Taking the Market Back, Stock by Stock

by Christian Asdourian


February 22, 2021

Wall Street was recently taken by storm when a group of Redditors skyrocketed the stock value of the retail store Gamestop.

In January 2021, a group of everyday people from a community forum called “r/wallstreetbets” on the popular website Reddit took it upon themselves to help alleviate the financial stress placed on GameStop. Their actions were a response to the tactics used by professional Wall Street investors who were planning on profiting from the decline of GameStop’s stock value. If you’ve seen the movie The Big Short, you’ve probably heard of the term “short selling” and may or may not have pretended to understand what it means. In essence, short selling is when investors sell stocks from a company with the knowledge that their value is going to decrease. They can then buy back the stocks cheaper and keep the difference as profit. When Redditors such as u/DeepF-Value and u/Stonksflyingup realized that GameStop was being heavily shorted, they began encouraging private retail investors, or individual, “little-guy” investors, to purchase GameStop stock. Before long, the cost per share of stock shot up to a whopping $483 at its peak from a measly $17 earlier in January. 

Melvin Capital, one of the hedge funds that was shorting GameStop, was forced into a short squeeze and had to buy back stock to cover their losses. They eventually left their short position on GameStop, with a loss of over four billion dollars in assets last month. But Wall Street was not going to go down without a fight. Initially, investment apps like Robinhood were the primary means that private investors were using to buy up GameStop stock, until these apps placed trading restrictions on GameStop and over ten other companies because of “significant market volatility.” This caused a massive uproar among the public and users of the app because of allegations of market manipulation. Several politicians voiced criticism of Robinhood’s actions, including Representative (D-NY) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for an investigation into why Robinhood acted to “block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.” 

Given everything that took place, I asked Jonas Rajagopal ‘21, club leader of the Stock Market Club, to share his thoughts on these events.

How do you feel about this whole situation? 

I thought the situation was exciting. It is always fun to see Wall Street lose (though they made back most of their losses later in the saga). I think the main problem is not what happened on Reddit. It is that big hedge funds have been able to do this without punishments. They can donate to politicians to prevent the rules from changing. For example, companies like the Motley Fool can buy a stock, then invent phantom reasons to say it will rise, and their followers will buy the stock, and they make a ton of money.

Do you think the future of stock exchange is in jeopardy? Why?

I do not think the future of the stock exchange is in jeopardy. There may be some regulatory changes to prevent events like this from happening again, but anyone saying that this is the demise of the stock market is overreacting.

What do you think about the responses from companies like Robinhood and Wall Street itself? 

Initially, I thought the response from Robinhood was unacceptable. As I have learned more about the situation, I believe they had little choice. I also think their PR was a disaster and they could have handled it better. I think the system failed the “little-guy” investors. I also think trading should have been completely stopped by the NASDAQ, not just on Robinhood, and not just to prevent selling the shares. 

As of now, the massive increase in value for GameStop stock has plummeted back to earth. Although the company and stock value is in a better place than when it started, this saga has a bit of an unsatisfying conclusion, especially to those who were hoping that the stock’s price would keep on climbing. Regardless, what happened with GameStop is a historical moment for Wall Street. Even the little guys can influence the stock market if they work together, and GameStop is only the beginning. 

Aliaj, Ortenca, Mackenzie, Michael, and Fletcher, Laurence. “Melvin Capital, GameStop and the road to disaster.” Financial Times, February 13, 2021.

Burbridge, Mark. “Redditors Vs Wall Street: The GameStop Situation Explained.” The University News, February 8, 2021.

Ingram, David and Bayly, Lucy. “GameStop? Reddit? Explaining what’s happening in the stock market.” NBC News, February 7, 2021.

The Laramie Project: Interviews With the Cast and Crew

by Ibukun Owolabi


February 22, 2021
Members of Drama Club perform The Laramie Project. Dr. Larash for The Scarlet Letter

On October 6, 1998, there was a horrific attack on the life of a young man by the name of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The suspects, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, kidnapped Matthew and viciously beat him because Matthew identified as gay. Six days after the brutal attack, Matthew Shepard passed away in Poudre Valley Hospital, leaving the world in shock. Henderson and McKinney were both found guilty of first-degree murder and were sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. 

The death of Matthew Shepard sparked protests across the nation and was a catalyst for change. Many people in Laramie felt that no person should have to go through what Shepard went through because of their identity, a belief that was amplified by the countless protests in cities across America. On October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to “strengthen the protection against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth… add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”1

This year, Boston University Academy’s winter play, directed by Mr. Gardiner, shown on January 30, was The Laramie Project. The play, written by Moisés Kaufman in 2000, comprises a series of interviews with the townspeople of Laramie, Wyoming. The dozen or so members of Drama Club played over sixty townspeople, all playing multiple roles. 

This year, many clubs and sports had to adapt all that they were doing before to the “new normal.” Drama Club had the complicated task of producing an entire play in a Zoom room. As a new member of Drama Club, I asked my fellow cast and crew members to reflect on the making of the beautiful play. The following are interviews with members of the BUA cast and crew of The Laramie Project.

Mr. Gardiner, Director

What was it like to produce a play that would be performed online?

