Earlier this term, the Deerfield Scroll conducted a student body survey in collaboration with several other preparatory school newspapers from the Eight Schools Association (ESA). Apart from Deerfield, three other schools, Exeter, Andover, and Northfield Mount Hermon chose to participate in the survey. The goal was to better understand student life at Deerfield in the context of our peer schools. A couple of weeks ago, the survey results were released to the Deerfield community.
These results sparked conversation across the campus. The survey itself, which dealt with all aspects of student life, including drugs and alcohol, sex, and relationships, was rather surprising to some of the community. Some students even expressed a belief that the results were entirely representative of the genuine opinions of all members of the community.
Peter Sanford ’20 expressed his own belief on the matter, saying, “I think a lot of students could get embarrassed or scared by some of the questions. I know the survey was anonymous, but I don’t think many people would willingly admit to the public that they have drugs and alcohol on campus.”
However, this is not an opinion shared by everyone. David Chen ’20 had a lot more confidence in the honesty of the student body, stating, “I think that the results of the survey are accurate, taking into consideration that not all our students participated. I believe that our students would take this kind of survey seriously and they wouldn’t answer questions untruthfully or in a joking manner.”
In addition, the survey sparked conversation about how Deerfield compared to other schools in the ESA, as well as whether we should be proud of the results we received. According to Peer Counselor Caio Paiva-Oliveira, such results reflect the culture at Deerfield, and if such issues are found, steps should be taken to change them.
One issue immediately apparent to the community was the problem of self-censorship of political views. According to the survey, 64.86% of students said that they worried that they needed to hide their political views at some point on campus, as opposed to only 58.09% in the rest of the ESA.
Oliveira agreed that this is a problem.
He said, “I feel like I can talk to my close friends about my political views, even if we disagree, but when I expand to talking with other members of the community, I think there is a stigma around such topics. We need to feel more comfortable respectfully disagreeing.”
The survey also delved into health and wellness, including self-harm, sexual harassment, and hazing. In all these areas, the majority of students have never experienced any of these issues, but these problems remain important for the community to address. Self-harm was particularly prevalent. More than one in five girls at Deerfield reported to have engaged in self- harm at least once.
Sanford expressed his worries on the matter, stating, “I’m very glad that I myself have never been hazed, and that most of the school hasn’t either, but it’s still a problem that even such a small amount of the student body could have had to deal with such issues.”
Oliveira agreed with Sanford, saying, “I really think our school should have zero-tolerance for hazing and sexual assault, and I hope we can continue to work on improving these issues in the future.”
This brings up the question of how Deerfield, and other schools in the ESA, can work to improve student life and help get rid of these issues.
Chen sees the survey as an opportunity to work together with our peers to help end these issues. He stated, “boarding school experience is really one that is unique and prep schools should be unified in their efforts to prevent bullying, sexual assault and the various of other problems that present themselves … Of course, the community can improve itself based on the results. I don’t think we can ever reach a point where we, as a school and a community, can say that there is absolutely nothing to improve upon.”
Oliveira also commented on moving forward, saying “Deerfield is a great place, and seeing all the issues come to light just gives us an incentive to keep improving.”
The survey gave the Deerfield community a chance to look at itself through a new lens. The results of the survey helped the community not only learn more about the current life on campus, but also taught us how to improve the atmosphere of Deerfield moving forward.