Hansen Zhang (III)
After two weeks of Winter Break, a remote-learning week, a week-long delay in school activities, and plenty of asynchronous workouts, Pingry athletes are ready to return to the fields, courts, mats, and slopes. The Squash, Basketball, Ski, Hockey, and Fencing teams have all resumed practice and played their first games. Swimming and Winter Track began to practice on February 1st, and Wrestling starts on March 1st. All sports, regardless of the start time, have a competitive season of approximately one month.
Although Winter sports are back, they still bring a great deal of uncertainty. Ms. Carter Abbot, the Director of Athletics and Community Wellness, said, “Sports are operating from week to week as we’re evaluating the situation based on our testing, the state’s testing, and the different counties that we play sports in.” So then, how would athletics operate if there was an influx of COVID cases, causing Pingry to shut down for a long period of time?
Well, the situation is pretty complicated: athletics can either resume after school as they did in early November of 2020, or they can be completely canceled due to a high case count, which happened during the second remote week after Winter Break. The main reason why Fall sports were able to resume when Pingry went remote was that they were all outdoor sports. On the other hand, all Winter sports are indoors (with the exception of Winter Track). According to the CDC’s Youth Sports resource page, “indoor activities pose more risk than outdoor activities.”
In addition to considering the possible effect that a shutdown may have on athletics, it’s important to consider whether sports are important enough to be continued during the pandemic. A similar question was the subject of a Word in the Halls in the last issue of the Record. When asked again, JP Salvatore (IV) remained adamant on his opinion that sports should be resumed. He explained, “My opinion on this really hasn’t changed much. I will continue to say sports are essential to keep kids active, to give opportunities to kids dependent on their sport, and to maintain school spirit. I understand indoor sports are more of a concern, but without an audience the risk is limited.” But, some would argue against that, especially after COVID cases surged after the new year. In a telephone survey of 1,065 adults by NPR between December 1st and December 6th of 2020, thirty-six percent of those surveyed thought indoor sports should continue, fifty-eight percent thought indoor sports shouldn’t continue, and the final five percent were unsure. For many, the pros of having sports outways the cons of potentially contracting COVID. According to a Harvard Health article, exercise can “boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety.” Sports may be even more crucial for remote students, as it could help with “Zoom fatigue”: the exhaustion that occurs after staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
In summary, although there is no doubt that sports are beneficial for students, one must still consider their possible consequences. For the time being, however, it is important that athletes wear masks whenever possible, and we look forward to a future where people can once again play sports without pandemic-era concerns.
By Zala Bhan (IV)
I took part in Pingry’s “What is a Nation?” virtual Global program in December 2020, which specifically explored the history of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia, which emerged in the aftermath of the Yugoslav Wars. Yugoslavia existed in the Balkans region in Southeast Europe. The Balkans is home to a diverse and complex religious history, as many religious followings took shape there; these religions include Christianity brought by the Romans, Orthodox Christianity following the East-West Schism, and Islam spread by the Ottoman Empire. In the Balkans, such religious diversity resulted in conflict in the late twentieth century. On top of this existing entanglement, the peninsula was also a playground for foreign forces, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Third Reich to the USSR and NATO. As a result of these influences, harmony in the region has been difficult to solidify. I have always found the convoluted manner in which history unfolds intriguing. While I gained much insight into the region during this program, there continue to be many knots to untie in hopes of approaching the truth.
The Yugoslav Wars, which took places in the 1990s, were caused by ethnic nationalist sentiments. Pingry’s Global Program, What is a Nation?, covered the basic history of these events and gave a compelling overview of its complexities. During the program, we had an opportunity to hear from speakers from the Balkans; their first-hand insights led me to realize the destruction of the war left deep wounds in the people’s hearts and planted the seeds of strife. No one in the region seems to “recognize [the others’] victims,” said Alec, our Serbian guest speaker. However, there was a brief period of unity in the region under Josip Broz Tito’s Yugoslavia, a country formed following WWII, which included modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Tito’s emphasis on brotherhood during his time in power resonated with many people in the region. He kept, as Alec described it, his “beautiful, […] honorable dream” of making Yugoslavia strong by denouncing nationalism (calling it a bourgeois concept). As a result, he founded the Non-Allied Movement during the Cold War and adopted market socialism, which united a diverse region. However, suppressing nationalist sentiment only led to its eruption when Tito died; in 1991, 11 years after his death, the Yugoslav Wars began. Throughout the wars, over 140,000 people died, as Yugoslavia crumbled.