Exciting and challenging on many levels. Whenever you produce/direct a play, one of the questions is the style or look of the production. Producing a play online added a lot of new things to consider. How do you honor that this is a play, not a film, that’s presented virtually? Is there a constant look across the board? How do you differentiate locations, characters, passage of time, act breaks? How do you deal with the wide range of devices that people are using to rehearse and record? What platform do you use for presentations?  Yea. The list goes on…

How was the production process this year different from previous years?  

Rehearsals took place later in the day, since it was better to have actors home on a computer without a mask than at school masked and socially distanced. The performances had to be recorded at the beginning of the winter break so that we had time to edit the recordings together into a coherent whole by broadcast date. The actors had to be ready for performance earlier. In a normal year we’d have at least a couple of weeks after winter break to put the pieces of the play together. Those are just a few of the differences in the process this year.

In the process of putting the play together, what were some things you enjoyed and some challenges you encountered?

I was grateful to introduce students to a play and story that few of them had heard of before our production. The story of Matthew Shepard was a story of national significance and one I followed closely and was impacted by — and the play was and is an important landmark in American theatre. I also enjoyed meeting new actors and learning what they can do. [I’ve also enjoyed] seeing other actors I’ve worked with before stretch and grow as artists in ways that sometimes surprised me.

Challenges — hoo boy — just the technical difficulties, all of which had to be dealt with remotely, from “unstable internet connection” to not enough space for the actor to set up their backdrop comfortably. And of course, scheduling any after-school activity at BUA is always challenging. There was literally only one day I had the entire cast together.

Suzie Marcus ‘22, Stage Manager

What got you interested in being involved in the play?

I’ve always loved stage crew and was stage manager at my old school last year, so I knew I wanted to be involved again here. I knew the story beforehand. I had heard of the play and the real event. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I enjoyed seeing people both remote and in person be able to come together to work on the play. I also loved the story and how everyone took it seriously and cared deeply about the subject matter.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

Challenges were probably just related to communications and scheduling in general (for everyone), but for me personally, just remembering who played who off the top of my head was super difficult.

Jasper Milstein ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played multiple characters; my recurring role was Reggie Fluty. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I’ve been acting for upwards of ten years, so any opportunity to be in a show I’ll take. 

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

I think it’s an incredibly captivating and touching show. Obviously, it’s a tragic story, but I think that makes it even more important to keep sharing because hate crimes are still far too prevalent to this day. By sharing the story, [we’re] spreading more knowledge and bringing more attention to the issue. 

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I think being able to dive into some of the more complex scenes and monologues was a lot of fun and provided challenges as an actor.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

The remote aspect definitely provided some challenges in terms of communication and joint scene work but overall was not too bad to work around. 

Elizabeth Brown ‘24, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

I played a variety of roles throughout the show. All of the members of the cast played more than one role because of the nature of the show, which has around sixty-four parts. More specifically, I played Rebecca Hilliker, the Head of the Theater Department at the University of Wyoming; Father Roger Schmit, a Catholic priest; Aaron Kreifels, a college student who found Matthew Shepard; and Shannon, a friend of Aaron McKinney. 

What got you interested in performing the play?

I have loved performing since sixth grade, when I was in my first musical. Before I came to BUA, I had seen my siblings perform in a couple different shows, and I liked what I saw, so I decided to participate in this play.

Was there anything about the story that interested you in particular?

Before this show, I had never heard about the hate crime against Matthew Shepard, so the whole show was educational for me and very interesting. I also was fascinated by the close relationships that the members of the theater company were able to build with the people of Laramie.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play?

I loved working with Mr. Gardiner, Kayleigha Zawacki, our video editor, and the rest of the cast on this play. Everyone was great and amazing to work with. It was also kind of cool to learn how to record a whole show from the comfort of my home.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

It was of course very different doing a production on Zoom, and there were some kinks to work out because of that. Also, scheduling is always an issue, regardless of whether it is in person or on Zoom. 

Kasia Perks ’21, Actress

What were your roles in the play?

My roles in the play were Doc O’Connor, Zubaida Ula, Narrator, and Mormon Home Teacher.

What got you interested in performing the play?

I miss theater because it’s not as easy to do now, so I wanted to perform in this play. I’ve been in every production since freshman year, so it seemed like an obvious continuation.

What were some things that you enjoyed about performing the play? What were some of the challenges?

I enjoyed being able to act again and engage with a script, but it was hard to stay as focused as I would usually be in person.

While the recording is no longer available to the public, Drama Club did a spectacular job in carrying out the duty of bringing awareness to what happened to Matthew Shepard. In case you don’t believe me, I’ll leave you with the words of Mr. Kolovos himself: “I was struck not only by how well our cast handled the mature material, but also with how well they translated the experience to the screen. Within a few minutes, I forgot that I was in my living room watching a teenage cast.”

1 The entire speech was delivered at the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and is on Youtube under the title President Obama Commemorates Enactment of Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Double Masking Advised: The Increase in Coronavirus Variants

by Anna Augart-Welwood


February 22, 2021

It has been almost a year since the coronavirus was officially declared to be a pandemic, and many people are growing tired of social distancing. However, new variants of the virus have been discovered, sparking concern among public health experts. These mutations can possibly affect how contagious the virus is and the severity of the symptoms.

