By Brooke Murphy ’18

As many people have seen by now, a new “Participation Policy” has been put in place. The policy, which was emailed to parents around November 26, states that students must participate in activities that they excel in throughout their time as a student in the Upper School.

Soon after parents received this email, there was backlash in student group chats and on social media. Students questioned why and how the school would be able to require such a thing. Specifically, how could the school require a student to take his or her time after school to participate in one of the school’s athletic teams?

Fundamentally, I agree that any student who does have a talent in a certain area should want to contribute that talent to his or her school community. But is it fair of the school to threaten dismissal of a student if he or she doesn’t do so? As a player on one of school’s tennis teams, I have seen the type of situation where players who would have been members of the varsity team do not play for Pingry.

The fear of loss and of not being the top player has driven members away from the bigger picture of team success. Of course, I do not know students’ reasons for not joining or continuing their time on the tennis team, but this policy has called me to question whether it was fair of these players to quit the school team. Is it fair that qualified athletes don’t contribute their skills to the community?

Not only as a member of the Pingry tennis team, but also as a member of a much larger tennis community, I have seen this type of behavior before. I have seen many girls across the state of New Jersey who don’t play for their high school teams because they believe that playing on a team far below their skill level will hinder their careers, that playing on a high school tennis team is not worth their time, or, in many cases, that playing on the team will lead to more losses, a result they are afraid of. An important question is raised by the situation: On what grounds can these girls’ schools require players to play for their teams?

Pingry has grounded their policy in the Honor Code. The Honor Code states that students should work for the “common good rather than solely for personal advantage.” After quoting this section of the text, the policy continues: “Accordingly, it is Pingry’s expectation that students will participate in ways that advantage the community.”

However, as one reads further, it can be noted that this “expectation” is actually a requirement –  one that, if not fulfilled, might result in the denial of enrollment for the following school year. Is it more selfish for the school to require such players to dedicate such a large portion of their time to its programs or for the students to choose not to share their talents through the school’s programs?

As a highly ranked and highly dedicated tennis player, I have always felt compelled to play for my school’s tennis team and help the team advance to every championship possible. For a tennis team, the loss of even one player can make a huge impact. However, it is within my own morals that I feel as though I should play to help a larger focus than myself, and it is my choice to express this sense of obligation through Pingry’s teams and not elsewhere. Others may interpret their own morals through different actions, maybe by participating in a community outside of the school.

I believe that every student should be an active member of whatever he or she can in the school community, but it should be within his or her own moral standards. It shouldn’t have to be forced upon these students by regulations or threats of expulsion. With this, I would urge not only for students to dive into the rich programs Pingry has to offer, but also for the school’s administration to appreciate the students who already want to benefit the community and not just those students who are deemed more talented and valuable to the school.