As the school year comes to a close, we students tend to reflect on the experiences we’ve had both as individuals and as a community over the past nine months. How we’ve grown, how we’ve failed, and how we’ve excelled. The 2022-23 academic year saw many events and changes for Lawrenceville as an institution. The administration was largely incentivized by the tragic loss which our community experienced last spring and illuminated the gaps in Lawrenceville’s attentiveness to mental health. Upon realizing the areas in which they were lacking, the administration quickly evaluated the manner in which Lawrenceville is run. This self reflection by the administration led to the implementation of improvements over the past year largely centered around bettering the mental wellbeing of Lawrentians, resulting in significant positive change at Lawrenceville.
This Spring Term saw one of the more memorable modifications: the schedule alterations. With only four Saturday classes spread across the term, students were left with a notable increase in free time. Lawrentians primarily reacted positively to this relaxed schedule. The joy of two-day weekends permeated across the campus as students all relished in the ability to spend Saturday mornings in bed rather than in classrooms. Lawrenceville’s pace of life has been significantly slower this term as we students enjoy our five day workweeks. In conjunction with the missed classes due to Wellness and Community days, long weekends and the much anticipated Head of School Day, Spring Term has had a remarkably relaxed feel in comparison to previous terms. Students enjoyed this change, many noting the positive outcomes the schedule change provided for their social life, well-being and general disposition as they were able to spend more time with friends, family and venturing off-campus.
This change in tempo was part of the strategic wellness plans which have been implemented this year. These plans were put into action when the School announced the position of Dean of Wellness to work in conjunction with a new Student Council position in the Wellness Representative. The creation of these positions was in response to the School’s astute understanding that in order to aptly address mental health, there must be clear communication between students and administration. These new jobs provide designated people who are responsible for facilitating and maintaining this communication. Furthermore, by appointing a dean whose sole focus is wellness, the administration has demonstrated its true commitment to reevaluating and correcting the culture and infrastructure regarding mental health on campus.
In a supplementary effort to improve the wellbeing of students, the School’s disciplinary practices have also evolved. The implementation of minors in the discipline system allows students to have some assurance that not every disciplinary infraction will be in violation of a principal expectation, and thus will not be permanently on record. This adjustment is not a catalyst for students to become lax in their behavior, but provides students with reassurance that upon the case by case exploration of extenuating circumstances, there is possibility for lesser, more appropriate disciplinary responses. Furthermore, the fear of inappropriate punishments was further lessened by the revaluation of Sanctuary policies, a system in which Lawrenceville students can report their own or others’ potential substance abuse or other violations of school rules. This year, Sanctuary was fully severed from disciplinary responses. By doing so, the School allowed students to seek the necessary aid for themselves and their peers without the fear of punitive responses being administered despite delicate and vulnerable circumstances.
Additionally, this year saw the revolutionization of all school meetings (Smeetings). Smeetings transitioned from a forum for announcements to ones meant to encourage learning, engagement and entertainment. Speakers at Smeeting have become a more regular occurrence, with the guests hailing from backgrounds both related and unrelated to the School, allowing Lawrentains to hear from experts in various fields. They were able to learn from these professionals via their presentations and speeches. The insight gleaned from the speakers largely incentivized students to prioritize their mental health, cut back on social media and be more aware and sensitive of the people with whom they share space. The implementation of these speakers was a proactive way to address specific areas of need amongst the student body. Despite a wide range of student feedback to speaker events, the general idea was appreciated by the majority of students. The newly imagined Smeeting also encouraged the display of student talent. This has occurred through performances by student groups, such as the Disciples, which has allowed Smeeting to be an opportunity for entertainment as well as education.
The series of changes enacted by Lawrenceville this year all serve to improve student experiences, wellness, and mental health on campus. The School has made significant strides towards transparency and the targeting of student issues. Although not every initiative is always initially received with universal positivity, students largely appreciate Lawreneville’s dedication to implementing tangible change. Moreover, by effectuating communication between the students and leaders, the School encourages feedback and student opinions. This allows students to know their voices are being heard and gives them the space to advocate for the continued improval of campus practices, policies and culture. Though not everything has been entirely effective, the 2022-23 school year has seen changes to fundamental aspects of our school which indicate the dawn of a progressive, open-minded and improved era of Lawrenceville.