Sophomores Don’t Suck

Reede Nasser and Kasey Kirklen

Ok, Park City High School… this one’s for you. We say the chant every year, and every year one of us gets called down to the office to explain why we did. Why do we do it though? Is it because of our sense of tradition, or is it because it’s part of high school? While some believe it is bullying and others believe it is a joke, most students have chanted it before.  There is a contradiction in the chant:  We preach unity and tell every student to attend games, dances and assemblies, but we are chanting something exclusive.  The question remains:  What is it really?


What is it, really?

The chant can be interpreted in a few different ways. It starts with the basic definition of bullying, hazing or harassment from our Park City High School Student Handbook:


“In accordance with Park City School District policy, any form of harassment–including all types of social media–of boys or girls, whether by word, gesture, or action, violates district policy and will not be tolerated.”


Taking this into account, ‘Sophomores Suck’ is considered bullying and harassment. However, some of the school sees an alternative view; for them, ‘Sophomores Suck’ is an inside joke for the upper classes.


Is it considered bullying?

Our school’s young people are strong in spirit and academics. The Park City Miners never lack pride or morale when it comes to competition. Football games are always a good time and pep rallies are a place of freedom. Chanting is encouraged but only when it’s appropriate and sensible. ‘Sophomores suck’ is neither wanted or liked by many students and faculty in the school and it affects the spirit of the sophomores more than many realize. They don’t have anything to shout back so they’re standing there in the stands, hearing the phrase without recourse.


As a whole, the Sophomore’s morale drops and they don’t enjoy the fun anymore. “So I mean, maybe encourage them instead of saying they suck.” Sophomore Rep. Mylie Lenard commented on the homecoming pep rally.


“There no such thing as saying ‘oh i’ll just wait it out for a year’ no this is part of their high school experience. Stop with that.”


The sophomore class is about 37% of the student body. They are a big class and many feel intimidated by the chant. As new students in a big school, the Sophomores should expect to be welcomed with open arms. But there’s a difference between hazing and being the new kid. When you arrive at a new school where no one knows you, muddling through class is simple. But when you’re confronted by someone who wants power and they decide to harass you and insist it’s only tradition, then hazing becomes more prominent.


The upperclassmen don’t have a problem with the chant because they were targets of the chant when they were sophomores. Many are not as concerned about the effect on the individual.  For many of them, it is only a joke.


Research shown by Georgetown University stated that “[s]ome may engage in hazing activities with malicious intent because they enjoy the power they exert over younger members.  Others may seek positive outcomes for hazing activities, such as team building and group development.  And in some cases, individuals may not even be aware that they are engaging in a certain behavior or activity that could be considered hazing.” The reasoning for hazing is complicated and unpredictable.  


Tori Kenton, a sophomore, reiterated the complicated, troubling feelings surrounding the chant.  “I think it’s funny it’s also tradition and so its acceptable. But I have a lot of senior friends so when they say it to me I feel a little bit down cause I feel like we’re really close, I mean everyone goes through it it’s tradition, so I guess it’s fine.”  While Ms. Kenton addresses the tradition and humor in the chant, she also acknowledges that it has real, hurtful effects on students in different situations.  It is simultaneously tradition, hazing, bullying, and a joke. Words can hurt others no matter the context or situation.


However, for the sake of this article, the chant is more than a simple chant.  It’s been integrated into Park City High culture. Now, even though it is no longer malicious, we have forgotten what it sounds like if we are not the one receiving it.


Why does this continue?

Many schools have chants that raise the morale of the entire student body, something that really excites the students. Vista Del Lago High school in california chants ‘USA’ at their football games. It’s patriotic and sounds harmless. ‘Sophomores Suck’ is what the upperclassmen have been saying at our school for years now.


When our current principal, Mr. Bob O’Connor, was an assistant principal, he recalled the day the chant started in 1998 at an assembly.  It upset him then and it still does now.


“I don’t think it’s meant to be as derogatory to the Sophomore class as it once was. It’s become a tradition and the meaning behind it, well, I don’t think most kids think about.” People forget why this is harmful and it come out of their mouths without a second thought.  Mr. O’Connor continued, explaining, “It’s still a soap word in my house,” meaning it ranks with profanity when someone mentions it.  He won’t let his own family say it, and believes students shouldn’t either.


While the chant has evolved from its malicious origins into a tradition and rite of passage, those past intentions still tarnish the chant. Now the chant has become part of our school culture and the intentions behind it aren’t even addressed. ‘Sophomores Suck’ is said because it’s the only chant the school knows about the classes.


20 years ago the term was used to hurt others and defeat the spirit of the sophomores. From the nearsighted, three-year view of current students, the chant has always been here. There is no regard for how it started or why.


Many students, even sophomores, have said that the chant is simply tradition and they want to be able to participate when they become seniors. Their ‘tradition mentality’ has kept the chant alive when only a couple years ago it was almost demolished.  


Bennet Barbosa reiterates this perspective of tradition:  “The chant has been around for years, and now we’re all of a sudden supposed to take it away because a few sophomores are offended? That’s not the way the world works.”


For more perspective, seven years ago one of Park City’s teachers graduated from the high school.  Ms. Natalie Star remembers the chant. She recalled, “I think it’s more aggressive now than it was when I was there. It wasn’t that big of a deal and it didn’t happen that often. Whereas now it’s like all the time.”


She graduated in the late 2000’s and the chant was on its way to dissolving. Two years ago administration came down hard on a group of football players for the chant. However, its made resurgence this year. But different classes have different reactions to “Sophomores Suck”, and the new generations have kept it around.

So where do we go from here?

Students must note that each of our perceptions are going to be different. There are upperclassmen that will and won’t yell it. There are sophomores who will join in or hide when it is yelled. Regardless of what the majority thinks, it is time to put these perceptions aside and look at the unpopular opinions: this is hurting a portion of our school, regardless of what the upperclassmen mean when they’re yelling it.


Please keep in mind administration and faculty do not support or condone the chant. Deepening the conversation about the chant, won’t fix the problem entirely, but it could provide a few ideas about where the school progresses from here.