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Selecting Only Male Valedictorians Misrepresents Class of 2017

Maddie Pfeifer, Editor

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As the school year comes to a close, the class of 2017 valedictorians have been announced: William Adriance, Dave Bryan, Greg Bryan, Joseph Kreitzberg, Jonah Lyon, Kevin Nguyen, and Christian Reyes. These seven intelligent and deserving students have worked extremely hard throughout all four of their years at La Salle to achieve this honor. They have accumulated some of the highest GPAs in the class and have excelled in extracurriculars. However, it is hard to ignore that they are all males.

There is no doubt that these males completely deserve this honor; however, as a female in the class of 2017, I can’t help but feel a little upset about the lack of female representation that will be present at graduation.

Being with the same group of people in a small school for four years means you get to know your class pretty well. I firmly believe that as a whole, the class of 2017 is one of the smartest classes La Salle has seen in years. This is also an opinion that is shared by many others, including teachers and administrators.

“This class of 2017 has a particularly large number of high achieving students,” stated Vice Principal for Academics Mr. De Ieso. “For example, there were nearly 40 students with more than a 4.0 GPA and we had 63% of the senior class take at least 1 AP class.”

But our class is not considered highly intelligent simply because the males raise the mean GPA (which is what one might assume due to the all male valedictorians). Throughout my four years, I have seen a number of very smart, dedicated, and well-rounded females emerge in this class.

I myself have accumulated a weighted GPA above a 4.0 these last four years, taking many honors and AP classes on top of extracurriculars, and yet I would consider myself nowhere near the smartest girls in our class nor a candidate for valedictorian or salutatorian. This being said, I feel that the lack of females acknowledged for their academic achievements this year is a clear misrepresentation of the class of 2017.

One female who was in the running for valedictorian was Katie Quines. Katie has taken ten AP and honors classes during her time at La Salle, received all A’s each semester, participated in varsity cheerleading, won fourteen first place titles in Speech and Debate and took third at state this year, had artwork and a prose piece published in literary magazines, won six gold or silver medals in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for writing, and has participated in varsity choir. But all these accomplishments were not enough to earn her the honor of valedictorian, apparently due to the high school placement test she took in 8th grade, which put her in regular Geometry her freshman year as opposed to Honors Geometry.

Our sophomore year, the school cut several honors math classes, which in turn streamlined the route to AP Calculus AB. For instance, I went from Honors Geometry to Honors Algebra 2 to AP Calculus AB, skipping Pre-calculus.

“Despite my achievements, because I scored lower on a math test I took at 13 [and as a result was not able to take more advanced math classes], I was not considered to be a candidate for even salutatorian,” stated Quines. “So regardless of how hard I worked during high school, I guess the odds were stacked against me from day one. And my story is probably the story of a couple other La Salle senior girls.”

“Anyone who took regular geometry was stuck out of the honors math track, no matter how hard they worked to get out of it,” stated Quines. “And that was what cut them out of the valedictorian pool.”

Indeed, Mr. De Ieso stated that one of the main factors for valedictorian selection besides GPA is the number of honors and AP classes that a student took. Unfortunately for Quines, because of her freshman year placement in regular Geometry, she was never allowed to take an honors math class, even though she was very capable of doing so.

“The students earned the distinction by earning top grades, taking challenging courses, and excelling in the academic arena,” La Salle stated in their official announcement of the valedictorians.

However, the process and criteria in this case apparently cut out some females who, from my perspective, were just as deserving as the males chosen. Even though the selected valedictorians are indeed deserving, it was an unfortunate oversight to not include any females among such a large group of strong candidates, when there were clearly females deserving of the honor.

Another highly qualified female excluded from the valedictorian honor was Kiana Christensen. Kiana has taken 12 AP and Honors classes over four years, earned all A’s, participated in varsity soccer, won state and nationals for snowboarding, finished all ten levels of piano, and has received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah Honors College. Yet, she was still somehow cut out from the valedictorian pool.

