The Urban Legend

OPINION: New rules chain down The Urban School

Ella McLeod, Staff Writer

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It was a kind of week that would make an Urban senior flinch.

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Journalism adviser Beatrice Motamedi and I sat at a round table in the old library and contemplated the best angle for a photograph of the newly installed security camera, located directly above our heads.

On Wednesday, Geoff Ruth, 11th and 12th grade dean, told me that the name I had chosen for my senior shirt, “Smella McShitsherpants,” was inappropriate, and that I needed a new one.

On Friday morning, my friends and I spent an extra minute in the bathroom discussing if my shirt, which showed about one inch of bare midriff, would pass the newly-enforced dress code.

Then I sat through a presentation on senior pages, with a slide with what could not appear on our last and lasting piece of Urban-related self-expression: “No alcohol, no drugs, no bongs, no bottles, no cigarettes, no lollipops that look like cigarettes, no black boxes of blocking the above, no animals having sex, no people having sex, no guns, no violence, no boobs, no butt cracks, no profanity, no explicit illegal activity (i.e., no pictures of you doing graffiti).”

The reason for the rules, explained Charlotte Worsley, assistant head for student life, was that yearbooks are a reflection of Urban and its students, and they are frequently viewed by prospective Urban parents and students at admissions events.

That night I was one of the few seniors — and one of the few students — in attendance at our fall dance, where I was breathalyzed and bag-checked before I was permitted to walk in.

This week opened my eyes to the rapid changes slaying all that Urban is known for, loved for, and should never stop standing for.

Gone are the days when students scaled telephone poles and perched upon Volkswagen vans for the all-school portrait; when Urban teachers would lock the doors and meet students at Ocean Beach for a day of play. Deceased are the jam-packed, walls-lined, sweat dripping from the ceiling dances; a grade-free course report, cast picnics on the roof, and an Urban Legend completely free from censorship. Last year, on a story about gun control, we received pushback from Urban administrators who didn’t let us ask all the questions we wanted to ask or publish all that we wanted to publish.

Endangered are the spontaneous decisions to hold a class in the garden on a sunny day, the relative freedom of Cal Studies, and an administration that cares more about the student who is attending than the student who is applying.

I can’t say that every rule Urban has implemented since its start was for the worse; some are necessary, but we have gone too far.

I had planned to write about how Urban is inching closer to being University High School, but as it turns out, Uni has held onto all we lost. Uni does not have security cameras, a dress code, or breathalyzed dances. According to Alex Lockett, Uni’s dean of students, the rules of the senior pages are simple: “Students cannot have any weapons, drugs, or alcohol featured on their pages.”

How is it that Uni has managed to preserve student rights, while Urban, the hippie school founded in the 60’s, limits them?

Maybe Urban students are more willing to toe the line, but why should the line be so restricting?

From the start we are taught to question, to push the limits of a discussion, to reject a simple answer.  Each rule dampens that revolutionary spark.

Let’s go back to another week,  just three years ago when Urban threw its last breathalyzer-free dance.  The theme was Candyland and according to Genna Gores (’14), head of dance committee, some 200 students attended. I wore a  crop top and short shorts. Much more of my midriff was bared. Students ate and studied without cameras capturing their every move.

Each year Urban strays farther from its roots, farther from its glorious inception.  We have to put this to rest.  If we can’t go back to the week that was, let’s make sure that the week that is to be is no more regulated than the week that is.

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The School Newspaper of The Urban School of San Francisco
OPINION: New rules chain down The Urban School