It’s Not Trivial: A Response

by the Dig Staff

Today in gathering, interim head of upper school Corbet Clark announced that the administration had decided to discontinue Trivia.

When we walked into the Dig today, it was all anyone was interested in talking about.

The decision raises a lot of questions about student power at the school — gathering is considered to be student-run, but with administrative intervention there seems to be a heightened sense of disenchantment around what is truly under our ownership.

In an attempt to both shed light on what actually happened in the run-up to the decision, the Dig decided to cover the story in addition to providing a platform for both our writers and the student body to voice their ideas.

First, we talked to (ex) Trivia Masters Graham O. and Jack M.

“In short, we were told that we had crossed the line too many times,” said Jack M. “What bothers me the most is that the group of faculty that clearly had such strong opinions on what we were doing never talked to us.”

It happened too quickly and there wasn’t any involvement,” Graham O. confirmed. “When we became trivia masters, we knew we wanted to do something fun — something different — because normal trivia gets boring after a while.”

“Our trivia pushed the boundaries — we knew that — because that’s what the student body wanted,” Jack added. “When we made vanilla stuff, people complained.”

“We were hoping that we would have the chance to announce it, but the way that Corbet did it felt condescending. It was like he just spat on trivia.”

The Dig decided to allow each writer to express their opinion on the decision. Find them below.

Asa, Dig Writer –

Trivia was censored today. It is unfortunate, but I am not peeved because it was censored. What I have a problem with is the disparity censorship between other art forms. Take for example, the one acts. Many of them were good. However, there was a litany of blatant swearing that was completely tolerated by the faculty, staff, and student body. There is a picture with clear nudity on the wall in the hall to the art room (actually though, that was straight up pretty good, s/o to the painter). So why was Trivia censored for docile humor?

Other art forms were not censored for much worse things, or at least equivalent words and implications. The one acts had a multitude of swearing, possible racism statements and jokes, and the art had nudity. Trivia, after a few edgy jokes, was completely cancelled. Because painting and acting are considered more sophisticated art forms, they did not receive the same amount of discipline for their actions, which were possibly worse.

Also, the other art was accepted and cheered on by the faculty. And many may argue that the reason for the disciple for was the lack of thought put into the jokes. I would argue that there is a lot of thought in the jokes. Take the spelling bee on Monday, for example. The combination of putting in an easy word, then a hard word, and then a funny word shows that they put thought into the planning of Trivia. The jokes in Chapel on Tuesday, the Pi/Pie puns weren’t sophisticated. They were clearly looked up online, which probably took about five minutes. Either way, there is clearly an unjust difference in censorship between different art forms.

Peter, Editor –

If anyone was upset or disturbed by what was said in a community gathering space, I understand the argument to remove trivia in order to protect the students. Everyone’s physical and emotional safety should be OES’ priority one, and on that front, they are doing a good job. What I don’t understand was the “last straw.”

Many faculty have said that trivia needs to be more intellectually stimulating, and that we should value intelligent humor over the raw, funny, crude comments. For this reason, the faculty decided to censor our Trivia by suspending it. But was the silencing of student leaders in a student-run meeting space really the most “appropriate” response to a childish joke? Was a complete censorship based upon content appropriate, or should they “tell” us what is and isn’t funny?

The real question here is “What is trivia?” According to our former Trivia Masters, they said the goal was “to be entertaining and to make people laugh.” To my knowledge, Trivia is not supposed to be intellectual, and it’s supposed to be dumb, funny humor. It’s relaxing in between classes to have someone make fun of themselves. Personally, our Trivia Masters are some of the most intellectual people I know, but they’re funny because they have the confidence to say stupid things in a public setting. The method in which this ban is counterintuitive to its purpose, and I anxiously await the next move in this process.

Colin Bock, Dig Writer –

I think our school tends to be somewhat rigid in their control of student life. The discontinuation of trivia seems to prove that point.  Sure, spelling “icup” isn’t the most intellectually stimulating thing out there, but that’s the type of childish humor that we need in our days to keep ourselves going to forget about the stressful math test the following period.  But the fact that a few members of the faculty find the childish puns to be non-constructive is a little bit troubling. They may have crossed the line with the Bush trivia — yes. But I don’t think that there’s any practicality in taking away trivia without listening to the student body rather than just a select group of faculty.