“I felt surprised and a bit concerned because the selection of valedictorians, although extremely smart and qualified, were all male,” stated Christensen. “This misrepresents the Class of 2017 since a fairly large group of all male valedictorians makes it seem like the whole class is represented by these seven when, in fact, there are other highly qualified female students who, if added to the group, would more accurately represent the range of exceptional students in our class.”

There are so many intelligent females in our class and it is upsetting to me that they will not be represented this June during graduation. If there had been a smaller numbers of valedictorians such as three or so, I do not think it would have been as noticeable or as big of an issue. But because there are seven, it is clear that the administration was not particularly concerned with strictly limiting the number of seniors to give this honor to.

“I think it really came down to the inability to parcel or divide or split those seven students because they were so closely packed academically,” stated Mr. De Ieso.

After the announcement of the valedictorians, I assumed that there was still a chance that a girl or two would be chosen as salutatorian. I was mistaken.

Because of the large amount of valedictorians—the last time seven were chosen was in 2002—there will be no salutatorian. In Mr. De Ieso’s fifteen years of education (he has been at La Salle for four years), he stated that he has never not seen a salutatorian.

“One other concern that I had was that there were no salutatorians,” stated Christensen. “This fails to recognize all the other students who should be rewarded for their successes in and out of school.”

It saddens me that when the family and friends of the graduating seniors see the valedictorians this June, their first impression will be that our class must not have had any intelligent or deserving females—which is clearly not the case. Quines even stated that she overheard a teacher saying, “Seven boys? Wow girls, gotta work harder than that.”

There is no doubt that the seven males chosen for this honor deserve it. But that is not to say that the valedictorians are not a misrepresentation of the class of 2017. Many intelligent girls were overlooked for this honor and now will never truly be recognized for their accomplishments.

“I know there are many tremendous female students here,” stated Mr. De Ieso. “I know that and I think there will be an opportunity hopefully at graduation and senior presentation for those female students to be recognized, rightfully so.” While there may be a chance for recognition for these deserving girls, it still won’t be the level of recognition of the valedictorians or even the recognition of salutatorian.

“I feel like our girls deserve more credit than what they’ve been given,” stated Quines. “Joseph [one of the valedictorians] told me that a journalist from a local paper asked the valedictorians the question: ‘How did you all rise above everyone else?’ That question wholly dismisses every girl who got the same grades and worked just as hard; it reduces us to the ‘everyone else’ that the seven boys supposedly ‘rose above.’ It’s just disheartening.”

The valedictorian situation has caused more than just Quines and Christensen to be upset. Parents and students have questioned the process and selection. Mr. De Ieso stated that the administration was aware that the announcement might be received poorly, but he stated that he felt better after female leadership from the school supported the decision.

Nonetheless, people are still upset. “I have had several conversations and have heard from students and parents that did not receive the designation and they have some valid points, particularly about how we, myself included, can do a better job of announcing and making aware to the student body who those students are and how the process goes,” stated Mr. De Ieso. “We will probably change that process moving ahead in part because of the feedback we received from the students who didn’t receive the designation and are obviously top students.”

To be clear, I’m not saying that the administration should have picked a girl as a valedictorian or salutatorian because it looks sexist to have only boys and it’s only fair to have both genders recognized. What I and the rest of the females upset about this decision are saying is that there are girls who are just as deserving as those males who were chosen.

While the school administration did not intentionally choose only males, a problem still remains. The process and criteria ultimately cut out deserving females like Katie Quines and Kiana Christensen from receiving the honor of valedictorian or salutatorian even though their GPAs were just as high as the valedictorians and they too excelled inside and outside of the classroom.

The class of 2017 is an incredibly smart and accomplished one—due to both the males and females. As the deserving valedictorians grace the stage this June, they will unfortunately be a misrepresentation of our class. I can only hope that the selection process and format for the announcement of the valedictorians is improved for the future for the sake of every deserving student—male or female—who is overlooked and unfortunately not recognized for their incredible achievements.

Creative Commons photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rhruzek/4276840183/

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15 Comments

15 Responses to “Selecting Only Male Valedictorians Misrepresents Class of 2017”

  1. Liz on May 31st, 2017 5:47 pm

    Great article, Maddie. I would love to see this shared with the wider LS community.

