Students and faculty members congregated in the Black Box Theater on February 9 and held a forum to discuss respect as it applies to the community. One idea brought up at the forum was the search for an innovative code, which has been narrowed down to two possibilities.
Head of School Margarita Curtis, working in tandem with the Student Council, launched an initiative to formulate a solid honor code this year. Her worry was that “students were much more focused on rules and regulations concerning alcohol and parietals, and not on what constitutes strong character or fosters an inclusive, respectful community.”
Twelve recent Disciplinary Committee hearings involving values and honor also motivated this project, as Dr. Curtis explained, “We can say the word ‘respect’ frequently, but it is simply an empty, tired word if it does not inform our behaviors and actions in the community. Think of the difference between ‘rhetoric’ and ‘practice.’”
At the forum, Student Council Representative Teddy Romeyn ’13 remarked, “Student interactions are the core of the community, and I think that is where our focus is going to head in the coming months.
Another contributor at the forum, Assistant Academic Dean Peter Nilsson, shed some etymological light on the word respect. The root, “spect,” comes from the Latin verb spectare, meaning to look or consider. According to Mr. Nilsson, “Respect, therefore, means literally to look again or to consider another perspective.”
The Deerfield community prides itself on being tight-knit as well as respectful of its members, but recently discovered that broad definitions of these principles may not be enough.
This idea of more explicitly defining respectful behavior is not a new one and was even brought up by a previous student council chair, Liza Cowan ’07. She formulated a paragraph that states, “I understand and value the culture and spirit of honor at Deerfield and recognize my personal responsibility to uphold the Academy’s integrity. I hereby pledge to honor myself and my school by demonstrating this sense of integrity in my academic, athletic, and social endeavors.”
The statement was placed in a green book that students had the opportunity to sign after Sunday sit-down meals, and although the community was very supportive of this new tradition during the first year, as time went on, according to Student Council Representative Cleo Siderides ’13, “It soon fell off the map.”
Many may feel as though upholding the honor of Deerfield is simply implied, a part of the package that comes with being a student. As the values of the Academy are questioned, however, it makes sense to eliminate the grey areas.
According to Student Body President Theo Lipsky ’12, the possible respect codes are still in the revision process. Siderides explained, along with the code, the idea of a term-long honor code class that would be taken by sophomores, in which they would listen to a guest speaker every week and discuss the actions of the Disciplinary Committee concerning honor.
“This process is all about raising awareness,” commented Dr. Curtis, “and how we can take this abstract concept and translate it into our day-to-day practices. Just because we are doing well doesn’t mean we can’t do better. From day one, Mr. Boyden wanted to make sure he was sending respectful students into the world.”