At school meeting on Wednesday, January 11, Dean of Students Amie Creagh shocked many students when she raised concerns about a subject many at DA consider taboo—dating. It’s no secret that in our community there are limited options for “dates,” a problem Ms. Creagh believes prevents students from gaining an important high school experience.
“In the real world people do [date],” Ms. Creagh said at School Meeting, “And that’s where you’re all headed.”
Many students find dating at Deerfield to be almost nonexistent and believe that Deerfield relationships rarely reach a point in which students call themselves a couple. Although this issue has not been much addressed in recent years, Ms. Creagh noted that the community has spent time this year focusing on issues such as sexual assault, and believes it is important to pair this topic with discussions of relationships and dating.
“We had Cindy Pierce here for sexual assault awareness and prevention, and I want to balance that message with those of healthy relationships. Be aware of the world around you: Sexual assault does happen—particularly on college campuses—and it’s our job as a school to equip students with information and skills to help prevent them from being victims and passive bystanders.” She added, “At the same time, we want to promote healthy relationships and the skills required to build them. Knowing how to date is one of those skills.”
Some students cite the high stress environment at Deerfield as a factor that forces the student body into a system of relationships often referred to as the “hookup culture.” Celine Kim ’17 noted, “With the busy schedules students have at Deerfield, and all our requirements, it’s hard to do normal dating stuff, so we [resort] to the hookup culture, and couples tend to fall into that instead of solid relationships.”
Others attest to the infamous “Deerfield gender divide” as one of the main factors that prevents relationships forming past the level of a casual hook-up. Camden Kelleher ’18 noted, “There is a pretty prominent gender divide on campus, which generally leads to couples only staying together for a month or two, because there isn’t really a connection between the couple.”
In the past year, the administration has taken steps to create more open common rooms, hoping to create additional spaces for people of all genders to spend time together. While students note the good intentions, many do not feel the execution has helped implement change. Katherine von Weise ’17 explained, “The Crowe has helped break the gender divide in the freshman grade, but not as much in returning grades, and has had little impact on the dating culture, only on friendships.”
Following Ms. Creagh’s announcement, Deerfield featured its first ever “date night” on Saturday, January 8. The environment was low pressure and intended to help students bond with their peers. A crowd pleaser film, “Star Wars,” was shown in the Hess Auditorium, and concessions such as popcorn, candy, and drinks were provided.
The feedback on campus from the “date night” has been very positive, and many students expressed excitement about the opportunity. Sophomore Brenna Hoar ’18 explained, “Date nights are a great way for students to spend time together in a way that resembles normal high school dating. There was a surprisingly large turnout, and hopefully more people [will] continue to attend date night in the future.”
For future date nights, students hope to see other styles of dates such as game nights, outdoor movie nights in the warmer months, and perhaps picnic style dinners.
Looking to the future, Ms. Creagh and the Weekend Activities Committee plan to make “Deerfield Date Night” a twice-a-month occurrence, allowing students opportunities to go on dates more frequently, whether it be a movie in the Hess, or perhaps dinner for two in the dining hall. Ms. Creagh shared how important the initiative is to her, saying, “I want to make it something of a graduation requirement… I’d like our students to graduate with two years of lab science, and the math requirement, and, hey, you must know how to ask someone on a date, please.”
Von Weise noted that in order for these date nights to be successful, and for dating culture here at Deerfield to finally change, the students really have to buy in. While the student body is grateful for the administration’s active approach in creating a dating culture here at Deerfield, Von Weise explained, “The dating culture at Deerfield will be hard to change from a faculty stance … It can only really be changed if the students choose to do so.”