Zain Qureshi ’22
As students enter Mercersburg Academy, study hall is usually the first hurdle they have to leap over on the track to academic preparation for the school’s curriculum. Ninth and new tenth graders spend an hour and a half of their nights in Irvine Hall, Monday through Thursday, doing homework alongside an assigned supervisor, who, historically, has been a new faculty member.
This year, the school has turned to prefects to oversee study halls, and as a prefect in Tippetts Hall, I supervise ninth grade boys study hall. This was a surprising change from past years, and many prefects, myself included, were unhappy with this new addition to our duties.
My grievances, though, are not with the boys that I supervise—they are a wonderful group, and I genuinely enjoy interacting with them. My problem is with the fact that when I signed up to be a prefect, I believed my role would focus on residential life duties. Study hall is not a residential life duty.
The prefect duty nights I imagined revolved around talking with students in a bustling environment; instead they are spent stifling disturbances in a quiet classroom. I thought that I would be signing people in for the night, conducting roomchecks, running the snack cart, or chatting with faculty on duty. Instead, I am whisked away to Irvine to fulfil a role that frankly has nothing to do with my job.
I understand that study hall is important, and apparently the school has struggled to find faculty to cover study hall in the past. However, I also believe that having prefects proctor study hall diminishes its importance. I am not a faculty member, and inherently my words do not hold the same weight as those of a faculty member. Therefore, there is an imbalance between the boys study hall that is always proctored by a prefect, and the study hall that’s proctored by a teacher. We are not as strict as they are, and it isn’t fair to students in either group: the faculty-proctored study hall students are met with higher expectations while the students in the prefect-proctored study hall can get away with not doing their work regularly.
Also, while study hall is ending soon, it does take place during the fall term. This is an especially stressful time for prefects, most of whom are seniors, as they are writing their college applications, in addition to their classes, PGAs, and other extracurriculars. The study hall obligation occurs at the most inopportune time.
I enjoy serving my school. I’m a NEWS editor, a former math and science center fellow, and, of course, a prefect, but I prefer for my roles to be fully defined before I commit to them. There are students across campus who are known for helping the school in various capacities without remuneration, but shy of paying us, the school should provide greater incentive for the work that we do. Like front campus prefects, I can list prefect on my college applications and have a fridge in my room, whether I proctor study hall or not. The school needs to ensure that students understand what the roles of a job fully entail before they commit to it. That did not happen this year, but I hope the school will change that fact in the future.