When did the long-standing Deerfield tradition of “senior grass” begin? While the tradition has been in place for decades, the exact origin is blurry. Math Teacher Sean Keller ’86 recalled that senior grass existed even before he arrived. He speculated that senior grass originated as a way of preserving the condition of the grass for graduation.
“Since graduation was often held in front of the [Main School Building], the seniors possessed some degree of motivation for keeping the grass in good shape. While seniors could walk across the senior grass, my recollection is that few of them actually did,” Mr. Keller elaborated.
English Teaching Fellow Anna Gonzales speculated, “Perhaps, the grass is kept in good condition because visiting families usually see the Main School Building first. Moreover, Deerfield is all about the privileges you ‘earn’ throughout your time here, and taking a shorter route to your classes is a privilege.”
Although the precise origins of senior grass remains a mystery, there have been many memorable moments relating to the tradition. One year, as a part of a prank, seniors placed sod over the center walkway leading to the front doors of the Main School Building, so technically only seniors could enter through the main entrance. In another instance, the Class of 2012 secretly planted tulip bulbs in the fall, so that in the spring the colorful flowers bloomed to form “2012” across the lawn.
While many students view being able to walk on senior grass as a rite of passage, some members of the community question what school values the tradition promotes. Assistant Head of School for Student Life Amie Creagh has mixed feelings about the exclusivity surrounding the tradition: “As much as possible, I think all spaces on campus should be welcome to everybody. Having spoken with a lot of students, though, I know they look forward to the time when the senior grass is theirs exclusively.” She also shared her hope that seniors would react with kindness when they see a student walking unaware across the grass.
Speaking about the future of senior grass, she continued: “I don’t know that [the tradition] is likely to change. If it does, I think it would come from seniors who feel, as fun as this is, and as much as [they] have waited for these moments, they’d like to demonstrate their leadership by welcoming others to that space.”
In contrast, Katie Whalen ’18 believes that the senior grass is not particularly exclusive. One of her favorite Deerfield memories was during the “storming the grass” event for rising seniors. She said: “Having the opportunity to walk across the senior grass is a celebration of making it this far in your Deerfield career. It’s fun that there is something new and exciting for each year at Deerfield.”
Similarly, Student Council President Amelia Evans ’18 commented, “The anticipation that was built up in the prior years made the reward of being a senior with special senior privileges that much greater.”