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/