An intramural icon. A local landmark. A symbol of unity. Sitting pridefully on the western side of the grassy quadrangle known as the quad, the Senior Deck represents much more than a lunchtime spot for seniors to flex on the rest of the school.
At first glance, the Senior Deck looks like just another platform, wooden boards nailed together into a roughly rectangular pattern peppered with the occasional bench.
However, during school hours the Deck changes from a wooden outcropping into a cultural paragon that, by all purposes, signifies the privileges endowed on the senior class after three years of hard work. Off limits to any and all underclassmen, the Deck is the sole property of the graduating class, passing down from one set of high schoolers to another.
Prior to the 2016-2017 school year, several rising seniors gathered to remodel the Deck from the decrepit mess it had become over the summer.
Senior Timothy Liu, a well-known artist around campus for his many prom poster designs, took on a leading role in the project.
“I’ve been a leading part of the float building team for the past few years, and I’ve really enjoyed that experience,” Liu said. “It’s been incredibly rewarding helping my class design and create the float each year, and when I was offered a role in helping paint the Deck, I immediately jumped on board as well.”
Just like the float — the epitome of a unified class effort across Spirit Week — the Senior Deck represents the collective work of the senior class.
“Both of these experiences have been all about class pride and unity, and creating a product that represents who we are as a grade, and thus, I really wanted to be a part of the Deck project as well,” said senior Melissa Cheng.
After taking the project on, the seniors took time deliberating over their final product before finally compromising on a mutually satisfactory design.
“We modified the camo design, and also made our ‘2017’ logo much more prominent and bold,” Liu said.
However, the group still had to straddle the balance between tradition and innovation.
“We mostly modeled [our design] after the Deck from years before us, but we wanted to make sure we took some of our own creative liberties on it as well,” Liu said. “After all, this was finally our chance to manage the Deck, and we wanted to ensure that it had our own personal flair.”
Unluckily for the senior class, controversy soon followed the successful endeavor they had completed.
“At the beginning of the year, we had to deal with multiple instances of graffiti and vandalism on the Deck,” Liu said. “They were mostly random phrases or words referencing pop culture, but they still infuriated most of the senior class.”
Having worked so hard together, the seniors felt slighted by the vandalism.
“We felt as though other people were disrespecting our Deck; since we viewed the Deck as a symbol of the senior class,” Liu said. “Thankfully, the administration was really great about getting to the bottom of the issue, and the vandalism quickly ceased.”
This year’s current graduating seniors, the Class of 2017, happily acknowledges their ownership of the Senior Deck. After persevering through the stigma of not being allowed on the Deck for the past several years, the 2017 seniors are sure to appreciate what they have.
Cheng, for one, is fully aware of the privilege she has as a senior.
“I think of the Senior Deck as a sort of rite-of-passage into the upper echelons of high school,” Cheng said. “The Deck was always this untouchable cultural icon during my first three years of high school, so finally being able to stand on it and enjoy the view from above the quad was a great feeling.”
Although Seniors are essentially “given” the Deck when the previous year’s class departs, the students who use it feel like they deserve the Deck for their long trek through high school.
“I feel like having ownership of the Deck is like a sense of pride after the work I’ve put in over the past three years,” Cheng said. “It’s a feeling of, ‘I’ve worked hard three years to finally reach this point, and now I’ve finally made it to the top.’”
Now, amidst its lofty status within Paly’s society, the vaunted Senior Deck still exists for the pleasure of the seniors.
“I really think of the Senior Deck as a place where I can just go to chill with my friends,” Cheng said. “I go there to eat lunch, or just hang out where I can sit and observe the happenings around the school. Of course, the first day where everyone wore camo was amazing.”
One can observe this by simply walking through campus during school. Especially during the earlier days of the week when the majority of Seniors are on campus, the Senior Deck is standing-room only. During Spirit Week, the Senior Deck looked like a minature version of Times Square.
Even those who aren’t seniors are cognizant of the Senior Deck and its omnipresence on the Paly campus.
“I feel the Senior Deck at Paly is a staple of Paly culture due to its importance to the seniors,” said junior Elliot Clark. “Whenever I, or anyone walks around at lunch, it seems to be the main hub of the quad with its Seniors and music playing.”
For next year, the current juniors look forward to being able to use the Deck.
Just like the senior class, they acknowledge the deck.
“I’ve avoided using it for the majority of my three years at Paly, so finally being able to sit upon it at the symbolic top of the school will mean a great deal to me next year,” Clark said. “I know that the rest of the class will appreciate it .”