Three Things that Keep Palfrey Up at Night

At the Midterm All-School Meeting (ASM) on Wednesday, Head of School John Palfrey concluded his speech by sharing his thoughts and concerns about mental health, sexual assault and sleep. “The reason that something like this keeps me up at night is, in this wonderful community, I know we can control the quality of our academic program. I know we can control lots of things that we put in front of you and having nice buildings and so on and so forth. The one thing I can’t do for you is make sure you all are getting the help that you need,” said Palfrey. Palfrey said that the effectiveness of Andover’s mental health resources relies upon the community’s willingness and effort to deconstruct the stigma surrounding mental health and make it comfortable for any student to seek help. “I’ve been to see a therapist many times in my life. I think there is a huge sense of stigma that people who are high-functioning don’t actually reach out and get the help that they need,” said Palfrey. Prompted by a recent case of sexual assault at peer school St. Paul’s and the recent adoption of an affirmative consent policy in Stowe House, a dorm on campus, Palfrey then shifted focus to discuss the issue of sexual assault and consent at Andover. “I think it comes down to the question of what consent means. So I would like all of us to think about, and I’m not making this rule here, but just think about what do you mean when two people consent to have some kind of intimate relationship or an intimate moment,” said Palfrey. The residents of Stowe House wrote a Letter to the Editor in last week’s edition of The Phillipian, explaining their new policy and suggesting that the school move forward to adopt an affirmative consent policy similar to the law passed in California. The current Massachusetts legal definition of sexual assault states that “sexual assault is often more broadly defined as any sexual activity that is forced or coerced or unwanted.” The definition does not, however, clarify what constitutes “unwanted” sexual activity. The bill passed in California, SB 967, defines consent as “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” by requiring all schools that receive public funding to adopt such a standard, according to an article by NBC. “Whether this is what you might call a hook-up or might be something longer term, I think that the standard that the students who are in Stowe House have set, which is ‘yes means yes,’ is actually a really good idea,” said Palfrey. Palfrey then announced his intent to publish his own sleep statistics online to encourage Andover students to get more sleep. Palfrey hopes to inspire a competition around who can get the most sleep through publishing, data from information gathered by a sleep-tracking band. Students will then have to sleep more than Palfrey to compete for prizes that are yet to be determined. “I work very hard, and I know you work very hard, but I’m hoping that I may encourage some of you to start a good process of focus, even for a short while, on getting more sleep than I do, ” said Palfrey.