To me, it’s unsettling to accept that this conflict occured recently. After hearing witnesses’ first-hand accounts, reading articles, and analyzing the political climate during Pingry’s virtual program, I became aware of the long-lasting impacts of the conflict. For centuries, nationalism and religion have turned Balkan politicians to hatred, a pattern that many historians have tried and failed to figure out. When the “political elites […] revert to nationalist rhetoric to maintain support” in the region, I cannot see a solution ever being found. Therefore, I put my hope in the future generation of politicians; the youth can look past the gruesome divides to build a future based on peace and progress. The youth has the burden of inheriting authority control over the Balkans and bringing the region to either success or ruin. We are at a crossroads, as the roads diverge. Thus, I ask: will the region continue to dwell blindly on the past and strengthen the tradition of hatred and division, or will it rise above conflict? After hearing the refreshing ideas from our guest speakers, I see hope not just for this conflict, but others too. In the recent past, we have seen nationalism rise globally; although each global conflict has its own set of circumstances, people, and demographics, the underlying theme remains the same: competing narratives of history and schism rooted in ethnicity, religion, or region.
Our guests from the Balkans agreed that there must be a mutual acceptance of shared narratives for reconciliation. As a result, the shared economic interests will bring everyone together.
When two roads diverge, humanity cannot travel both, and now it is up to the youth to decide which one it will be.
By Ashleigh Provoost (V)
This year’s drama students have had to face an unparalleled level of difficulties in regards to their craft. With masks, remote classes, and social distancing, drama classes have been completely revamped to accommodate new health guidelines. Despite the adversity, the enthusiasm of the Drama Department still remains strong––especially that of senior actors. They faced their challenges with the utmost rigor, putting on a performance at the December 9 Drama IV Assembly that didn’t disappoint.
Every year, in designing the assembly, the group of seniors in the Drama IV class choose headlines that address events occuring in society. The students then write, direct, and act in scenes based upon the headlines they have chosen. What made this year so different, though, was the emphasis on the tumultuousness of the latter half of 2020. “We were aware going in that this, historically, is a production that students use to talk about social issues,” Cal Mahoney (VI) said. “We thought that it would be strange not to bring up everything that was going on.”
The ultimate goal of the assembly was to start conversation. “We needed to bring attention to the fact that people ignore or repress their reactions to hard situations,” Mahoney continued. “We wanted to bring attention to these current situations through the usage of both humor and scenes with strong themes in hopes to start that conversation.”
“The community needs conversation,” notes Ms. Stephanie Romankow, the Drama IV teacher. “With conversation, we continue to learn and grow together. Student perspectives and voices are the most powerful in this community, and we wanted to give the students the ability to share that voice.”
The Drama IV class also collaborated with Ms. Shelley Hartz, Director of Community and Civic Engagement, to delve more into the curriculum and history of the scenes prior to their development. “The students weren’t making up stories,” Ms. Hartz said. “They were using stories that actually happened; the inequities, unintentional biases, and microaggressions that were occurring concurrently really resonated with them. This is why the scenes carried such a strong tone.”
Naturally, the usual collaborative process that goes into the presentation of this assembly proved to be much more difficult this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. “This has not been an easy feat,” Ms. Romankow said. “Theater is all about connection, and this year there are multiple barriers in terms of masks and social distancing. The seniors, though, were able to take these obstacles in stride and really succeed.”
This group of seniors is quite a remarkable and diverse one. Having been together for four years, the students in the class have built a community that supports one another. The closeness they share makes the collaboration needed for this assembly all the more meaningful. “The collaborative part of it was super important, especially because of our comfortable class dynamic,” Mahoney said. “We’re not afraid to get deep.”