Every year, vaccine makers release a different flu vaccine that targets the mutation that was most common the previous year. It is unclear whether the same will happen with COVID-19. While viruses are constantly evolving, the new strains of coronavirus are more concerning because the mutations improve the virus’ so-called “spike protein,” a protein that penetrates host cells and gives the coronavirus its spiky surface. If this protein continues to evolve, the virus may eventually be able to reinfect people who have previously contracted it or have been vaccinated against it. This is because antibodies have more trouble binding to certain spike proteins, causing the virus to stay in the body longer. Similarly, certain mutations fit better into cell receptors, much like a key and a lock, causing the virus to be more contagious. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the United Kingdom is thought to be up to 70% more contagious than the original strain.

Researchers are unsure whether the recent increase in variants is because the mutations are more contagious, or due to holiday travel and superspreader events. Recent evidence suggests that these new strains are more dangerous. For example, the B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be 50% deadlier than the original strain; that is, the symptoms it causes are thought to be more severe. Pfizer has stated that their vaccine will be slightly less effective against the B.1.351 variant found in South Africa. Moderna believes that their vaccine will be effective against the B.1.351 variant, but not as much against others, so they are working on a booster vaccine.

While this discovery seems discouraging, there are still ways you can continue to protect yourself. Many people have begun to wear two masks after Dr. Anthony Fauci advised this practice on the Today show. According to the CDC, wearing a cloth mask over a well-fitting surgical mask can reduce up to 95% of exposure from possible COVID-containing respiratory droplets. The CDC also recommends a method that includes tying knots in the ear loops of a surgical mask and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face, which makes the mask better fitting. Regardless of these new masking techniques and vaccines, people need to be more careful than ever. This could include allowing fewer people in certain spaces, including schools, along with increased vigilance and strict social distancing. Joie Liu ‘23 agrees that people need to act with more caution, or even just the same amount as everyone had at the beginning of the pandemic in March of 2020.

Many people are feeling the pandemic fatigue that weighs us all down, and others have stopped following social distancing guidelines altogether. However, the vaccine is providing a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is important to remember not to lose hope. The best way to fight the virus is to continue social distancing and wearing your mask(s).

Brooks, John T., MD; Donald H. Beezhold, PhD; John D. Noti, PhD; Jayme P. Coyle, PhD; Raymond C. Derk, MS; Francoise M. Blachere, MS; and William G. Lindsley, PhD. “Maximizing Fit for Cloth and Medical Procedure Masks to Improve Performance and Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Transmission and Exposure, 2021.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 10, 2021.

Crouch, Michelle. “Most Common Symptoms of the U.K. Coronavirus Variant.” AARP, January 29, 2021.

Nirappil, Fenit. “Time to double or upgrade masks as coronavirus variants emerge, experts say.” The Washington Post, January 28, 2021.

Reardon, Sara and Smith, Dominic. “A Visual Guide to the New Coronavirus Variants.” Scientific American, February 11, 2021.

“The Coronavirus is Mutating: What We Know About the New Variants.” Healthline.

Zimmer, Carl. “7 Virus Variants Found in U.S. Carrying the Same Mutation.” The New York Times, February 14, 2021.

How Clubs Have Adapted to Coronavirus Restrictions

by Joie Liu


February 22, 2021

Across the globe, the coronavirus has upheaved the lives of billions. It has torn apart families and forced many to transition to a world online. Schools and extracurriculars have had to conduct education via a digital screen. Although Boston University Academy is extremely lucky to have the opportunity to have their students be in person for their classes, it is still no exception to the larger developments, and many of its extracurriculars have been hit hard. Most notably, in order to continue meeting, many clubs have needed to use online resources, though there are still a few clubs that have managed to find new ways to meet in person. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become one of the most powerful tools, allowing anyone to connect with others using only a computer. BUA clubs have taken advantage of Zoom and all of its features. Using Zoom, clubs have thought of creative solutions to problems, from breakout rooms to polls and even emoji reactions. In some ways, each club has had to forge its own path. Some, such as Mock Trial, Sustainability Club, and Computer Science Club, have taken routes that involve once-a-week online meetings. Others, such as Bullet Journal Club, have taken an approach with meeting times that vary. Larger clubs, such as Student Council, have also worked creatively to try to find ways to keep up with their duties. Representative Lizzie Seward ‘23 said that the climate has increased the motivation of Student Council members and that representatives are working harder this year to overcome the additional challenges and struggles that COVID-19 has brought. But although Zoom meetings are the best alternative, many still feel that they do not completely replace in-person meetings. Many students think that online communication changes the club dynamic, making it harder to connect and coordinate meetings. It is impossible to ignore these new problems. 

Although the large majority of clubs have chosen to hold meetings online, some have still found ways to physically meet. Most sports have tried to resume athletics with some alterations. All have been forced to have athletes maintain a distance of six feet apart from each other, and many have had to take extra precautions to follow rules surrounding multiple people touching a single object. Although students are happy to get any chance to play the sport that they love, these adjustments have changed the very nature of many sports, leaving students feeling unsatisfied and longing for more. This in turn has led to a lessened interest in playing sports and arguably less commitment from many players. However, after a long spring and summer without sports, many are excited to have the chance to pick up their favorite sport once again. 

