Students Express Concerns About New Inter-dorming Policy

As many students welcomed the new school year, they were excited to see old classmates and make new friends. However, a few weeks before their official arrival on campus, some students began to voice concern regarding a new inter-dorming policy, which was added to The Almanac over the summer. One student wrote a petition expressing opposition, which was signed by 320 students. This petition and the inter-dorming policy have become the talk of the school during the past few weeks. The school presidents, Caitlin Reilly ’19 and Daniel Pai ’19, recently hosted a fishbowl, to which approximately 150 students attended. Given the energy and passion of student responses to this issue, the Editors have dedicated this issue’s Opinions section in its entirety to the responses of the student body.

We would like to note that out of the numerous submissions, both named and anonymous, there were no opinion pieces in support of the changed policy. The following are a few select responses that The Record received regarding the new policy. 

Bradford Rawlings ’19 and Casey Wolff  ‘19

In our four years as Hotchkiss students, we have noticed a rift gradually widening between the students and the administration. Despite the wide-spread availability of information regarding what students want as it pertains to our lives, administrators involved with this new policy moved ahead with an agenda that seems to reflect only their idea of what our community should be like.

This ignorance can be seen reflected in the new inter-dorming policy. What is the “empirical” data that suggests “pervasive, negative behaviors-including hazing, bullying, gender-based harassment, and substance use” happens more often behind closed doors? Hotchkiss is one of the most inclusive and loving communities we have ever lived in. Sure, we have heard of some instances of all of these things in this and any other community, but the purpose of our discipline system is to weed out these outliers from our otherwise amazing community.

This blatant violation of our privacy as individuals fosters a lack of trust between students and faculty, creating an environment that is the furthest thing from conducive to camaraderie and respect. We do not think it matters how other schools are amending their interroom visitation policies. Hotchkiss, being the elite boarding school that it is, should be leading the way in bridging the gaps at our school, not blindly following those who claim to present the right answers. We love this school, and we will not let this policy ruin our final year here, but we are afraid this policy will diminish the experience of current and future students as they grow and mature in this otherwise magical place.

Nia Warren ’19

This policy, as an approach to making Hotchkiss a more inclusive environment, makes it the exact opposite. It creates an environment where the school does not trust us and where no one can foster meaningful relationships. The school has yet to inform us on who the specific faculty were who made the rule, what specific statistics or feedback were given to prompt this rule, and why they had no time to inform the student body, but had time to get negative feedback from a group of students over the summer.

How can two roommates who once lived together no longer be able to visit each other without faculty permission just because they live in a different dorm? How can a proctor who was once trusted to advise their proctees no longer visit them, because now they are in different dorms? At its core, the rule closes doors between students, instead of opening them. The administration tried to provide alternatives to hanging out in dorm rooms by using the common room or main building. However, they fail to address the lack of privacy in these spaces. A common room can’t accommodate people all trying to watch a movie, and Main Building is a very public place, which cannot allow for personal moments. The life of a Hotchkiss student is one where we are always surrounded by other people, and now the school is forcing us to hang out with everyone all the time, allowing no time for personal moments with friends. It also makes it especially difficult for proctors to connect with proctees because no one wants to talk about personal issues with the door open.

The lack of transparency and communication with the administration is concerning, especially with the influx of new faculty. Despite all the criticism about the lack-luster relationships between grades, the administration has passed interrooming policy that specifically discourages students from different dorms and grades from visiting each other. I am disappointed that the school did not communicate with us. Their excuses of not having enough time to communicate is questionable considering they had time to receive student feedback and students heard rumors about it in the beginning of last year.

These changes are even more frustrating because we have no faculty advocating for students, and many beloved faculty left or weren’t informed of these changes. I am not saying that the reason for these rules were completely unfounded. These rules may be needed for the all-gender dorm. Although it may feel that having different rules for different dorms is unfair, this practice is already in place at Hotchkiss. There are different rules regarding lights out, study hall, WiFi, and myriad other things depending on whether it is an upperclass student’s dorm or a lowerclass students dorm. To address the need for students from different dorms to check in for “safety reasons,” students could use a simple electronic sign-in, which would ensure that faculty members know who is in the dorm in case of a fire. However, clearly, safety was not the motivation behind this rule, because there are multiple other ways to tackle that issue. Instead, the administration is hiding behind the smokescreen of safety, but really just doesn’t trust what Hotchkiss students do behind closed doors.  Ultimately, I think our school policies should reflect the needs of the students. If a majority of students, parents, and faculty believe this rule does not reflect genuine needs, will the administration finally realize they made a mistake or will they hide behind “safety”and ruin what made Hotchkiss home for so many people?

Asher DuFord ’20

These rules were never in place until this year, which also happens to be the first year of the all-gender housing option. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. [The new rules] hinder the ability for bonds to form between students not only in the dorm, but also in general. We are high school students at boarding school, which is a very unique situation that requires us to form families amongst ourselves. Relationships with other students at school have helped me through the toughest of times, and sometimes, we need the door closed. I think that the old inter-dorming policy was restrictive enough. The rule[s] should just be discontinued.

Scott Lewis ’19

I am a proctor. All of my upperclass friends are proctors. Consequently, my friends are spread across campus in different dorms. These [new] inter-room policies make it very difficult for me to see any of my friends inside the dorm, as I can only visit their room[s] during on-duty hours, which, as a proctor who must be on duty during half of the available inter-dorming hours, is very limiting. Furthermore, it is difficult to have private conversations outside of the dorm setting, as the design of Main Building does not allow for many locations that allow complete privacy, especially during winter, which limits [use of] outside [spaces].

Parker Mills ’20

As a new incoming student, I don’t know the previous rules, but these new rules seem counterintuitive. In The Almanac, Hotchkiss says it would like to promote social activity, but these rules would completely destroy it. There would be no room to talk about something personal without having someone other than the intended audience hear or have someone just barge in. The privacy of the student body should be respected more, to create a social and mentally healthy environment.

Gwen Slaughter ’19

Hotchkiss is not only our school, it is our home. Dorm life is one of the most important aspects of Hotchkiss. I would argue that the meaningful interactions that you have with your roommates, proctors, and friends are friendships that last for life. We all know Hotchkiss is hard at times, and sometimes the best cure is having conversations with our peers in a private space. I respect the fact that the school believes this makes a safer environment. However, this rule involves the students and the students were not involved in the decision. By taking away this aspect of Hotchkiss life, a part of Hotchkiss is lost. I want what is best for everyone, and in my opinion, this is definitely not it.

Santi Valenzuela ’19

As a Senior, I can confidently state that some of the best friendships I’ve made during my time at Hotchkiss have begun within the comfort of a dorm room. The most important factor towards creating the aforementioned “comfortable” space is inarguably the privacy that a closed door provides. If the new rules described in The Almanac are enforced, not only [will] I feel robbed of the opportunity to truly engage with my friends during my final year of school, but also filled with pity for the younger generations of Hotchkiss students who won’t be able to enjoy a true boarding school experience.