Decision to Prohibit Senior Run-In Themes Contradicts GDS’ Values

Bobby Asher pretends to crack open a gold rock, kicking off the gold-themed senior run-in. Photo by Shaila Joshi ’25.

At the annual class trip where my classmates and I planned the specifics of our run-in, new grade dean Marjorie Hale informed the senior class that “this is your thing.” However, when it came time to finalize the theme for the senior run-in, administrators denied two of the proposals made by seniors. We were not given the opportunity to defend our proposed themes, which contradicts GDS’ values of teaching students to speak freely. 

Hale explained the run-in as our chance to leave a lasting impact on the GDS community with a memorable entrance. As we sat on a basketball court during our senior trip, we were tasked with figuring out the theme for the run-in. 

The senior run-in, an annual tradition, is when the senior class runs into the Forum on the first day of school — usually wearing clothes or carrying props related to a particular theme. 

Students tossed around many ideas, but we narrowed it down to two: bank heist and gold rush. The plan was to run in as if we had robbed a bank, or run in like we had found gold. The majority of seniors voted for the bank heist theme over the gold rush theme.

However, after discussing with the faculty members on the grade trip, Hale informed us that both the bank heist theme and gold rush theme would be prohibited.

She said that due to the sensitive nature of policing in the United States, members of the school community might be offended by the bank heist theme. Some seniors were planning for students dressed as police officers to accompany those running in, while others were not.

According to Hale, she and other faculty members reached the decision to prohibit the gold rush theme because of the discrimination against communities of color during the mid-1800s gold rush in the United States. Before briskly walking away from the group, Hale added that we would not be discussing the decision together. If anyone had questions, they could speak to Hale privately.

I was disappointed that we were forced to have our debut as a senior class be staged with a theme that we did not feel a strong attraction toward.

I understand why teachers and administrators feel the need to monitor what the student body does to avoid offending members of our community. GDS tries to create a school environment where students and faculty feel safe — but I’m starting to wonder if the GDS administration is being hypocritical regarding its values.

This is the norm for GDS: trying to create an environment where there is no disagreement. While there are benefits to the sheltering environment GDS has created, such as protecting some students from hate, there are many negatives, too. GDS does not properly prepare us for the real world, as students will undeniably encounter people with views that may offend others.

If a student is scared of sharing an opinion because they fear it may not be considered politically correct by faculty, then that student is not learning to be confident in their opinions. As such, students may feel afraid to engage in discussions.  

GDS’ website states that students will learn to be “confident in their own voice” and to be able to “enter the great conversations of life.” By not allowing seniors to publicly voice their own opinions after faculty struck down two of the run-in themes, Hale and the others responsible for the decision are preventing us from fulfilling GDS’ mission of teaching us to become confident in our own voices.

Not allowing us to engage with each other in potentially difficult conversations does not prepare us to have conversations with people outside of GDS who have different opinions. The senior class was not given the opportunity to defend our choice of run-in theme. If Hale had allowed for conversation, we could have collaborated to modify our execution. We could have, for example, implemented the bank heist theme without including police officers.

Students at GDS have been taught to self-advocate, but we are often not given the opportunity to practice that skill. To ensure the school is fulfilling its values, the administration and faculty should facilitate potentially controversial but beneficial conversations — and ensure that students do not feel afraid to share their perspectives.