As I sat, hood over face, hunched with bleacher-induced back pain, slowly being roasted by the shared heat of my peers’ bodies, only one thought crossed my mind: where did we go wrong? The sound of some song involving butterflies played about 100 decibels too loud over the gym speaker system. Some kids I don’t know pranced around, almost to the beat. All the while, the entirety of SAAS remained crowded and divided in their respective Houses. The hood of my sweatshirt that was draped over my face acted as the veil that I wore to mourn the loss of the SAAS community I once knew. The same community lost to the opaque machine we all know as “the House System.” To be honest, going into the House System, I had already made up my mind. The previous advisory system was working out great for me, because if I needed to talk to my advisor, I sent an email and we would meet. It was as simple as that: a completely laissez-faire advising method for the busy SAAS student who barely has time to eat breakfast. So naturally, I opposed the House System. However, following the initial assembly on the first day of school, my loathing for this foreign implementation was almost completely mitigated. It was a system that brought together all of the grades so that those with experience in the SAAS community could mentor those who were freshly immersed into the mystical culture of performance. Further, it created a multi-tiered governance system so that, instead of confusing balances between grade-wide and school-wide student government, there was a clear trickle-down power structure in place between the central, ASB government, and the decentralized House governments. I was suddenly sure it was going to work.
And then it actually began.
I entered the CUB classroom where my House was to meet, and took a seat amongst faces I had never before seen. We went around the room, sharing names and fun facts. I was waiting for the moment when I could wield my power as a senior and do a little mentoring. But that moment never came. Instead, in that meeting and all meetings that followed, we did not help out freshmen and sophomores immerse into the school, or share college application experiences with juniors. Rather, we discussed colors. We discussed colors, animals, and characteristics that are representative of our House. Now, in the ASB meetings, we’ve discussed some other topics. However, my House at the very least is still hopelessly deadlocked in discussion about what color we are going to have represent us.
And this is what we have done ever since. Instead of debating issues that carry any weight or merit, or using my time in any sort of beneficial way, we tried to come up with words, colors, and images that represented a group so incredibly different and confused that the only way we were going to be collectively represented by anything was if our defining characteristic was “very different” or “diverse” and our color was rainbow.
Frankly, no one cares what their House is called, or whether their mascot is Malcolm X or a badger. It would behoove those who control this system to mandate a theme for the names of the Houses, such as Seattle street names. The individuals that comprise a House are so unique that it would be offensive if we were to be clumped under one flag. Because what makes SAAS great is not how similar we try to be, but how different we all are.
Instead of focusing on the contributions that we, as individuals, can make to our community through and inside our House, we have spent time on trivial planning. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I’d rather actually be strengthening ties with the community, or boosting my chances of getting into Georgetown, than deciding if we are going to be named “The First House” or “House One.” And as for those who say that these things are important because they will be long-lasting through the future of SAAS, I say: 1) The House System is lucky if it lasts past May and 2) even if it does, whatever we come up with today will not be representative of those who occupy our House in 2020.
Beyond an individual House’s self-determination, however, our community as a whole has stewed in the misery of wasted time. The House competitions were the perfect manifestation of the agony of having one’s time wasted by that which they haven’t a modicum of interest in. People have no interest in these competitions because they feel no connection to the people from their House who are competing, and because they cannot make these connections when the only interaction they have with these people is discussing the color wheel. The more SAAS students are forced to attend events in which they are crowded onto overpopulated bleachers, forced to listen to overly amplified music that they detest, and then remain in such a position for the entirety of a break during which they could be caffeinating or studying, the more they are going to resist the institution that puts them there in the first place. And in this situation, the institution that crowded us like livestock, bled our eardrums dry, and left us thirsting for espresso was none other than the House system.
No matter how many “spirited” events or bonding activities you make us sit through, at the end of the day, a SAAS student is a SAAS student: we’re cynical and apathetic. And we will remain that way until our time is put to use. And because it seems I will never be given the chance to mentor in my House, I suppose now is the time for it. My word of advice: use the House System to its true potential so that our time is not squandered on all things trivial, or watch as it burns in the flames of the cynicism and loathing of the SAAS student population.