Other clubs, such as Robotics Club and Fashion Club, have managed to find ways to continue their work in person. Taking over an empty classroom, Robotics Club has been able to meet most days to work on their creations. However, despite being able to meet in person, they have also had to face their own share of problems. Similar to sports, cancellations to competitions have lowered interest among both experienced and newer members, and because of restrictions, they have had to adapt to have only six people in a workroom at a time. Although they have had to deal with major setbacks, member Gabriel Romualdo ‘23 said that the situation has helped to “strengthen the team’s organization, communication, and productivity” and that many are “looking forward to a successful season ahead.” Fashion Club has also found creative ways to continue their work. Meeting in person in the art room to work on creations, founder Claire Hsu ‘23 says that the coronavirus hasn’t affected her club a lot. Instead, the club has found new ways to contribute to the climate, creating masks to sell and then donating the profits to charities in an effort to help others.

Whether holding meetings online or in person, clubs have adapted well to the pandemic, though the difficulties that have arisen from coronavirus restrictions must be noted. Clubs help bring the BUA community together at a time when it’s harder to come together, easier to become disconnected — that too must be noted.

The Class of 2021’s College Application Process — in the Coronavirus Pandemic

by Aparna Deokar


January 27, 2021

Many of BUA’s seniors were able to breathe a sigh of relief after the first week of January this year: COVID-19 has been a rollercoaster for everyone, from young schoolkids to elderly grandparents, and high school seniors all across the world are no different. To learn more about how the pandemic has affected BUA’s seniors and their college application processes, I interviewed Ms. Evans and Ms. Atkinson from the college counseling team for their thoughts on how the college application process has changed this year as compared to previous years, Saoirse Killion ’21, a humanities-focused student, and Aditi Deokar ’21, a STEM-focused student.

Unfortunately, tours for many colleges were canceled in junior spring and senior fall for the Class of 2021. Tours really help seniors to get a feel for college campuses and are often a source of inspiration for the common “Why this college?” essay, in which students write about why they’re interested in attending a particular college. Reflecting on her own essays, Aditi said it would have been “better to have more personal anecdotes about each college” and a better perception of the colleges overall — she had to steer her essays more toward focusing on academic influence than environment. Ms. Evans said, “It is different to not be able to really gain a sense of the surroundings of a campus. Even sometimes going through that process of getting into a car or getting on a plane and [going] to a campus — you can learn a lot about what feels right to you, how you might feel about going a little bit farther or closer to home.” Colleges tackled the problem of tours in many different ways, including virtual tours and detailed college websites. Saoirse commented that she “virtually toured all the colleges [she] was interested in.” She saw these tours and other online webinars, panels, and sessions as “very helpful” and said that they “made the whole college search process more equitable.” Similarly, Aditi noted that she was able to get a lot of information out of the college websites, which was the main source of information that she used, and she said that BUA’s alumni fairs really helped her as well. But she also said that the virtual tours were less helpful than normal tours, mainly because they were geared toward a wider audience. 

Another change from previous years was that a significant number of Class of 2020 students worldwide deferred their college enrollment to 2021; in other words, many of last year’s high school graduates took a gap year after getting accepted. This affects this year’s seniors, since to prevent the undergraduate class of 2025 from getting too large, fewer seniors will be accepted in many colleges, though the extent to which deferrals will actually affect this year’s admissions is uncertain. Ms. Atkinson said, “In our conversations in the fall with admission officers, [deferrals don’t] seem to be as big of a deal at most places our BUA students are applying as people might think.” Both Aditi and Saoirse touched on the fact that it was difficult to know exactly how much they were affected by deferrals, since the regular decision statistics have not been released. Aditi did mention that the college that she applied to early decision admitted fewer students than it had in past years and had a lower acceptance rate.

Test-optional policies have also made acceptance more competitive this year. The main change that test-optional policies initiated was that potentially lower-scoring students were able to apply to higher-ranked colleges, making applicant pools more competitive. These policies are by no means new; as Ms. Evans said, “Standardized testing has been under scrutiny for a few years anyway.” But many more colleges all over the world decided to give students the option not to submit standardized test scores this application season, since many tests were cancelled last spring and fall. Aditi elaborated on this, saying that she was “lucky to have gotten most of her standardized testing out of the way early,” but that she knew this was a problem and that it was a huge help to many students to have BUA hold a testing session. This testing policy seems like an upside for students unable to take the tests and students who may have scored lower than they desired, but for other students who were able to take the test and score well, their scores may have counted for less.

Acceptance rates are expected to shift this year as well. Students are applying to more colleges, and yield rates, or the percentages of applicants who accept their admissions offers, are decreasing. We expect colleges to accept more early decision applicants, who have binding acceptance contracts, to guarantee enrollment in the Class of 2025. However, we expect a decrease in early action (the nonbinding early application cycle) and regular decision rates, because the numbers of applicants in these cycles have significantly increased. “We’re hearing that especially at the most selective schools, there’s a significant increase in the regular decision rounds,” Ms. Atkinson said.

Comparing 2020 and 2021 admission rates from some institutions that BUA students often apply to illustrates these changes. Last year, Harvard had an early action admission rate of 13.9%, which decreased this year to 7.4%; last year, MIT had an early action rate of 7.4%, which decreased this year to 4.8%; last year, BU had an early decision rate of 31%, which increased this year to 43.7%, all as expected. Brown is the outlier: last year, it had an early decision rate of 17.5%, which decreased this year to 16%.

One last change that has happened very recently is the postponing of Ivy Day, the date when Ivy League colleges release their decisions for the regular cycle. After getting a significant increase in applications, all of the Ivy League colleges agreed to postpone Ivy Day from March 31 to April 6. This has in turn pushed the date for students to turn in their college decisions from May 1 to May 3. Aditi, when asked about how this would affect her, said that she’s glad the colleges will have more time to think about her application, but thinks that the main upside is that the decision deadline is extended, which is good for students appealing for more financial aid.