Teddy, Dig Writer –

A lot of people think that Graham O. and Jack M. have been the best trivia masters in OES history. As a freshman, I can see why. Their spirit for trivia has been undying and I believe that they truly have a passion for it. Without any student voice, they (the administration) decided to suspend Jack and Graham as trivia masters because they deemed it immature and offensive. It felt as though Jack and Graham were being publicly embarrassed in gathering by being told that they were unfit for trivia. To Graham and Jack: I think you have done an amazing job with trivia, and there is nothing to be ashamed of–keep being funny!

We also talked to some students, many of whom expressed a similar sentiment to that of the Dig writers.

“I looked forward to having a good laugh every Gathering, and that was one of the highlights of my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I also appreciated learning about random topics that I wouldn’t have been interested in if it wasn’t for Graham and Jack.” – Luke S.

“Trivia provided a nice relief in my stressful day — I could laugh at a couple light-hearted jokes and watch comedy unfold in front of my eyes.” – Emerson L.

“It’s a good time to get out.”  –Emilie D.

“This is a load of horse poop. I think it’s absurd that a couple of light hearted jokes, that offended nobody, could be taken so seriously.” – Alex O.

“I’ve never been personally offended by any of this. The admin is taking away all the fun. We’re going to have nothing left if we keep taking away everything that might potentially be offensive.” – Anonymous Female

“I don’t get it. Why is the administration interfering so much with trivial affairs.” – Emma F.

“Learn to take a joke, OES.” – Sophie S.

“The reason they did it, [signed up for trivia master] had a different purpose, but now the purpose has evolved into giving us entertainment, and they did a great job of it.” – Anonymous Female

“I get why they were upset but it was an overreaction, the administration is being too sensitive. Some of their jokes were things that six years olds make but they’re making fun of the fact that they’re immature.” – Eben R.

“I feel like they’re trying to shelter us, but Graham and Jack touched on humor that is relatable. The administration wants to control the fun so much that they take a lot of it away.” – Anonymous Female

“Graham and Jack are by far the best trivia masters I’ve had in high school.” – editor Jethro Swain.

The students have to decide how they want to end gathering now — whether we want to lobby to keep Trivia, or if we’re ready to move on. And the faculty has to decide how much overreach they want to have on student affairs.

With a long break coming up, there will be a lot of time to reflect. When we come back, we’ll have to figure out how to work together on what do with “Trivia.”

Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “It’s Not Trivial: A Response

  1. Many thanks to the Dig members and students who contributed to this article. Only through voicing our concerns will our opinions be given any weight.

  2. I heard from a couple people that trivia was suspended indefinitely because the faculty felt as if Jack + Graham were “calling out/making fun of” people (an example was the iCup question from a few days ago). If this information is valid, I find it hypocritical that the faculty would silence students calling out other students when Kara + Robin were name-dropping Seniors that hadn’t completed their service requirements just a couple days before. Again, the only information I’ve absorbed is from other students not directly related to the situation, but if the (consistent) information I’ve been hearing is true, then I stand by the opinions above.

  3. At a time when creating tolerance and thick skin in students is paramount, canceling trivia because of literally “offensive” words is the exact reason why students at OES find themselves understanding less and less about differences, and more hurt by the smallest of things. HUMOR IS ESSENTIAL to learning, living, and interacting with others. If we can’t laugh or take humor (in good faith) as acceptable without punishment or retaliation, then we are no better than authoritarian dictators. Look at how Egypt punishes comedians, or North Korea, or really any group of people who don’t have the integrity to understand that humor is a means of expressionism and freedom of speech without retaliation.

    This is not red or blue. This is not the OES I applied to in Kindergarten. This is the action of a school that has developed a bad habit of being hypocritical and dangerously inconsistent in how they act on the values they so loudly state.

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