You need to enable JavaScript to run this app.
Revisit Days Spark Dress Code Controversy
Seth Thayumanavan '20 Associate Editor
April 19, 2018

For three days every spring, the Academy opens up its doors and welcomes all the prospective students on campus for the annual revisit day programs. Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Charles Davis reflected on the importance of revisit days, stating, “This year about 65% of our families are revisiting … we admitted 299 students this year, and roughly 210 families are revisiting over the three days. We always want our students to lead…and I think our visitors want to make connections and want to be able to see themselves finding success and comfort through the eyes or the experiences of their hosts, and I think that’s very important.”

Ethan Chen ’20 also attested to the importance of revisit days from the perspective of a student host. He commented, “Being a student host is a tremendous responsibility, and also really fun. I got a chance to meet some of the kids who ended up coming to our school next year, and not only helped sustain our school, but I got to meet and influence some great people.”

Director of Admissions Charles Davis addresses prospective students during their revisit day.
Credit: Brent Hale

In addition to students and faculty, prospective parents also expressed their acknowledgement of Deerfield’s positive attributes that revisit days allow them to observe. One parent in particular wrote to Head of School Margarita Curtis, stating, “[DA ] had it very well-organized and moved the parents around to the many beautiful spaces; good discussions but also a great way to showcase the facilities. Best foot forward in every way… Big cheerful goodbye with parting t-shirts, and every sport and club represented at a fair.”

However, that same parent expressed her strong opposition to the current state of dress code at Deerfield, writing in that same email to Dr. Curtis, “There is a HUGE problem with the female dress code. The families were shocked and frankly, so was I…You can’t…send young women out thinking a three-inch mini skirt is appropriate… it’s doing the students a disservice.”

Shortly after receiving the letter, Dr. Curtis sent out a statement to the female students, writing, “Deerfield girls are characterized by their intelligence, strength, and leadership. It troubles me to think that instead of having these powerful, meaningful attributes take priority, prospective students and parents would depart campus with impressions of your attire foremost in their minds.”

Many students criticized certain aspects of Dr. Curtis’ response and found the subject line of her email, “Self Worth” to be particularly disturbing. Sydney Bebon ’19 described how she reacted to this controversial subject line, explaining, “Yesterday [April 3rd] I drew lines four inches above my knees with the statement ‘Am I worthy?’ to challenge the message of the email’s subject.” Bebon also believed that the girls dress code was ambiguous, elaborating, “None of my teachers knew what the line represented … I had gone to three classes that day without being dress coded … Why are the Deerfield females suddenly held accountable for a dress code that hasn’t been enforced as long as I’ve attended the school?”

Hunter Keller ’20 added that she understood the reasons that Dr. Curtis sent the email and acknowledged her role in supporting students, stating, “I can understand the inclination to address the dress code after such an email [from a prospective parent] and the conversation that has continued over the past several years. Additionally, I believe I am correct in saying that Dr. Curtis cares deeply for the female students.” However, Keller agreed with Bebon  that the subject line’s wording was problematic, clarifying, “The subject line of the email, “Self Worth,” and the consistent notion that Deerfield girls are limited to external judgements on their physical appearances diminishes the intelligence, kindness, and leadership the women on this campus strive for.

Mr. Davis added his perspective to the issue, remarking on both the students and Dr. Curtis’ reactions. He elucidated, “I thought it was great the way the students openly answered the question … Dr. Curtis, as any leader, is going to stand up and own it … She was taking the dialogue with the students by herself.”

He also clarified that he does not foresee the dress code controversy as a negative influence in students’ decisions to attend Deerfield, stating, “I don’t think it [the dress code issue] was a setback for the revisit programs…I think all the students in the school, no matter how they feel about dress code, want Deerfield to yield the best kids possible…I don’t think it will cloud the visitors’ decision making about what choices they make for which school they’re going to choose.”