To end, Ms. Atkinson imparts a message: “Essay writing, engagement with colleges, and coursework — what kids choose to take while they’re at BUA and BU and how they do in those courses — those still tend to be the most important parts of the college application. And the BU Admissions agreement continues to be such a huge gift.” And to encourage everyone to keep their eye on the big picture, Ms. Evans says, “[Ms. Atkinson and I] are here to help guide [students]. At the end of the day, they’re going to be alright. I encourage students to just take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. [College] should be a great journey and experience. To the younger students — live in the moment, focus on what you’re doing right now, enjoy the learning.”

Who Got You Through 2020? Interviews With Teachers and Students

by Giselle Wu


January 27, 2021

2020 has not been a year that any of us would have asked for. It has been unexpectedly challenging, exhausting, and sorrowful. Worldwide, a devastating pandemic took the lives of more than two million people; in America, the issue of police brutality took center stage, and our democracy itself faced unusual challenges — in short, it has been difficult to find a bright side to 2020. But it’s important to remember that 2020 was filled with many loving and caring moments. And at BUA, we are grateful for all the support and positivity in our caring community during these times. In this spirit, please find below responses from BUA students and teachers to the following question:

Can you name someone from the BUA community who got you through 2020?

Mr. Kolovos:

It’s impossible for me to pick just one person! I’ll start with my colleagues on the faculty and staff, who have been working since the summer to envision what this unusual year would look like and have been so creative and flexible as we’ve made it happen. I think about all of the students who have accepted the new rules and changes joyfully; because they are taking this so seriously, we haven’t missed a single day due to COVID-19. And I’m so grateful to all the parents for how warmly they’ve welcomed me and how they’ve partnered with us. It’s been the most incredible team effort this year. What a beautiful example of what we can accomplish together.

Dr. Larash:

The short answer, of course, is everyone! Dr. White, Ms. Brewster, and Mr. Kolovos did so much to make things possible, as well as Mr. Curran and his IT team, who got us set up in August in preparation for the new school year. But as for “getting me through” — to me, that’s asking who are my companions on this strange, uncertain journey, and I have to say my students. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for their good humor, willingness to try out new things, and perseverance! In the classroom I found a community banding together in an otherwise scattered and fragmented year. I would particularly like to thank the staff and writers of The Scarlet Letter for their work all year, especially with the December 2020 issue, in giving us a record of and reflections on this strange year that has so tested us.

Ms. Hakimi:

The BUA tour guides definitely played a large part in getting me through the fall of 2020. Our tour guides have always played a huge part in welcoming prospective families to campus, and it was important for us to continue to spotlight this group even if we had to run a virtual admission process. Starting in the summer, a group of two dozen eleventh and twelfth-grade BUAers started working with our admission office to design a virtual information session that would teach applicants about our academic and extracurricular programs — all via Zoom. On average, they’ve run twenty-plus sessions a week and have hosted over 350 prospective families, all with a smile on their faces. We couldn’t do our work without them, and we’re grateful for their support of our admission efforts!

Dr. Jewell:

I relied on the moral (and sometimes technical!) support of all my faculty friends. In particular, Ms. Brewster has been a problem-solving powerhouse. She’s been on the lookout for ways to make things run smoothly, fill gaps in technology or equipment, brainstorm new ways to get things done — and she drops words of encouragement at just the right time. Dr. Taylor has been unfailingly kind: she stops in just to say hello, and she’s always happy to see other colleagues — which lifts my spirits in turn. She’s been generous with her time, Zooming separately with me to help me learn new technology and walk me through some things I’d never tried before. And Dr. Larash has been (as always) a voice of gentle support and enthusiastic encouragement. She always shares teaching ideas; she volunteers to demo and “guinea-pig” new technology and exercises with us; she celebrates little victories among students who are learning new things; and she listens and shares on those days when things are hard, which is important too.

And here’s who else got me through: my students in my classes. I was in awe of their flexibility and grace last year. At the end of our first remote week, I said to them, “Look what you just did!” And (not gonna lie) I teared up a little bit… and I think I saw that some of them did too. The knowledge that we were all doing our best, and giving each other room to do our best, was deeply comforting. And then, at the end of the semester, something else gave me a boost to last me for a while: the little notes students wrote, or left on their last pieces of work — just a little note here and there, but oh, so deeply appreciated.

Mrs. Brown:

I have been in awe at the work done behind the scenes by Director of Operations Paige Brewster. From working with BUA families on digital access to arranging new furniture in every classroom to attending hours upon hours of meetings with BU officials about COVID-19 regulations, Ms. Brewster has done amazing work getting BUA through 2020. When it’s all over, we should have a parade for her!

Dr. Formichelli:

I’ll shift the wording just slightly, if I may, so I can focus on friendship of equals, rather than a Virgil carries Dante type of mentorship. Within the BUA community, the person with whom I went through 2020 — shoulder to shoulder — is Jim Davis. Not only do I like him personally, by which I mean I enjoy talking about books, philosophy, and life in general with him, but there’s a deeper resonance, since we’ve shared some similar experiences (this year and last year), and our backgrounds are kind of a bond between us that often bring us not only shoulder to shoulder, but often eye to eye. I admire him as a teacher and thinker, but most of all as someone who has moral convictions, and the courage of his convictions. That’s not so easy to find these days, and it makes him that rare colleague and friend, prized even more for his rarity. He’d probably be surprised to hear this, but he also sometimes has a kind of Beckettian sanity and humor, which not infrequently makes me “Irish laugh.”

