House Counselors Weigh In on New Room Visit Policies

“The question keeps coming to me as an administrator, ‘whatever happened to us deciding on new rules?’” said Paul Murphy, Dean of Students, in an interview with The Phillipian. “This spring, [the topic of new rules] came up again with the House Counselor Committee.”

The House Counselor Committee sent out a survey last week to faculty members to vote on four proposals regarding room visiting. Two of the proposals would be implemented in the 2014-2015 school year: the Upper sign-in proposal, which did not pass, and revised hours for ninth grade room visits, which passed. The other two proposals addressed new room visiting hours for upperclassmen and a requirement for all students to keep their lights on and their doors ajar during room visits, both of which were approved by an overwhelming majority.

The House Counselor Committee consists of Lani Silversides, Keith Robinson, Kathy Birecki, Scott Hoenig, Shawn Fulford, Christina Landolt, Jill Thompson, Matt Lisa and Paul Murphy.

House Counselor Committee members responded to questions about the newly approved room visit policies.

_ **The Phillipian:** _   **The 29.5 hours of possible parietal time was reduced to 19.5 hours under the new policy for Uppers and Seniors. How was this decided?**

**Lani Silversides, House Counselor in Bancroft**

We weren’t actually considering the total number of hours… We wanted the room visiting hours to more directly reflect when the faculty members were on duty, which starts at 8 p.m. We decided that it was more reasonable to start the hours when house counselors were actually present in dorms to grant parietals.

**Scott Hoenig, House Counselor in Rockwell**

When voting on the Junior room visiting hours, many faculty members noted that room visits were not happening frequently during weekdays anyway. I have been in Rockwell for 11 years, and I have had maybe one handful of individuals requesting room visits during the 5-8 p.m. time slot during weekdays. However, over the last two years we have instituted an experimental hour on Friday nights from 8:30-9:30pm for Juniors, and we have had multiple kids using parietals during those times. We think that it’s appropriate and healthy for ninth graders to have room visits. Ultimately we decided to eliminate hours that they aren’t using anyways and add an hour and a half on Fridays when they would actually use them.

**_The Phillipian: _What was the rationale behind requiring that lights remain on during all room visits?**


Currently, there are not specifications as to whether or not lights have to be turned on or off during room visits, so different dorms were doing different things. We’ve been hearing from a lot of both students and faculty over the last couple of years through surveys and discussions that people felt awkward going down the hall. Your dorm is your home, and it should be a safe space, where everyone is comfortable to walk down the hallway or going in and out of showers. If a student sees a door ajar with the lights turned off and you’re thinking their dorm mates are having sex behind the doors, they may feel sufficiently awkward. I think having the lights turned on will reduce the awkwardness.


The faculty are in an ongoing conversation right now about sexual activity on campus. During the faculty meetings and various surveys it became apparent that there was a critical mass of faculty who wanted to have a rule that said the lights should be turned on and doors should be opened.

_ **The Phillipian:** _ **What is your stance on sexual activity on campus?**


I think we are still in a big conversation about sexual activity on campus, and different faculty members have different stances on the topic. My priority is to better educate students on sex. I think we are really trying to have better sex education on campus – for the first time this year we have a health educator on campus.

**Shawn Fulford, House Counselor in Eaton Cottage**

I have taken a hard line on this topic. I am very concerned for the chain of students who are in the hallway or in the community that are very uncomfortable with being surrounded by their peers engaging in sexual activity. They shouldn’t have to be exposed to the sexual activity of their peers…Another thing to note is that none of these changes are to prevent students from having discussions of these issues. We are completely open to hearing students’ input. That is one of the reasons why we are not implementing some of these changes (new hours for upperclassmen, lights on, doors ajar) until the fall of 2015. These policies were voted on but not intended to be implemented until then because we wanted students to have discussions within dorms and amongst themselves and faculty on how to adapt to these changes.

**Matt Lisa, House Counselor in Stuart House**

Sex is a difficult issue for us, just speaking as a house counselor – I’m a house counselor over in Stuart, which is a large boys dorm – and do we feel comfortable as a faculty, or as individuals, providing a space that students can have sex?  Is that the intent of granting a parietal? I think it’s one of these issues where students come from many different places and homes, and I think in the end, a lot of faculty feel like we want to be able to honor what might go on in a lot of homes of our students.  When you really think about it that way, I think there are a lot of students whose families would not allow sex to occur in their home, or provide a space for that to happen. I’m sure there a lot of families that would [allow sex], so what side do we err on as a faculty?

**Keith Robinson, House Counselor in Bishop Hall**

I think they are separate issues [sex-ed on campus and the new room-visiting policies]…It’s probably a pretty important thing that we have a bunch of teenagers on campus, and we educate you in order to make choices in your life that will benefit you, and you will make informed decisions. That makes the education part really important. The room-visiting policy is not tied directly to that. I understand that the student body likes to tie it to that, but I think in a lot of ways we look at those as separate issues.


_Bennett Michaels, Haley Suh and Erica Shin contributed reporting._