With Head-of-School Margarita Curtis’s announcement about the elimination of dress-down Fridays in January, students and faculty alike are voicing their opinions on how this change will affect them and the school. Taking away this more-than-25-year-old tradition has prompted a range of reactions, both positive and negative, from the Deerfield community. The custom that was established long before Dr. Curtis arrived at Deerfield was originally inspired by January’s title of “Stress Management Month.”
Dr. Curtis agrees that it is important to manage stress, but she believes that by treating dress-down days as stress-relievers, students are equating regular class-dress days with the negative notion of stress. In her view, the dress code “is about signaling the seriousness of purpose we bring to our work day and about creating a sense of community by adhering to this commitment.” Associating this school rule with stress is an attitude she views as a disservice to ourselves when we are expected to perform our best in class and when the professional world we will face in the future may demand more formal attire.
Although not the most important reason in Dr. Curtis’s view, eliminating dress-down also shows campus visitors our long-standing commitment to a traditional dress code that enables us to take our class day seriously.
While Claire Collins ‘15 and Yuri Lee ‘15 “respect Dr. Curtis and do believe that she looks out for [students’] best interests,” both struggle to see this as a valid reasoning for dress-down elimination.
Lee noted, “It’s not like we didn’t have visitors last year or that the amount of visitors has suddenly increased.”
Collins, in agreement, added, “It also shows visitors that we can have fun.” Collins also brings up the relationship between dress-down dinner in the fall term and this more recent dress-down Friday change. “Is it going to hurt the school if we have both? [Is there] an exchange going on?” she asks, noting the inconsistent give-and-take nature many feel concerning these two issues.
To this, Dr. Curtis responded: “The notion for dressing down for a family dinner made sense to me,” describing the differences as between “dressing professionally for class out of respect for work” and dressing more casually for what she hopes can be a relaxed family experience.
While most students, such as Collins and Lee, seem opposed, Logan Knight ’17 shared an interesting perspective on the issue: “While I don’t agree with it, the administration is in charge, so for [this] decision that, in the long run, is not that big of a deal, they should just do it.”
These nuances within student reactions are reflected in the range of faculty opinions. Although The Student Activities Director and language teacher, Mr. Bicknell, thinks “flannel Friday is the absolute best,” he also “like[s] the idea of having a little more flexibility in terms of when [dress-down days] occur.”
Health Issues teacher Kristin Loftus, however, noted: “the Peer Counselors and I were disappointed this year not to be able to collaborate with Dr. Curtis on this typically well-received tradition.”
Dr. Curtis believes that allowing a dress-down day for classes during the weekdays on Fridays in January sends mixed messages. She views the elimination of dress-down Fridays as a “more consistent enforcement” of school guidelines, though she is prepared to “make exceptions on days when it makes sense to relax the code.” If Deerfield has a dress code, it needs to be followed consistently, otherwise, as a school, “it becomes more difficult to do what we say we will.” Ultimately, Dr. Curtis concluded, “It is an issue of aligning our practices with our policies.”