made otherwise.” Unable to return to the familiarity of his bed or friends every night, the Grand Canyon pushed Sam out of his comfort zone in a way that an in-town project week never could. Project week isn’t a right. It’s a privilege. And in a school where the common stereotype is that students are privileged and take extravagant family vacations, many question the point of these trips just a week before spring break. But again this is a hasty generalization: whether it’s for financial reasons, scheduling issues, or any other reason, many families don’t have the opportunity to travel—plus it’s very rare that a family would create a partnership with a school in Thailand or stay with a tribe in the Amazon. Sumina Regmi said, “Pweek shouldn’t be cancelled. In my middle school years, I never had the opportunity to travel out of the country. Latin gave me the chance to travel to South Africa and it turned out to be the highlight of my year. The experiences and memories with peers, teachers, and new friends from abroad have impacted my views and choices. The behaviors of other students shouldn’t be holding new students back from learning more about the world.” And sophomore Jade Edwards echoed this point, “It gives the less fortunate the opportunities to travel the world. I would have never gone to South Africa if it wasn’t for project week.” Project week is one of the cornerstone moments of the year that define the Latin experience. “Everyone knows that we can get stuck in our ‘Latin bubble’ and project week gives students an opportunity to get out of this bubble—literally and figuratively—by immersing us in a different culture, forcing us to reach out and make new friends, and giving us a chance to push ourselves physically or intellectually,” said Jessie Burger. But the reality is that misuse of drugs and alcohol has always been an issue on project week, and Latin students understate the effects their actions can have on teacher chaperones. Teachers explained the pettiness of treating teenagers like middle schoolers— with check-ins throughout the night— and the horrors of the possibility of something going terribly wrong. “I don’t think students really understand the pressure of taking students away for Project Week. We are really on duty for 24 hours, and it takes a major toll. Imagine if my kids sneak out, get drunk, and get into a fight and somebody dies, or someone dies of alcohol poisoning, or gets raped. I will spend the rest of my life dealing with the guilt,” said Mr. Fript. “Yes, those are extremes, but they are the real possibilities… It happens in college; why should you think it could not happen on Pweek? Probably the school will not take project week away, but it just might be that no teachers will take the risk to take part in it.”   Not that it’s any excuse, but even members on the trips that were caught for misconduct didn’t view the week as a vacation from school. One member of one of these trips, who wished to remain anonymous, said that “project week changed [their] life” because it inspired them to know what they want to do with their life, an experience that would not have happened had it not been for project week. “We studied a lot on philosophy and psychology, especially around WWI and WWI, and it led me to want to go into social science and intern with that stuff this summer,” this student explained. “I always found that stuff interesting, but the trip motivated me to take initiative.” The potentiality of losing project week seems to be the current debate in the hallways, but the issue we should be tackling transcends our one week abroad: some students’ love for alcohol. If some of us cannot go even one week without consuming alcohol, then our student body has a much bigger issue than losing project week. It’s a generalization that is untrue if we were to closely examine the consequences of our actions. As it currently stands, whether or not we have project week next year is up to us. So, take it from the Class of 2017, from our teachers who care about our well-being: let us have project week next year and we can and will monitor the way we represent Latin and our teachers.]]>