The Drama IV Assembly most certainly achieved the goal that the students had hoped for. “It was weird as an actor to not know how you were perceived. It was hard to tell if the performance was successful, but [the class] decided that it had to be … People were listening and they confronted these current issues.” Mahoney also spoke to the uniqueness of this specific performance: “We challenged people’s perceptions of theater. It was a good decision to do something that the audience had trouble to watch. I think that a lot of these scenes made people uncomfortable; discrimination was right in front of you, and you had to watch it happen. And that was the point.” Ms. Romankow added, “Kids did not know how to react to the ending of the assembly. They needed to take pause, and that’s important for us to do. We’re not providing the answers to these issues; we’re just sharing our perspective.”
Ms. Romankow couldn’t emphasize enough how proud she was of the senior class. “The impact this had on the class was invaluable. It allowed for creative expression and for expression of values and concerns and community. It certainly was meaningful, at least for me, to work through this process with the kids.” She also spoke to the senior class as a group: “The amount of openness, connectivity, care, generosity, and risk-taking from this group is tremendous. I can’t imagine what they’re going through as seniors, but I am truly honored to be going on this journey with them.”
By Anjola Olawoye (IV)
Over 700 members of the Pingry community tuned into the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Assembly virtually. Throughout the years, this esteemed Pingry tradition has hosted various speakers, performances, and even skits to honor King’s legacy. A couple of years ago, Sarah Collins Rudolph, a survivor of the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, shared her distinctive experience during a MLK assembly. This year, we had the privilege of hearing reflections and perspectives on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s legacy, presented by Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Dr. Glaude Jr. is a James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor and the Department Chair of African American Studies at Princeton University. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, including NBC’s Meet the Press, MSNBC, and CNN. Dr. Glaude earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University and currently holds degrees in African-American studies and religion.
At the beginning of the virtual assembly, the members of Pingry’s Afrofuturism HIRT (Humanities Independent Research Team) introduced themselves and Dr. Glaude. Throughout his reflections, Dr. Glaude often quoted King and James Baldwin, a civil-rights era African American novelist. He addressed numerous questions regarding our current political climate, including the following: how would MLK react to the events that plague our country today, and is America ready for a true multi-ethnic and racial democracy that would resonate with MLK’s legacy?
Furthermore, Dr. Glaude compared the US Capitol riots in D.C on January 6th to Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, particularly emphasizing police responsiveness in both situations. More importantly, he explained the division of our country and the events that perpetuated it. The most significant phrase Dr. Glaude cited from Dr. King was “equality is a loose expression for improvement.” While King believed that Americans viewed racial harmony differently, he still strived for a peaceful coexistence among the races. In the words of Dr. Glaude, “Dr. King’s legacy has been reduced to a four-word sentence: ‘I have a dream.’”
Towards the end of the assembly, Dr. Glaude offered a dual challenge to both America and Pingry by posing the following question: what kind of school does Pingry want to be? Beyond that, what are the expectations of America? He also encouraged Pingry students to live up to the school’s values, especially those stated in the Honor Code.
Overall, students learned from and enjoyed the assembly, as evidenced by the interactive Q&A session. Students shared a plethora of thoughts on Dr. Glaude’s words. For example, Dhruv Nagarajan (II) asked, “What sparked Dr. Glaude’s activism for social justice and wanting to make a change?” Student Body President, Nolan Baynes (VI), stated that this was one of the most important assemblies we have had at Pingry. Other students from various grade levels also reflected on their individual experiences and takeaways from Dr. Glaude’s speech.
The Pingry community also honored Dr. King in other ways, especially through community service. On MLK Day, Pingry students, parents, and faculty members engaged in the annual “MLK Day of Service,” albeit virtually, to fulfill Dr. King and his everlasting legacy.
The Pingry community thanks Dr. Glaude for his impactful speech.
By Kate Marine (III)
On the morning of January 7th, Upper School students were given the opportunity to attend various processing sessions via Zoom in response to the unprecedented events that occurred at the US Capitol Building the previous day. Among these sessions was a news brief, also via Zoom, from Mr. Matt Honohan. It aimed to give students and faculty some guidance in understanding what exactly transpired at the Capitol, and how our country came to such a point.