Sally Jamrog ‘23:

A lot of people got me through 2020, but my immediate family and my friends in the BUA community especially did. Like for most people (I’d imagine), 2020 was a hard year for me socially, so I’m extremely grateful that I was able to see my friends on Zoom during the summer and in person during the fall semester. This saved my year!

Madison Ho ‘24:

A group of people at BUA who have gotten me through 2020 is my freshman English class. The camaraderie I have found from surprising Dr. Formichelli with random costumes on Wednesday to having heated discussions about fish sticks is something I will cherish forever. Through the many challenges 2020 presented, I found that such relationships and friendships were what provided me with the most support. And looking back, I’m able to see just how much I gained in 2020.

Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: Democrats Take Control of the Senate

by Julia Dickinson


January 27, 2021

The results of the Georgia Senate runoff elections will shape the political climate on Capitol Hill. Those results should have made headlines on January 6; instead, amidst the chaos of the attack on Capitol Hill that day, they lost some of their share of the spotlight. But still, they should not be overlooked.

Much rested on the results of Georgia’s Senate elections; the stakes were perhaps even higher than they were for Georgia in the presidential election. Democrats went into the election looking to take control of the Senate — they needed to win two seats to split the Senate 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, where Vice President Kamala Harris would cast a tie-breaking vote if needed. Republicans, on the other hand, hoped to stand their ground. Democrat Ralph Warnock ran against Republican Kelly Loeffler, and Democrat Jon Ossoff ran against Republican David Perdue.1 Warnock and Loeffler were already scheduled for a January special election. The regular election for Ossoff and Perdue was carried out in November as normal; however, neither candidate was able to secure the fifty percent majority needed for the election to be called, so a runoff was scheduled for January.1 This left Georgia in a unique position with two Senate elections in January.

Democrats took the charge, earnestly campaigning for both of their candidates. They raised over a hundred million dollars for each campaign, a record for Senate races, and hosted countless events to encourage more people to vote for Warnock and Ossoff.2 The diversity of the candidates drew in voters from Georgia’s growing cities, which largely lean Democratic. Suzie Marcus ‘22 says, “It’s cool to see the first Jewish and first Black Senators from Georgia.” She also notes that “Democrats geared their campaign towards young voters. Ossoff has a TikTok.” The impact of the youth vote has increased with the increased turnout of youth voters.3 People have used social media as a tool to rally young voters, and it has worked: the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement says that 52-55% of people ages eighteen to twenty-nine cast ballots, a significant increase from recent years.3 Since the youth vote leans Democratic, it was vital for the Georgian Democrats to bring young people to the polls.3

On the other end of the spectrum, Republicans were not doing much to support their candidates. This was perhaps driven by Donald Trump, who barely put any effort into helping the Georgian GOP candidates. Instead, he chose to focus on spreading lies about the presidential election, claiming he had won when clearly he had not, and building distrust in elections among his supporters.4 His claims of a corrupt election, though false, could have kept Georgian Republicans away from the polls.4

On January 20, both Warnock and Ossoff were sworn into the Senate.5 Along with Alex Padilla (D-CA), appointed to take Kamala Harris’ Senate seat, they shifted the Senate majority to the Democratic Party.5 This should make it easier for Democrats to confirm Biden’s cabinet and pass policies and laws. As Suzie says, “The four disastrous years with Trump and a [Republican] Senate majority together showed people how easy it is to pass laws with a Senate majority and a president of the same party.” Republicans will struggle against the Democratic majority not only in the Senate, but in the House of Representatives and in the Executive Branch as well. The Democrats have this majority and political opportunity largely because of Warnock’s and Ossoff’s wins in Georgia.

1 Amy Gardner and Erica Werner, “Georgia certifies Ossoff and Warnock victories, paving way for Democratic control of Senate,” The Washington Post, January 19, 2021,

2 Rick Rojas, “Democrats in Georgia Runoffs Bring in Record Haul,” The New York Times, December 25, 2020,

3 Kalhan Rosenblatt, “Gen Z is using TikTok to encourage youth voter turnout in Georgia’s runoffs,” NBC, January 4, 2021,

4 Richard Fausset, “Georgia Certifies Senate Victories of Warnock and Ossoff,” The New York Times, January 19, 2021,

5 Barbara Sprunt, “With New Georgia Democrats Sworn In, Democrats Officially Control The Senate,” NPR, January 20, 2021,

BU’s Coronavirus Plans

by Julia Dickinson


December 14, 2020

It’s almost winter break, almost time to relax after putting in hard work all semester. We’ve been able to complete this semester in person four days a week, much to the surprise of many. There are many reasons as to why we’ve been able to attend in-person school all semester, but one stands out from them all: BU’s COVID-19 plans.

At BUA, we are beyond lucky to have BU’s resources at our disposal during the pandemic. We’re tested in their facilities multiple times a week, and we’ve implemented Learn from Anywhere (LfA), a hybrid model of learning that allows students to choose in-person or remote classes.1,2 The planning instituted by BUA and BU has allowed us to learn on campus for the entirety of the fall semester, and as such, our main aim has been met. But if we now look more closely at these past few months, a question arises: how well have these plans truly held up?

