Visitation Rights Extended into Study hours for Senior Class

For the first time, Choate has extended visitation hours to include the first half of study hours for the entire Class of 2017. The new hours went into effect on January 11. The deans say they will evaluate the effects of these changes to visitation to decide whether or not to continue this policy for future senior classes.

Dean of Students Mr. James Stanley said, “In making shifts for seniors, we are opening possibilities for students to work collaboratively or to hang out just as friends.”

The sixth form deans and other deans had discussed extending visitation hours for prefects as a prefect privilege in the fall. Students had also suggested to Ms. Rosalind Wiseman, a campus culture consultant hired by the school, ideas about changing the visitation policy. Later, the deans decided to expand the visitation changes to affect all seniors.

Mr. Stanley said, “If we were going to allow prefects to do this, then why shouldn’t this be accessible to all seniors?”

Director of Residential Life Mr. Will Morris explained that “broadening opportunities of visitation and allowing all sixth formers to have this privilege could potentially normalize visitation to a certain extent and potentially desexualize it.” He added, “I am certainly in favor of desexualizing visitation and creating more opportunities for boys and girls to gather in a social way that doesn’t carry sexual connotations and overtones to it.”

In early November 2016, Mr. Morris informally polled the school’s senior dorms. He said, “There certainly was a range of opinions among the heads of house. Some were supportive, and some had concerns. Ultimately, there were enough support for the idea that we decided as a Deans group to move forward with it.”

One of the main concerns of this new system is that visitation in the dorms during study hours could create a distraction from study conditions. Mr. Morris commented, “It is really going to be up to the seniors to demonstrate that visitation and study conditions can co-exist in the dorms.” He added, “Prefects in particular won’t be asking for visitation on nights when they are on duty, and nights when they are off duty they will be careful and mindful about others.”

Some seniors expressed their appreciation of the change. “I think that, at least during my time at Choate, people looked at visitation as inherently romantic or inherently sexual,” said Antigone Ntagkounakis ’17. “There are many areas on campus that are segregated by gender. From dorms to sports teams, and even the dining hall ends up being separated by gender. We have a lot of spaces that are gender specific or single-gendered, and I think breaking that down would be good for the entire culture on campus.”

Chanin Kitjatanapan ’17 said, “Once you open up 7:30 onwards, this will allow students to study together. It adds the academic portion to it. So no matter what they are going to do, the stigma is going to be lower. It is going to take time, but I think it is a good change.” He added, “Rather than jumping from very strict visitation rules to no visitation rules, now we have a more similar approach to college, which will help Choate students be more prepared by having more lenient rules regarding visitation.”

Deans will follow up with dorm advisers at the end of the winter term to evaluate the expansion of visitation hours to the senior class. Mr. Stanley remarked, “How seniors handle this change is going to have a lot of power deciding whether we will ever do it again in the future.” He added, “We are showing a lot of trust in the senior class.”

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