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Let Them Have Intervis!

February 27, 2017

Holderness School is a place steeped in tradition and community. Often times the two work in tandem to create a caring, close-knit community yet other times the old-fashioned foundations of the school hold back progress and development within it. This year the student’s have found their already limited amount of spaces on campus being reduced in both area and accessibility. It’s completely understandable that faculty don’t want their rooms to become hook-up spaces. And beyond that, it’s fairly clear as to why the school can’t just give the student body agreed upon hook-up spaces, but where the frustration lies is in not being allowed to simply watch a movie, or even talk in those existing spaces because of preventive measures. High school is a crucial time for teenagers to develop their character and relationships with others, and it’s entirely feasible that those others might include members of the opposite gender. At a co-educational school, it should be understood that those relationships can be platonic or romantic, they could be sexual or non-sexual but the general assumption that the only thing opposite gender pairings are capable of doing is sex diminishes the character of the student body as a whole. Students on Saturday nights, our one free night a week, are only guaranteed access to Weld and their own dorm. Everything else is up in the air and depends on the faculty on duty. Often times the majority of buildings are locked by 9 or 10 PM, which leaves any students wanting to hang out with their friends left out in the cold, sometimes literally.

 

This seemingly distrusting and restrictive attitude is why I think the push this year by the Leadership Council for creation of regular intervision is so important. Now, according to the handbook, intervisitation is technically allowed during anytime so long as a faculty on duty permits it, yet many students do not seem to know of or take advantage of this clause. It’s certainly not because students don’t want to hang out with each other. If intervisitation is an activity with concrete rules but freedom within them, then students who have no intentions of breaking rules could use that opportunity and faculty could appreciate the fact that monitoring intervisitation would be nothing like roaming duty.

 

Unfortunately, the lack of clarity and communication on this issue makes it not only difficult to expand intervisitation but even to understand what it is now. In an interview with three senior leaders, one of them did not even know intervisitation could exist without being announced and another did not know it was a clause in the handbook. However, the leaders agreed that no matter what they believed intervisitation to be now, improvement that they were pushing toward, like open dorms/rooms on Saturday nights, could alleviate the tensions caused by lack of students spaces. The atmosphere felt currently feeds into unhealthy — and sneaky — behaviors by students in response to their restricted options. Intervisitation isn’t a magic solution, but wouldn’t giving students the opportunity to hang out with the opposite gender without fear of being kicked out of their space or regarded suspiciously lessen the necessity for sneakiness?

 

In an interview with Mrs. Weymouth, she shared the concern that students do not have enough spaces on campus and agreed that intervisitation would be a definite plus. However, the path forward is unclear. This Saturday night marked the culmination of the Leadership Council’s efforts this year with an opening of Hoit and Rathbun dorms. This is a huge achievement, and not to minimize any hurdles that had to be crossed to get it, but the kind of relationships that a co-educational boarding school should foster would thrive further if dorms/rooms were open not just as a special weekend activity but as a part of regular Holderness residential life. This may seem radical but it’s really not. Just two years ago it happened at Holderness every Monday night. The general procedure was that during the given time a student would ask a dorm parent “may I bring so and so up to my room?” If the dorm parents agreed, they could then spend the duration of the time in the person’s room without fear of being removed. The role of dorm parents in intervisitation could be rather limited if the time commitment is something that might hinder progress. For instance, intervisitation could occur between 2-3 times a week, depending on what seems reasonable. A popular idea right now is from 1-4 on Sundays. That time would likely be used as a cooperative study time by many and perhaps Saturday nights as well. If it were decided that intervisitation could occur during the week before study hours, then perhaps the night could change each week so the same faculty would not have to be on duty.

 

Naturally the school could not condone intervisit as a time to participate in “sexual acts” but the entire point of established intervisitation would be to encourage an atmosphere of trust and healthy interactions. With some structuring and compromise between the Leadership Council and the administration, a system could be set up so that monitoring by faculty would not have to be rigorous and boy-girl relationships could have spaces to develop without being weighed down by harmful assumptions and uncertainties.

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