BU has been testing members of the BU community with the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) COVID-19 test, since this test is known for having a very low false-positive rate and quick results.3 BU built its own lab over the summer to accommodate the sheer number of students needing testing — over 4,000 tests are administered every day.3 Initially, the university struggled to keep its promise to provide results the day after testing.4 The lab, however, quickly rose to the challenge, and although testing turnaround time still hiccups sometimes, the issue has largely been fixed.4 There appears to be a trend with the results: positive tests have increased after major holidays such as Labor Day, Halloween, and most recently, Thanksgiving.4 The rise in positive cases following these holidays hasn’t caused any major changes in BU policies yet, but an eye still should be kept on these spikes.

The LfA plan was introduced to allow students to learn in a way that made sense for their health.2 Under this program, any student who prefers or needs to stay off-campus can learn from home, while students feeling more comfortable with returning to campus can learn in the classroom again.2 At BUA, adjusting to hybrid learning took some time; those in person struggled to hear their classmates online, and students learning remotely faced a similar problem, struggling to hear their in-person classmates and then sometimes even feeling ignored. By October, however, the major kinks were worked out. BU has faced similar issues with their program — many students feel that LfA has been more awkward than helpful.5 But nonetheless, LfA has allowed students to learn safely.

Both frequent testing and flexible learning environments have been great opportunities this fall. And now, with the semester coming to a close, many of us are starting to look toward spring. BU will still offer testing and LfA next semester.6 And BU has chosen to push forward the start of next semester, adding one more week of winter break and eliminating spring break.6 This plan has been met with mixed feelings from BUA students taking university classes and BU students alike. It was made in an effort to avoid a rise in the number of positive cases on campus brought about by mid-semester travel.6 But the decision does not come without its shortcomings: spring break is essential for students’ mental health, and without it, more students will likely suffer from mid-semester burnout, diminishing the quality of their work. 

BU’s COVID-19 plans have been a success; they’ve effectively allowed members of the BU community to return to in-person school. The plans aren’t perfect, but they’ve worked much better than many of those implemented at other colleges in America. We at BUA are extremely lucky to have access to BU’s resources during the pandemic. Now, as we head into winter break, it’s time to leave campus for a bit and take some time to unwind safely at home.

1 Joel Brown, “BU Details Campuswide COVID-19 Testing Plan for Fall,” BU Today, June 17, 2020,

2 Robert A. Brown, “Letter to Returning Students on Learn from Anywhere,” June 9, 2020,

3 “COVID-19 Screening, Testing & Contact Tracing,” Back2BU,

4 Kat J. McAlpine, “Boston University Weekly COVID-19 Report: September 2-8,” The Brink, September 9, 2020,

5 Sara Rimer, “BU Students: Zoom vs In-Person Classes? It’s Complicated,” BU Today, November 9, 2020,

6 Art Jahnke, “BU Pushes Back Start of 2021 Spring Semester, Cancels Spring Break,” BU Today, September 29, 2020,

Virtual Admissions

by Ibukun Owolabi


December 14, 2020
A panel of BUA students answered questions from prospective students at a virtual open house on December 1. Ms. Hakimi for The Scarlet Letter

The stretch of months from October to March, known as admission season, marks one of the most important times for students seeking to apply to independent schools. Many students remember their own experience with applying to high school and occasionally look back at it. Now that we’re in the midst of another virtual admissions season, I asked some of my fellow freshman to reflect on their experiences with virtual admissions and interviewed the BUA admissions team.

Therese Draper ‘24 says that she found her shadow day to be the most helpful admissions event out of the many that she attended during her application process. She then has some concerns about the virtual admissions process for students applying to BUA this year: “I don’t think they’ll really get a feel for how it should be here.” While Therese was fortunate enough to get an in-person shadow day, some other members of the Class of 2024 attended shadow days during the months of quarantine and so experienced BUA classes virtually. David Sadka ‘24, one of such students, remembers sitting in on a calculus class during his remote shadow day in June. While he feels that the class was very informative and well-led, he does think that it would have been better if he “could talk to the teacher one-on-one.”

The changes necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic continue to shape the admissions process this year. It has moved to a completely virtual platform. On December 1, the admissions team held a virtual open house for students applying to BUA. I was part of the student panel and assisted Mr. Stone in the questions and answers portion pertaining to the Athletics Department. The open house was a webinar, and the panel answered questions asked by the attendees. Common questions asked include: is this school year normal? How is the remote transition from eighth to ninth grade? In this surely unusual year, the BUA admissions team has not deviated from one aim: as always, they hope to ensure that prospective students have the best experience possible. 

For more information on how the admissions process is now being conducted at BUA, I reached out to Ms. Hakimi, BUA’s Director of Admission, and Ms. Shannon, BUA’s Associate Director of Admission. The following segment consists of a series of questions that I asked and the responses from the admissions team.

How do you plan to conduct revisit days?

