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Not Down with Weeknight Sitdown
Kevin Chen '18 Associate Editor
November 16, 2016

Seven times a week, students and faculty gather together to share a family-style sit-down meal, one of Deerfield’s most treasured traditions. While I believe that sit-down meals are a wonderful opportunity to get to know members of the community that I may not otherwise get a chance to meet, many students and I find sit-down dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays to be cumbersome for a number of reasons.

After a long day of classes and co-curricular activities, students are often extremely tired and simply want some time to wind down. However, when athletic practices run late, many students are forced to rush straight to the dining hall without even showering. When these students also have first waiting obligations, sit-down dinners become an even greater cause of stress. The large number of clubs and activities that meet after sit-down dinner from robotics to orchestra even further compound the hustle and bustle of Tuesdays and Thursdays. Many students are forced to hurry straight from classes to co-curriculars to sit-down dinner to clubs and activities with hardly any time in between, and only then do they have time to start homework.

credit: Valerie Ma
credit: Valerie Ma

While the intent of Tuesday and Thursday sit-down dinners may be great, I often find it difficult to truly appreciate sit-down meals when I am both mentally and physically fatigued. Some might argue that sit-down dinners are actually intended to be a restful break in students’ schedules, but I would prefer to use that time to grab a small bite to eat, take a power nap, or even do homework and go to sleep earlier. Some nights during sit-down dinner I feel in danger of falling asleep right at the table, and I know that a number of my friends feel the same way.

While it may seem like a 30-minute sit-down dinner should not make such a big difference, it really does have a great impact on the student body. Recently, I have been hearing excitement all around the school that winter term is coming because there will be no Tuesday and Thursday sit-down dinners. When a vast number of students are already sleeping well below the recommended eight to nine hours a night, every minute makes a big difference in students’ happiness and also their health.

It is perhaps worth noting that a number of faculty members have also expressed their dislike of Tuesday and Thursday sit-down dinners. After their long day working, I feel that it is not unreasonable for many table heads to want to spend more time with their colleagues or children, especially considering that some of them will be on duty for two hours that same night.

Just to be clear, I am personally fond of Sunday sit-down dinners. I think that sharing a meal as a school is a wonderful way to start the academic week, and I love singing the Deerfield evensong. As we all embrace each other and sway gently to the peaceful melody, I cannot help but feel the overwhelming sense of friendship that transcends our differences and unites us as a school. The absence of classes and co-curricular activities on Sunday allows everyone to truly enjoy each other’s company in a leisurely meal, which is much truer to the ideal of what sit-down meals are supposed to be.

I believe that changing Tuesday and Thursday sit-down dinners to walk-through meals would not alter who we are as a school, nor would it represent a shift in our core values. While tradition is important, I feel that we as a school should not be afraid to reevaluate our traditions from time to time to see if they still achieve their intended purposes. Despite not having Tuesday or Thursday sit-down dinners during winter term, I still feel like I have adequate time to meet new people and get to know everyone at my table. There are notable differences, however: I no longer have to rush to first wait without showering, I can get more work done and sleep earlier, and I am as a result happier and healthier overall. Ultimately, I believe that having walk-through dinners on Tuesday and Thursday would relieve students and teachers alike without compromising Deerfield’s great values of friendship and community.