    [Reply]

  2. Katie Quines on May 31st, 2017 6:55 pm

    Maddie,
    Thank you for presenting your ideas so eloquently and gently. Thank you especially for the way you’ve framed my commentary on the topic. This is a really great, honest piece.

    [Reply]

  3. Alena Salley on May 31st, 2017 7:19 pm

    I completely agree with this article. I am proud to have seven valedictorians at La Salle but am very discouraged at the fact there are no females and no one else being recognized. As a female, and reading the stories of these girls who were so close, it was upsetting to know that they were so close to getting the recognition of being a valedictorian or even a salutatorian. I also feel as a female that we are not being represented at La Salle because of this.

    [Reply]

  4. Sabrina Sandberg on May 31st, 2017 8:37 pm

    I, too, found the exclusion of females to be very discouraging. Throughout my time at La Salle, I have looked up to the strong, intelligent girls in the class above me like Kiana, Katie, and many others. They have constantly astounded me with their intellect and leadership, yet they get none of the recognition. While I understand that their GPAs may not have been high enough to be included in the valedictorian set, I am frustrated that the school decided not to recognize any salutatorians, as this robbed many girls of the praise they deserve. And what would the school have to lose from recognizing more people? If anything, more recognition would better represent the unimaginably smart and talented class of 2017. While I applaud the efforts of all the valedictorians, the decision to refrain from naming salutatorians is deeply disappointing and an affront to the talented students of La Salle.

    [Reply]

  5. Simone Stoney on May 31st, 2017 9:35 pm

    This was a great article. I was really upset with the valedictorian choices for this year, but I’m glad that you put it out there for more people to read and see.

    [Reply]

  6. Jasmine Gloden on May 31st, 2017 9:57 pm

    This is a well written article that captures how many of the senior girls feel. It’s frustrating to know so many intelligent and hardworking girls, and to not see them get recognized for all the work they’ve done for four years. Hopefully the administration will see this feedback, and keep it in mind with their valedictorians in the future.

    [Reply]

  7. Zoe Wilber on June 1st, 2017 12:00 am

    Maddie, thank you so much for representing many of the female voices in our class through this article. The 7 male valedictorians are well-deserving of the honor they have received, but I too can’t help but wonder at a system that discounts students like Katie and Kiana. To all La Salle girls: keep working hard and well. Regardless of who is valediction or salutatorian in your class, the achievements of a countless number of students are not suddenly made void.

    [Reply]

  8. Rebecca Ly on June 1st, 2017 1:26 am

    Maddie,
    Thank you for writing this article. I completely agree with you and also found it discouraging that all 7 valedictorians were all male, and not a single female was recognized. I also completely empathize with Katie because I am literally in her shoes as well. I was placed in geometry rather than honors geometry when I was a freshmen while many of my friends were placed in honors algebra 1. What makes me sad is that I never got the chance to get onto the honors math classes…yet the friends that were a math class behind me will be in the same AP Calculus AB class with me next year as seniors (since they get to skip pre calculus). I am so discouraged because compared to them, I have not taken as many AP/honors classes simply because I was put in a regular math class to begin with. It just seems unfair because I feel as if I work just as hard as they do yet their GPAs are slightly higher than mine because of math. Regardless, I’m terribly sorry that this incident happened to the class of 2017 and none of the talented girls at the school will be recognized when you graduate. I really wish that there would at least be salutatorians. I hope that something like this will not happen again and that future classes will have better representation.

    [Reply]

  9. Grace Elkhal on June 1st, 2017 10:34 am

    I really enjoyed reading this article and it was really impactful and inspirational. As a freshman girl who knows Katie at a personal level, I really reach out to her. Taking Geometry vs Honors Geometry for Freshman year, is a really tedious tie breaker for her 4 years of hard work. I understand that at the end, the decision has to be made and the decisions were fair, but I am glad to see the senior girls rising up and defending their titles. Just because Katie and Katrina were not selected, let alone the many other qualified hard working girls, I am pleased to hear that Joseph, a valedictorian, is defending the girl’s intelligence. It doesn’t make them like everyone else and just apart of the huge senior group. I am grateful that these girls and many others are recognized and taken as inspirations for the younger generation. For a freshman, I wish to be as successful as the hard working seniors. Hopefully, next year, the girls will make a come back and make a mark on LaSallian history. I know this year’s senior girls already have made a bigger impact than most!

