Students and Administration Discuss Parietals

The Philomathean Society hosted a forum on Wednesday night with students and faculty to discuss Andover’s parietal system of room visiting with members of the opposite sex. Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students, and Richard Keller, School Physician, formed a panel of administrators who addressed students’ questions about the parietal system. “We’re not thinking about changing the policy,” Hoyt said, adding that he wanted to hear student opinions. “If there’s going to be any change, it will take a long time to do those kinds of things. As much as there’s disagreement among students, there is just as much among the faculty,” Murphy added. The forum was an open discussion between the panel and the students and addressed the primary question of whether the parietal system was working. “I think the big elephant in the room is basically sex,” Keller said. “As adults we are concerned about the students having sex.” “Besides the health issues, there are also some legal issues,” he continued. Keller said that the school acts “in loco parentis” (in place of parents) for all students during their time at Andover, and therefore must be responsible for all student actions. Charlie Walters ‘10 addressed the parietal system as a member of the panel. Walters said that the main issue with the parietal system is accessibility—since some students cannot sometimes acquire legal parietals, they are driven to conduct illegal parietals. “I think there is a little bit wrong [with the parietal system]. It’s very difficult to get a parietal, and the fact of the matter is that house counselors aren’t [in the dorm] 80 percent to 90 percent of the time,” he said. But Kate Weiner ’11 said, “You can’t just ask house counselors to sit in the dorm when they have families and lives. There needs to be some sort of communication or balance.” Walters presented a proposal for what he believed to be a more effective parietal system. “We could make the parietal system like car permission. With a sticker and parental pre-approval, and you could ask any faculty member on campus for a parietal,” he said. Murphy said that because the school acts in loco parentis, Walters’ proposed system would not work. “I think that the base of what we have here is that in order to have boys and girls in the same room together there has to be an adult in the building,” he said. Julianna Meagher ’11 asked, “Why is sex not forbidden at Andover? It’s in the Blue Book that we discourage sexual activity, and it is illegal for students under 16.” Walters agreed with Meagher. “I strongly think that the policy should be that only students 16 and over can have parietals,” he said. “I think the parietal system should coincide with Massachusetts law and with whatever parents allow. Sexual situations are going to happen and I think we should let it be as safe and convenient as possible,” he continued. Hoyt expressed how glad he was that the students in the community were mature enough to discuss the parietal system in the forum without prejudice. “I want to say I’m never more proud of being a member of this community than when we do things like this. That we can sit here and civilly exchange ideas is a wonderful thing,” he said. Frank Tipton, Instructor in History and Advisor on LGBT Issues, and Faiyad Ahmad ’10, School President, were also on the panel. Blue Book Policy on Parietals “Although we strongly counsel students to postpone sexual activity until they are older, we also realize there are a number of other reasons why students might want to visit with each other, including private conversations and studying together. Healthy relationships require a certain amount of privacy and a place where students can feel at home. In order to balance students’ needs for privacy with appropriate supervision of dormitories, we have clear guidelines for dormitory room visitation. Room visiting for students in grades 10, 11, and 12 begins only after dormitory/advisor meetings in the early fall, during which students and faculty discuss relationships in general and responsibilities and guidelines for room visiting in particular. Room visiting for ninth-grade students does not begin until the winter term. In all cases when an older and a younger student are visiting, the rules that apply to the younger student are in effect. What follows are the general guidelines for room visiting. A house counselor must be present in the dormitory building during all room visits, but house counselors have no obligation to be home at any of the indicated times. For a variety of reasons, a house counselor may deny permission for a visit. Finally, no room visits may occur with a person who is not currently affiliated with Phillips Academy, including alumni, without permission from the cluster dean and house counselor and written permission from each person’s parents.”