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Equality and Privacy: LGBT Parietals
Elizabeth Tiemann '16 Staff Writer
October 28, 2015
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Intimacy at Deerfield has always been a hot topic. In order to accommodate physical proximity, comfort, and the bonding of couples, a system labeled “Parietals” was created to sanction and regulate dorm-room visitation.

The logistics of parietals often require that labels be ascribed to couples, whether same-sex or not, that indicate a relationship that is more than platonic. Placing a trashcan or shoe in the door is sometimes regarded as a heralding or inauguration – a public announcement of a non-platonic relationship.

Rachel Yao
Rachel Yao

With such pressure placed on the two individuals getting parietals, whether romantically involved or opposite-sex, one might understand why same-sex couples at Deerfield are wary of requesting and receiving parietals. Dane Scott ’16 expanded on this complexity, “You have to be out to all the faculty residents in your dorm, not to mention everyone on your hall, by placing a shoe in your door and announcing your sexuality to everyone. You, or your partner, or both, may be deeply uncomfortable with revealing this information to practical strangers when you maybe haven’t yet told your parents. Putting this kind of legitimate pressure on a relationship is enough to ruin a relationship and make it deeply unhealthy.”

The current parietals system language in the student handbook states, “Deerfield’s dorm room visitation policy acknowledges some students who share the same gender identity are engaged in relationships that are more than simple friendships—just as there are platonic relationships between students of opposite gender identities. The closeness of our community and our biological-gender based housing system requires a degree of trust in students—regardless of their sexual orientation and identification.”

Following this explanation is a set of rules that students must adhere to that are applicable to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. Valentina Connell ’16, officer for the Gender Sexuality Alliance, posited that “the nuances of same-sex couples and their situations necessitates a different set of rules that should govern parietals. Simply placing same-sex and opposite-sex parietals rules under one general hood does not offer adequate solutions to the unique and specific problems that same-sex couples encounter.”

Connell elucidated a few questions that arise from this ambiguity: “What if your significant other is in the same dorm, or on the same hall?” “Can you even be in the same room together without getting parietals?” “Can you be in the same room if there are multiple people in the room?”

Another issue the current same-sex parietals policy raises is in faculty LGBTQ awareness and comfort. There have been instances in which faculty members have felt uncomfortable or unsure of granting same-sex parietals. This could be attributed to the vague set of rules that govern the parietals system or personal viewpoint and bias.

To combat this perplexing issue the GSA and Dean of Students Ms. Amie Creagh are collaborating and are in the process of brainstorming viable solutions to the shortcomings of the current policy. A possible point of reference in solving this issue may be emulating other schools’ policies. Scott reported, “To do this, we’re looking at other boarding school policies regarding LGBT parietals.” Connell added an open invitation, saying, “Both Ms. Creagh and the GSA are interested in hearing any ideas that members of the Deerfield community come up with.”