    [Reply]

  10. Joel on June 1st, 2017 2:35 pm

    Y’all are tripping. They are the smartest in the class, that’s why they got it. Has nothing to do with gender, has everything to do with their academic record.

    [Reply]

    Maddie Pfeifer Reply:

    You seem to have misinterpreted the entire point of the article. The girls mentioned above and many more had just as high of GPAs. The article never once said that the decision was sexist or they were chosen because they were male. I’d be curious to know what you define as “the smartest in the class.” I’d love to talk to you in person so you could better understand what the whole point of the article was.

    [Reply]

    Tyler Persons Reply:

    Maddie, I’m a little curious as to whether or not their GPAs are in fact the same as the seven chosen valedictorians. I may be wrong, but I thought that Kiana, like myself, opted out of taking AP English last year. I also think she didn’t take honors spanish or something, so I think not taking those classes would cause her to have a slightly lower GPA… That in no way is a bad thing, and in no way am I downplaying her achievements, but I think when you look at all of their GPAs, the seven boys do stand a little bit higher. You mentioned Kiana and Katie taking 10 or 12 AP/honors classes, but I know many of these guys took upwards of 15 during their time at La Salle. If I am wrong, and all the guys and girls do in fact have the exact same GPA, then ignore this, but I do believe theirs were higher. All that being said, I would have loved to see Kiana or Katie as a salutatorian – the fact that they just didn’t have one this year didn’t make much sense to me either. Anyways, let me know if I’m wrong or not haha.

    [Reply]

    Maddie Pfeifer Reply:

    To my knowledge their GPAs were very close to the same. I just want to reaffirm the point of the article–the fact that all 7 valedictorians are male is a misrepresentation of the class of 2017 which has many deserving and intelligent females. The 2 females mentioned are just evidence of that. I am not saying they should have been chosen as valedictorians over those who were chosen.

  11. Derek Wong on June 2nd, 2017 8:31 pm

    I have the pleasure of knowing those seven valedictorians personally and they are more than deserving of this award, not just because of their academic prowess but also because of their kind and loving attitude as La Sallians. That being said, there are just as many wonderful and talented females as well in that class. I absolutely agree with you when you say that the seven male valedictorians don’t represent the female talent present in our school; I know both Kiana and Katie personally, and they’re more intelligent than I am by a mile.

    On the other hand, I don’t see a practical solution. As you have pointed out, kicking out one of the current valedictorians so that a female could take his place would be demeaning to both students — I doubt any one of those deserving females would be happy taking the title of valedictorian just because the school needs to have a female valedictorian. Adding more valedictorians isn’t a viable alternative, either: seven in my opinion is already pushing the acceptable limit in my book (to be honest, I thought seven was already way too many, but on the other hand I don’t know who I would cut). Salutatorian status appears to be an acceptable compromise, but having seven male valedictorians and two female salutatorians still doesn’t truly represent the senior class. I’d love to hear a solution, but for now I just can’t see one.

    By the way, could you clarify a couple of things for me? I was under the impression that a student in Geometry could still advance to Honors Algebra 2 the next year despite not taking Honors Geometry. If that’s not the case, I would love to know why; that’s unfair to all students, female or not. Also, I’m curious to see how many other people, female or not, had very high GPAs but were still edged out of attaining valedictorian status. This one has nothing to do with the issue at hand, but it would just be an interesting thing to know.

    Finally, I’d just like to say that this was an excellent article. You provided a point of view I had considered but hadn’t really heard from until now, and presented it eloquently and powerfully.

    [Reply]

    Maddie Pfeifer Reply:

    Hey Derek! You bring up a lot of really good points. I’d love to talk to you in person! 🙂

    [Reply]

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Selecting Only Male Valedictorians Misrepresents Class of 2017