Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Traditions at St. Paul's

Ah, those old school rituals. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about one of the traditions at St. Paul's Prep School in Concord, New Hampshire:

"On the Sixth Formers' last night on campus, they gather as a class in the Old Chapel. At the conclusion of the service, the rest of the student body waits outside to congratulate them and say their good-byes."

Over the years a wildly diverse group of seniors have participated in this hallowed rite of passage. They include John Jacob Astor IV, who would eventually go down with the Titanic. Then there was Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and current Secretary of State John Kerry. The banker J.P. Morgan was also there, as were actors Judd Nelson and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Even cartoonist Garry Trudeau made the walk. William Randolph Hearst would have, but for reasons which aren't entirely clear he is listed as, "not graduating." John Franklin Enders did though and in 1954 he was named a Nobel Laureate in Physiology, or Medicine. He was called the father of modern vaccines by the people heaping praise on him.

Well what do you expect of a school which has been around since 1856, accepts only a little over 15% of its applicants, and reportedly charges $50,000 a year in tuition and fees. Obviously this isn't a place for the unwashed hoi polloi.

Unfortunately now we're learning about another tradition which has been around St. Paul's for a while--perhaps since the early 1970's. That's when the school began admitting girls.

It is called, "the Senior Salute." It occurs toward the end of the spring term, presumably before that last service in the Old Chapel and involves a senior male, a Sixth Former, inviting an underclass girl to various secluded places on campus. The actual purpose of the date depends on who is talking and right now at St. Paul's there are a lot of people talking real fast.

Young Mr. Owen Labrie, a recent grad, apparently interpreted the Senior Salute as an opportunity to nail a 15 year old freshman. He is on trial at the moment, facing a variety of ugly charges, one of which is rape.

Larbrie denies any sort of thing that vile happened, although he admits sex was certainly on his mind. So much so he has said he went as far as to put on a condom while making out with the unnamed girl. According to one report by NBC, after donning it, Owen Labrie experienced a, "divine intervention," and refused to go any further.

It could happen. After all Labrie says he wants to attend Harvard's School of Divinity with the aim of  becoming a minister. However, he has two problems. First, divine intervention has been notably absent among priests and pastors in the same situation over the years and second, the girl not only has sworn in court he raped her, but NBC is saying the prosecution has physical evidence she was sexually assaulted.

The defense has leaked word to the press it has a series of email exchanges, sent after the fact, which indicate the, "Salute," was not only consensual, but that the young lady knew exactly what she was getting into yada, yada, yada.

Maybe Labrie's lawyer does, but that still doesn't let his client off the hook. In New Hampshire 15 year old girls can't legally agree to have sex. Indeed, no matter how many times she might have said yes, in the eyes of the law it was still no. Which, in the end, probably has a lot more to do with the defendant alleging a pre coitus epiphany than any real intervention by the good Lord.

The school issued a statement which says something along the lines of, none of this hedonistic nonsense is part of their campus culture, or values. Of course, you have to say something and one can only imagine what St. Paul himself would think of the mess. Hell, he didn't even like women, or sex.

The truth is someone in a position of authority knew about the Senior Salute. The entire student body numbers only a little over 500, while there are nearly 120 faculty. And as we all know, in this day and age, no one can keep their mouth shut about such goings on. No, a few might have been in denial about what was happening, or even delusional, but there were plenty of adults at St. Paul's whose understanding of the tradition was exactly the same as Owen Labrie's. But, instead of putting a stop to it, as the spring term came to an end, they just pulled on their blue blazers, straightened the Half Windsor knots of their ties, and walked away.

Today in court, the now 16 year old testified, "I felt like I was frozen. I felt like I had no control. I felt like I couldn't say no. I didn't want to believe that this was happening to me."

Tomorrow, she faces cross examination by the defense.


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