We are operating under the assumption that it is probably a pipe-dream for us to host large groups of visitors on campus in March, so if we are unable to do that, we plan to [do several things]: host virtual panels of current students, teachers, parents, and alumni so that families hear from all the different constituent groups at BUA; continue to share webinar recordings and our virtual tour so that families have a visual of what our building looks like; offer the opportunity to Zoom into live classes at BUA; offer opportunities for applicants and their parents to connect one-on-one with members of our community to ask questions; and probably [organize] more fun stuff that we’ll think of in the next few months!

Are interviews easier to conduct now that they are virtual?

[There is now] time to interview more families during the weekend and evenings, and it’s easier for families because they do not have to commute. There are some things that can be a little bit more challenging: technology issues might naturally come up, it can take longer to make some students feel comfortable in the Zoom setting, and we usually have less time with the students than we would have if they spent the day at BUA, which is sad! 

How is the admissions team fielding questions about the impact of the coronavirus on admissions?

We have been doing a mix of sharing information in email newsletters and also filming short video clips for families that we will share through email and on social media. And on our website, we have many FAQs about the coronavirus. We have also trained our tour guides to speak about their school experiences during the coronavirus times.

Is the admission team taking into account the fact that the coronavirus can affect admissions?

Yes! Our keyword this year is flexibility! We recognize that families are stressed about their applications this year — transcripts, teacher recommendations, and school offerings might be thin or not offered at all, and we understand this. We have been very understanding, and we have been helping families substitute materials with things they can get access to, whenever possible. That being said, we are still looking to enroll a class of curious and kind students — we will be reaching out to families directly when we need additional information or clarification.

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris

by Matthew Volfson


December 14, 2020

Kamala Harris’s election to the Vice Presidency of the United States is representative of the changing American political system. Harris is the first female, Black, and South Asian American to become vice president. She has broken racial and gender barriers; she has inspired a generation of Americans. Some look to follow in her footsteps: one such girl in Georgia expressed a desire to be like her, to look like her.1

Harris’ victory is part of a long fight. It has taken over a hundred years for a woman to win the vice presidency. Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first woman to run to become president, back in 1872.2 In her time, most states barred women from voting, with the exception of certain western states, such as Wyoming.3 Voting for women wasn’t legalized across the United States until 1920, when the nineteenth amendment was passed.4 Women continue to face a struggle to gain more power in the United States government — the harmful belief that a woman’s place is in her home still prevails today. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, it was found that 57% of women polled agreed that there are lingering issues regarding gender discrimination in America.5 Harris’ election is viewed by many as a step in the right direction, but it is only one step — there is still much that needs to be changed.

Racial discrimination is still prevalant in America. In another Pew Research Center survey, over 60% of Black Americans polled said they experienced discrimination at some point in their lives.6 Black drivers are 20% more likely to be stopped by police.7 George Floyd’s death is one example of lingering inequality in America — it shows that police discriminate against African Americans. The United Nations even recognized such discrimination against African Americans in a resolution denouncing such actions taken by police.8 Harris’ election brings some hope that the opportunity gap between Black and white Americans will eventually close. 

Representation matters — Harris’ victory is proof or validation for women and people of color (POC) that they too could hold political office or more generally, become leaders. Yet there is also an underlying issue that needs to be addressed: it has taken too long for minorities to be represented in the higher-ups of the American executive branch. Lack of opportunity for POC and women persists in the United States.

But although Harris is a step forward in many ways, the specifics of her political career fall into more of a gray area and inspire mixed feelings at BUA. A BUA student who wished not to be named believes that “[Harris’ victory] will send some South Asian and Black children a great boost of confidence.” Yet at the same time, they say, “[Harris] is, as a whole, somewhat fake, in my opinion.” However, the student does believe that having such a “fake” character is necessary for conducting modern politics in the United States — they think that politicians who have “integrity cannot bring their once-revered intellectual debates and arguments to the attention of the populace,” and that therefore, “[Harris] is [merely] a symptom of the American political facade.” Domestically, the student is skeptical as to whether Kamala could really bring change: “In terms of domestic unification… I also have little hope for her.” Regarding whether Harris’ victory will change racial relations in the United States, the student is again not optimistic, saying that “institutional racism is… a product of culture, not government specifically.” They say, “When the government does something right, it’s rarely because they took initiative, but usually because the voters started shouting really [loudly].” 

Many Americans believe that Harris’ win represents a step forward for women and POC, but some then analyze Harris’ character and history in politics and find themselves dissatisfied. The anonymous student believes that if Harris truly wants to change how America’s society works, she has to “somehow reach the hearts of all Americans and change the culture [of the United States].” But they view doing this as “basically impossible.” Some view Harris’ win as a win for women and POC in America, yet others see Harris as just another cog in America’s political machine, unlikely to change much about it.

1 Kat Stafford and Christine Fernando, “Kamala Harris win inspires women and girls nationwide,” AP News, November 9, 2020,

2 “Women Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates: A Selected List,” Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics,

3 “Wyoming and the 19th Amendment,” National Park Service,

4 “19th Amendment,” History,

Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Kim Parker, and Renee Stepler, “Wide Partisan Gaps in U.S. Over How Far the Country Has Come on Gender Equality,” Pew Research Center, October 18, 2017, 

Monica Anderson, “For black Americans, experiences of racial discrimination vary by education level, gender,” Pew Research Center, May 2, 2019, 

“Research Shows Black Drivers More Likely to Be Stopped by Police,” New York University,

Marina Riera, “UN Condemns Systemic Racism, Police Violence,” Human Rights Watch, July 20, 2020,