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Fighting Substance Use on Campus
Sarah Jung '20 and Annie Kane '20 Staff Writers
November 15, 2017

In October, Ms. Creagh, Assistant Head for Student Life, and Dr. Relin, Director of Counseling, shared results from a psychology survey conducted on students in February 2017. The primary objective of the survey was to investigate the challenges and stresses that Deerfield students experience due to the high standards students are asked to meet. While students have found ways to help each other by way of Peer Counselors and the Wellness Club, the administration maintains that current mental health initiatives must improve.

Deerfield Academy is not able to release specific data results because the data collected by Dr. Luthar was all conducted anonymously both internally and externally. Mrs. Creagh and Dr. Relin were given just one time slot during school meeting to present data to students, because they felt that the student body deserved to know the results after dedicating time to the survey.

Credit: Dr. Cynthia Luthar’s Survey

Deerfield students fell above average in their affirmative response to the question of whether they had had a drink in the past 30 days. The percentage of girls who replied with “yes” was also higher than the percentage of boys. Ms Creagh said that immediately after learning about the survey results, several girls came up to her and said, “Ms. Creagh, it’s obvious more girls responded yes because the girls were just more honest.”

Julia Bewkes ’18 said, “Some boys might have clicked through the survey as fast as possible, but I don’t think anyone was intentionally dishonest on the survey. Personally, I think the number of guys and girls who drink on campus is split pretty evenly.” Ms. Creagh further explained her concern: “More boys get in trouble. This seems unfair. If boys are facing disciplinary action, that must feel pretty bad.”

Students are also concerned that sharing the results with the entire student body normalizes substance use. Nikita Pelletier ’20 said, “Deerfield almost seems like it is embracing substance use by only telling students the results [instead of] taking immediate action.” Lily Berry ’21 agreed, “I was definitely intimidated by these results as a freshman, just because I’ve heard plenty of rumors of things that go on on campus. It was weird how everyone was cheering considering how high those percentages were.”

During the weekend of November 5, Deerfield students were found drinking and using drugs on campus, leading to a Disciplinary Committee hearing. Head of School Dr. Curtis addressed these incidents in an email to Deerfield parents and faculty, stating, “Although this situation involves many factors, there is an issue I want to bring to your attention. Some of the students involved acknowledged using cocaine. We consider the presence of illegal drugs on campus to be a clear and exigent danger to the community, and we are addressing this development decisively.”

Considering the recent events on campus and the relationship between substance use and mental health, the administration has indicated that it will continue to develop and improve mental health initiatives, aiming to decrease the prevalence of student substance abuse on campus. Mr. Kelly was unable to give comments from a disciplinary perspective. However, Ms. Creagh stated that she can only hope that “we can be addressing this issue from a preventative standpoint, not a reaction[ary] one.”