Family Weekend is an opportunity for students to show parents what we are learning in and out of the classroom, to let our family share in our appreciation of our surroundings and experience a bit of all things Deerfield. This year, however, Family Weekend made me feel embarrassed and ashamed.
My initial excitement turned to embarrassment when I got the answer to my inquiry over why some adults were wearing green tags around their neck to display their names, while others were wearing black tags that said “1797,” the year Deerfield Academy was founded. I initially thought, as did most of my peers and their guests, that the black tags meant that the adult was a graduate of Deerfield Academy. However, upon further exploration, I learned that the black tag meant that the person wearing it was a substantial donor to the school (and the green tags meant they were not).
I couldn’t help myself, but the first thing my eye went to after learning this was not the friendly and eager face of the adult visiting our school but rather the color of his or her tag.
Haven’t we been taught at Deerfield not to focus on the color of someone’s skin or on the God they pray to, or on where they live, or on the size of their family’s home? At Deerfield Academy, we are taught how our inclusivity and open mindedness for race, gender, religion, socioeconomic class, and sexual orientation is something to be praised. We, as a community, celebrate those differences in order to appreciate the patchwork of our backgrounds that create such a special and diverse community. And yet, here we were, building up those “walls” and pointing out the economic differences between us, creating a “class system” and social hierarchy that goes against the very grain of everything that DA promotes on a daily basis.
I am sure this was intended to celebrate those donors who make our education possible. All the students certainly appreciate their generosity to make Deerfield so rich in every sense of the word. But I know firsthand that many of these humble and generous donors, marked by their black tags, were embarrassed to be called out in this way. I would also imagine that those adults wearing their green tags were embarrassed to not be able to donate in the same way. I am sure, upon further reflection, the school will re-think this initiative and find a way that does not consist of making students, parents, faculty, and staff uncomfortable, in thanking our supportive and kind benefactors.
After the unfortunate choice to have different tags, many parents and students alike were not able to thoroughly enjoy the weekend that was supposedly to be relaxing and fun. In order to learn from and move past this incident, the administration should issue an apology to all the parents who were offended by the blatant class distinction. Although there is nothing we can do to reverse the negative effects, this instance can always serve as a reminder for the school as similar future decisions are made and remind us of the importance of true inclusivity.
“Many other schools use nametags/lanyards similar to the ones we experimented with at Fall Family Weekend, but since we received clear feedback that they don’t work for Deerfield, we won’t be using them again at parent/family events. I’m sorry that our experiment caused concern.”
Dean of Advancement