Senior superlatives are a personality contest. Deal with it.


The 2015 Senior Hall of Fame lists.

Every year the Cleveland yearbook embeds a list of senior superlatives; you know the categories: ‘Class Clown,’ ‘Best Athlete,’ ‘Best Hair,’ etc. This year, it seemed that a lot of questions were raised by students as to the ethical and factual validity of these categories and their winners. “I mean, of course it’s a popularity contest. People win because others know who they are,” said Clancy O’Connor, junior. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

The word popularity has a lot of negative connotations, especially when it comes to factual recognition and approval of said “popular kids.” People tend to associate popularity with being extroverted, attractive, and well-liked. Or not liked, surprisingly. But popularity also has to do with being known by peers. I’m not even going to go into how popularity is an imagined social construct that people perpetuate by deciding to acknowledge its existence, because doing so would leave me with the inability to address the question at hand. While I think advertising a popularity contest seems shallow, I also think that there is no way to have a democratic voting process without the candidates being elected or chosen because they are known by the voters.

Presidential campaigns are basically government sanctioned popularity contests, and if you don’t think they are, I’m willing to debate that with you. You don’t vote for somebody you don’t like, and you definitely don’t vote for someone that you don’t know. Ergo, if popularity is defined as being well-known, it is an unavoidable factor. Katherine Dean, winner of ‘Best Dancer’ agreed, saying, “It definitely depends on who can get the word out more, which is contingent on popularity.”

But are the categories representative of the whole school, or are they centered more around a certain group of kids? Says senior Scott Brant, “I think part of it is a joke. People vote for a lot of people in a joking way. But categories like ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Artist’ are pretty serious. Kiran Bolsey won ‘Best Musician,’ and that’s the truth; he’s an amazing trumpet player. Some of the categories are right on, but some of them kind of wander into being outright jokes.”

When asked to comment on the ethics of the voting process, Avery Mitchell, who won ‘Biggest Flirt,’ commented, “Sun’s out; guns out,” so I guess the categories are in fact somewhat representative of those who win them.

It isn’t, however, fair that someone who is a three-sport athlete and incredibly talented may lose to someone who is a two-sport athlete, simply because the two-sport athlete has more friends and posted a campaign about it on their Instagram. But alternatives to solve this problem appear to be limited. “Nominees would be better, because people don’t always know who to vote for,” said Gunnar Boag, senior.

Editor of the yearbook, Anna Del Savio, said, “We expanded categories this year to have a more diverse student body represented. The nominee process makes it even more a popularity contest because people are limited to voting for only a few people.”

There was also speculation about people who did not deserve their awards. I personally won ‘Worst Driver,’ even though I actually came in second for votes. The actual winner chose to be chosen for a different category that they also won. The designated male winner of Class Clown didn’t even come in first or second. Though this may not be reflective of how the senior class actually feels, having one person win multiple categories does little to bring light to the diversity of people at our school.

So though the superlatives are undoubtedly a popularity contest, they are also a fun way to celebrate the talents our senior class possesses, and commend those who are well known for excelling in certain ways; a democratic voting process will usually be in favor of someone who is more well-known for that trait, but that is just how it works. That is how any election works.

(PSA: Please let it be known that I am a terrific driver and have never gotten in an accident or received a speeding ticket.)