Mr. Honohan is a faculty member of the Upper School History Department, where he currently teaches World History 10, as well as three sections of AP Government and Politics. “I have a real passion for our country, and for our political system,” Mr. Honohan said, regarding his position as a government teacher, “so what I really enjoyed about [the news brief] was [bringing] a slice of what I do in AP Gov to the student body as a whole.” The session’s goal was to give both students and faculty a better sense of the country’s current situation, with the hope that understanding this event would be the first step towards processing it. With all the chaos that has accompanied the 2020 US election, Mr. Honohan especially wanted the talk to address a central question: how did we get here? “We wanted students to have a better chance of understanding why we had such chaos in the Capital, and [of understanding] some of the legal and constitutional reasons why things got so messy by January 6th,” Mr. Honohan said.
In terms of its impact on the Upper School community, the news briefing on January 7th was successful and received positive feedback from both students and faculty. “Before, I had a cursory understanding [of the January 6th events],” Leon Zhou (III) said, “but after attending the briefing I had a much more detailed understanding of the events that happened, and ones leading up to them.”
Although we hope that the events of January 6th will never have to repeat themselves, Mr. Honohan stresses the importance of staying politically engaged in the world around us. “One of the things I particularly love about teaching government is [that] it is, in a fundamental way, citizenship training,” Mr. Honohan said. “Everybody in the school is going to be eighteen soon and voting.” For that reason, although he does not expect students to “be massively politically engaged,” Mr. Honohan hopes that events like the storming of the Capitol can demonstrate to students the very real and immediate consequences of politics affecting the country as a whole. “It’s easy to live life from crisis to crisis, but the challenge is to develop a degree of consistent engagement,” Mr. Honohan explained. “I hope [these events] spur students to be more consistently engaged in the world around them.”
In such unstable times, events like the ones of January 6th can easily seem scary and overwhelming to the average newswatcher. It is for this reason that staying educated is so important to processing the events both individually and as a community. “The events of January 6th and [similar] events will only drive us apart using fear and political divide,” Zhou said. Unless, of course, we bridge that divide with political awareness and common understanding — perhaps that bridge is the one thing we can keep stable amidst a turbulent year for our country.
By Mirika Jambudi (IV)
Over Winter Break, students were given the opportunity to participate in Pingry’s first ever virtual Global Program. Ms. Julia Dunbar, Director of Global Education and Engagement, and Dr. Megan Jones, History Department Chair, worked together to convert this Global Studies Program into a three-day virtual course with the help of Atlas Workshops.
This program was based on the previous Global Studies Program, “Nations at a Crossroad: Nationalism and Religion in the Balkans,” which was a thirteen-day travel course. In that course, students visited areas of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, learning about the Yugoslav Wars and the underlying nationalist strife that caused the regional divisions.
In this year’s virtual recreation of the trip, students were able to meet and speak with actual residents of the countries. Many shared that these conversations were one of the most valuable aspects of the Program. For three hours each morning, from December 21st through 23rd, Pingry students dove into the history and politics of the former Yugoslavia, meeting and interacting with locals, participating in group discussions and activities, and ultimately working towards an answer to the overarching essential question, “What makes a nation?”
Ms. Dunbar and Dr. Jones remarked that they were very pleased with the virtual program. Although the “power of in-person travel is irreplaceable,” the Global Education and Engagement Department hopes to offer more virtual courses to Pingry students as “a complement to [Pingry’s] travel programs.”
By Sophia Lewis (V)
On January 6, supporters of President Donald Trump gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the Congressional certification of the 2020 presidential election. Following the rally, a group of rioters stormed the Capitol Building. Four rioters and one Capitol Police officer died as a result of this assault.
