Classroom Use

The haze of summer has passed, the newest snow has fallen on the mountains, and a new year is in full swing.

And with a new year, inevitably, comes new rules. Or at least, an attempt to enforce rules that have previously been allowed to slide. This year though, the enforcement of the “classrooms should be used for academic purposes only” rule has produced a shockingly negative reaction from the student body. The administration has decided to officially declare classrooms to be off-limits and most students are not happy with this change.

Raul Soto demonstrates appropriate (left) and inappropriate (right) classroom use. The enforcement of the not-new policy has drawn the ire of many students. Photo Credit Colly Smith '16
Raul Soto demonstrates appropriate (left) and inappropriate (right) classroom use. The enforcement of the not-new policy has drawn the ire of many students. Photo Credit Colly Smith ’16

Sabina McMahon, Dean of Students, talks about why the school decided to enforce these rules more strictly this year.

“We’ve always been very clear about our policies around intimate spaces.  We talk every year about appropriate spaces and we’re asking students to use [classrooms] for [academic] purposes.”

Last year, students engaged in a school-wide survey that was also given to the parents. Both parents and students expressed concern regarding intimate sexual activity.

Michael Mulligan, the current headmaster at the Thacher School, also connects the stronger enforcement to the survey. “The research revealed most of it,” he says. “It’s all about a balance of freedom and responsibility.”

The student body, however, believes otherwise.

According to a recent survey by the editorial staff, 56.58% of 151 students responding believe that banning classrooms is unnecessary. 60% of students felt that simply banning classrooms doesn’t address the issue at hand. Around 30% of students were unclear as to what issue the administration was trying to fix or felt that the necessity of the enforcement of these rules were dependent on the situation.

One of the main issues that students bring up is the question of “Where do we go now?”

McMahon tried to answer this question: “That’s often the question: where are we supposed to go? It’s not the school’s responsibility to provide a space for intimate behavior. Thacher is like a home. At home, parents don’t provide a space for intimate behavior.”

This sentiment is echoed by Mulligan as well. “It’s a legitimate but not appropriate concern to have private space with your significant other,” Mulligan says. “It is the responsibility of the school to offer a safe and appropriate setting.”

Students believe that the deeming of classrooms to be off-limits will soon raise problems.

“The changes make sense regarding the intimate behavior happening within classrooms,” Ben Yih ‘15 states. “But the problem with this is that it just causes kids to ‘explore,’ which in many ways could cause more issues. This exploration just causes kids to go into more places they shouldn’t, i.e. beyond Perimeter Road.”

When asked about concerns of students wandering further, Mulligan smiled, “You didn’t come to Thacher to break rules. It’s all about exercising restraint.”

Another important question to ask, exactly what is the administration trying to fix or prevent?

“The goal of the school,” remarks McMahon, “is to have good and open conversations. The most important thing is that the school is very invested in the fact that this campus should be a very comfortable place for people.”

This comfort also has to extend to the faculty as well, who have raised some concerns over the use of their classrooms at night. “[The faculty] would like to be able to access classrooms at any time,” McMahon notes. “They’ve been supportive, mostly because we’ve been very transparent. And this transparency feels good to people.”

In regard to the negative student reaction received from the the student body, McMahon says this. “It’s typical to have discussion and questions and concerns when you’re trying to shift the focus or culture of a school. You can have a private conversation with the doors closed…and the lights on!”

“I think that like anything, there will be some people who agree with and some people won’t agree with them. It’ll always be the case. We’ll continue to have good discussions. We all live here together and if we’re not talking about this thing, it’ll create tension. I understand students not saying ‘This is the best thing that’s ever happened,’ but I also know students who feel better and more comfortable on campus now,” remarks McMahon.

It doesn’t look like this rule is going away anytime soon. Whether or not this will diminish the amount of intimate activity that happens around campus…well that’s a question that’s still up for grabs. But for now, don’t expect to be returning to the classrooms at night.

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