Do you really sit where you want at community meeting, or is there a social construct behind your choice? Staff reporter Nicole Woo addresses a possible Menlo taboo behind seating at community meeting.
Staff photo by Nicole Woo
By Nicole Woo
The decision to rename assemblies as community meetings highlights how such “meetings” don’t foster a sense of community given their rigid seating arrangements. While you may criticize me for being overly analytical, I believe where you sit regularly during community meetings reflects Menlo’s social structure.
Teachers stand on the top of the bleachers, enclosing the student body. While this vantage point allows them to watch every one of our moves, their position implies superiority as well. However, since the new focus of community meeting is to be more community oriented, equally mixing teachers and students would be more appropriate.
Furthermore, by partitioning the bleachers by grade level, we seem to be sending a message that students from differing grades need to stay separated. It makes it clear to the freshmen that they are far from the seniors. We are subconsciously reinforcing the idea that freshmen must go through all four years to reach the ultimate goal of being a senior, exaggerating age’s significance.
Similarly, by forcing students to sit with their grade members, community meetings are discouraging bonds between friends with differing ages. If the direction of community meetings is to unite the school and change the tone of the event, why are they still organized in this way? Instead, seating should be a mixture of all grades. If implemented, there would finally be room for the movement across age barriers that our current seating arrangements prevents.
Additionally, there are even more groupings within each class’s section: groupings of friends. I have generally sat in the same section of the bleachers throughout high school, mostly residing in the middle benches. This repeated gravitation towards friend circles during community meetings has internally instilled a location that I feel I am “allowed” to be in. Placing myself on the other side of the bleachers would feel unorthodox. For example, all Menlo students know that sitting on the floor is a coveted opportunity reserved for senior year. But with my friends never using that area, I feel uncomfortable placing myself there.
Why these patterns and social constructs are especially highlighted in community meetings is a mystery. However, in order to create a more equal, fluid, community-focused congregation, we could consider eliminating sectionalized seating arrangements.