The protestors had arrived in D.C. bearing signs and wearing shirts that read “Trump 2020” and “Stop the Steal.” After initially protesting outside the White House, they were greeted by President Trump, who demanded that Vice President Mike Pence and other members of Congress seek to overturn the election results. Following Trump’s speech, the rioters pushed through a barricade and stormed the Capitol. They broke windows, released chemical gas in the hallways, and vandalized congresspeople’s offices, most notably that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Some even made it into the House Chamber, where one rioter stole a lectern. The Capitol had to be evacuated, and pictures of congressmen and congresswomen hiding between seats in the Chamber quickly circulated.
The riot, which was broadcasted on nearly every news outlet, left many people in the Pingry community feeling shocked, appalled, and angry. That night, as Congress resumed the vote count, Head of School Matt Levinson emailed the community, condemning the riot and discussing the Honor Code in the context of American democracy. “The concepts embodied in [the Honor Code] are timeless, particularly…working for the common good rather than solely for personal advantage.”
It was then announced that there would be two processing sessions to be held the next day during the first two class periods. The sessions welcomed hundreds of Pingry students and faculty members, and even as Zoom calls capped at 400 participants, community members listened in through phone calls and FaceTime. There were a multitude of emotions during these sessions. Many students were angry and upset, with a few close to tears. Some chose to share their personal experiences, while others chose to listen. Many students’ common frustration was the Capitol Police’s lack of response to the rioters in comparison to their response to the Black Lives Matter protests that took place over the summer, where swarms of guards lined the Capitol steps. Many students also expressed disgust over Confederate flags and anti-Semitic articles of clothing (such as a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt) making it into the Capitol.
In addition to the processing sessions, there was another session held by Mr. Honohan, where he provided students with an overview of the events leading up to January 6, to help them understand why and how the riots occurred. He also discussed the constitutional issues surrounding the election and why President Trump had called for his supporters to protest in D.C. on January 6. Mr. Honohan stated that he “hope[d] that by providing background information, students would feel better equipped to process the events that occurred.” During CP, Mr. Levinson held separate meetings with upperclassmen and underclassmen to share his thoughts on the event.
Overall, many in the Pingry community were pleased with the swift response. One thing that stood out was that, even during normal class time, teachers chose to bring up the subject and give students a space to process the event, showing the solidarity we have as a community.
By Mirika Jambudi (IV)
On November 20, Pingry students participated virtually in the Princeton Model Congress (PMC), originally scheduled to be held in Washington, D.C. PMC, the oldest model congress in the country, provides students the unique opportunity to learn about and experience the American legislative process.
Unlike most Model Congress conferences, PMC is unique in that students are not assigned a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or Senate to represent at the conference. Instead, students arrive at the conference with pre-written bills, which they then debate and amend in their committees, with the ultimate goal of passing them. Students can write bills on any topic that falls under their committee’s scope and take whatever stance they would like in the discussions.
Despite the virtual format, students engaged in extensive policy debate and ultimately walked away with a greater understanding of the process that goes into passing legislation. Vared Shmuler (IV) stated that he “had lots of fun, despite the virtual format.” Olivia Roure-Singh (IV) said that “though this was [her] first conference, it was still a very engaging and informative one.”
A special thanks goes out to Dr. Megan Jones and Dr. Gillian Johnson for organizing and coordinating Pingry’s participation in the virtual conference, especially in the midst of all the scheduling changes.
Ultimately, the conference was a success for Pingry students. They were able to participate in a lively and exciting weekend filled with lots of debate, and they are looking forward to returning (hopefully in-person) to Princeton Model Congress next year.
By Sophia Lewis (V)
This year, the Pingry Drama Department put on a successful Fall production, albeit in a different format due to COVID-19. Almost, Maine, by John Cariani, was picked for this year because of its format of nine small vignettes, which allowed for socially distant rehearsals. A play “for romantics, not for sentimentalists,” each of the segments is about love in its many different and sometimes comedic forms. All nine scenes take place in the town of Almost, Maine at 9:00 PM. Themes such as new love, marriage, and even the ending of a relationship are explored. Because of COVID-19, the stage directions calling for kissing, hugging, and handholding were off limits. So, throughout the play, the cast sought to answer a crucial question: How do we show love for someone during a pandemic?
