‘Wall of Shame’ is up, out of public eye

DENIED: Seniors’college rejection letters are now posted in Ms. Walls’ college counseling office.

Goldie Fields

DENIED: Seniors’college rejection letters are now posted in Ms. Walls’ college counseling office.

Breaking with 15 years of tradition, the infamous “Wall of Shame” — formerly a hallway bulletin board where seniors post their college rejection letters to share ironic pride in bad news — is now being displayed in the office of college counselor Aviva Walls.

Ms. Walls and school counselor Rachel Hecht met with the senior class at Advisory Dec. 24 to discuss the wall, which was not yet up and which administrators thought could be discouraging to students.

“People’s application information is private, and if they want to share it, they should,” said Ms. Walls, whose title is Director of College Guidance and Academic Advisement. “The Wall of Shame can be useful, but I don’t think that it should be gawked at in the hallway.”

At the senior meeting, Ms. Walls and Ms. Hecht told students to respect those who choose not to participate in the Wall of Shame.

“I do not believe that being denied from a school is ‘shameful’,” said Ms. Walls. “If someone doesn’t try to reach for their dreams, they will never achieve them.”

At the end of the meeting, the class voted unanimously to move it. Ms. Walls said her office was an appropriate place for because it’s one of the few wall spaces left in the temporary school building.

“The location is’nt a big deal,” said senior Hannah-Leeba Ellenhorn. “If the administration wants to move it for the good of the school, I don’t mind.”

Hannah-Leeba said she did not mind the wall’s old location, but in order to respect Ms. Walls and Admissions Director Natalie Weiss, she agreed to move it. Last year, Mrs. Weiss moved the wall so as not to make the school look bad.

“My job is to show off the school to prospective parents,” said Ms. Weiss.  “While I understand that getting rejected from college is not shameful, I don’t think it should be in a prominent location where we are bringing parents.”

Senior Liat Bainvoll supports the wall’s new location because it will be seen mostly by seniors and juniors, who know to be more sensitive towards the topic of college rejection.  Liat posted a rejection from Stanford.

“I think the Wall of Shame is a way to move on, especially once you see that you are not the only one being rejected,” Liat said.

Senior Natalie Dahan also posted a rejection, from Chapman University.

“I posted my letter because the Wall of Shame is a school tradition and it gives me closure about being rejected,” said Natalie.

Since the rejection letters have been posted, seniors have added short, inspirational messages next to the letters, such as “You’re too good for Chapman!” or “Only ugly girls go to Stanford.”

In recent years, rejection letters would begin appearing on the bulletin board outside the Media Center in mid-December, when early results are released.  After a few days, someone would add a sign saying “Wall of Shame.”

“I thought it was funny and not such a big deal,” said Colleen Bazak ‘13, now a freshman at USC. “I didn’t think it made the students look like failures at all because most students get rejected from some colleges, and they weren’t letting the rejections bring them down.”

Last year, Ms. Weiss moved it into the student lounge in order to make it less public.  When she moved the wall, then-senior Rose Bern ‘13 tried to move it back into the hallway.

Rose, who is now on a gap year in Israel, said in an e-mail to The Boiling Point that relocating the Wall of Shame defeats its purpose.

“When the Wall of Shame is displayed publicly, it makes it a collective experience for the entire student body, not just the seniors,” wrote Rose, who posted a rejection from Barnard and will enroll next year at NYU.

“That’s part of the Wall’s beauty — it helps the younger students recognize that failure and rejection are totally normal parts of the human condition. Holing it up in a college counselor’s office, where the majority of students will not go daily, totally diminishes the reason for its existence: to be seen!”

General Studies Principal Mr. Danovitch is glad the Wall is still up.

“I see the Wall of Shame as a healthy and harmless tradition that helps students cope with the pressure of applying to college,” said Mr. Danovitch.

“The rejection letters themselves are interesting to read, and because the entire senior class normally posts its letters, the letters never feel personal. The key is exercising discretion over where the wall is.