Many other changes were made due to pandemic restrictions. For example, rehearsals were done primarily outside with masks on and with a limited number of people. Additionally, scenes were filmed before the dates of the live performances in the event that the school had to go remote. Unfortunately, the actual play was not on the Macrae Stage, but was instead performed outside in the middle of the Student Village. The set and tech crew had to assemble the set outside and then manage the tech equipment while protecting it from the elements. This included cold and rainy weather, with the stage freezing over halfway through opening night.
Despite the restrictions, the experience was still an enjoyable one for everyone involved. Cast member Grace Stowe (IV) stated that “doing Almost, Maine was one of the best decisions I’ve made this year- it was so wonderful to be able to connect with people during the pandemic.” Ronan McGurn (IV) agreed, saying: “It was pretty poggers [slang for amazing].” Student Director Anna Stowe (V) said that she was “beyond happy to be working with everyone because everyone worked so hard and never gave up hope even when we didn’t know if school would stay open.”
Thankfully, Almost, Maine was able to go forward as an in-person performance, and ended up a huge success. One audience member remarked, “I was blown away with the amount of commitment it took from both students and faculty to produce such a thought provoking show during a pandemic” and that “it was very enjoyable to watch as an audience member.” Not only was it a success, it was also COVID-safe; not a single member of the cast tested positive for or was contact traced for COVID-19 during the duration of rehearsals and performances. Senior class member Lily Arrom (VI) said that “even though I missed performing in Macrae, doing the show outside was actually really enjoyable, and I will definitely cherish my time spent performing at Pingry.”
By Rohan Prabhu (V)
On November 13, 2020, both in-person and remote students tuned in to watch the annual John Hanly Lecture on Ethics and Morality. With the unfortunate passing of Mr. Hanly in August, it was only proper that this year’s lecture would honor its namesake and Pingry’s former headmaster.
Mr. Levinson prefaced the lecture with a few remarks about Headmaster Hanly’s impact on the Pingry community; he mentioned that “[Mr. Hanly’s] leadership helped to shape Pingry . . . and [he] is remembered most for his commitment to ethical and moral education . . . as he expanded the scope of our Honor Code.”
Pingry also invited Mr. Al Romano, a former Drama Department chair, to speak to Mr. Hanly’s importance to the community.
Mr. Romano’s speech was a strong testament to Mr. Hanly’s focus on morality and virtue, as he highlighted Mr. Hanly’s philosophy on running Pingry. Mr. Romano, noted “[Mr. Hanly] placed in the hallway a bench, where he could often be seen sitting, chatting with students.” This gesture reflects Mr. Hanly’s emphasis on connecting with Pingry students.
Drawing on an end-of-year speech made by Mr. Thomas Keating, Mr. Romano recalled Mr. Hanly’s public speaking skills. Mr. Keating explained that Mr. Hanly’s emphasis on a positive teacher-student relationship empowered teachers to continue their work, even as summer vacation approached; this quality made Mr. Hanly a masterful teacher. In addition, he led an annual tradition of reciting “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas to help alleviate the stress of college admissions and more. As a tribute to Mr. Hanly’s legacy, Mr. Romano recited this poem himself.
Following Mr. Romano’s remarks, a panel of students from the Middle School student government and the Upper School Honor Board were invited to the stage. These students read messages from former students of Mr. Hanly’s during his time as Head of School. Each of the messages reflected on Mr. Hanly’s morality; one note, read by Olivia Telemaque (V), shared a fond memory: “Mr. Hanly was an inspirational leader of Pingry. During my difficult first year at college, Mr. Hanly sent a letter from Pingry with a quote from an educator, regarding struggle and character. I wrote to Mr. Hanly explaining how his letter touched me deeply. He wrote back a kind and encouraging letter. I kept his letters in my desk drawer throughout college and medical school as inspiration and encouragement,” Jong Yung shared.
The 2020 Hanly Lecture on Ethics and Morality highlighted Mr. Hanly’s role in Pingry’s growth, as he helped sculpt the school into what it is today. The Pingry community is forever indebted to his work, and both Mr. Romano’s speech and the messages shared by alumni are a tribute to his long-standing impact on Pingry.