Equipped with a list of names and a bag of goodies, the Blue Key Heads took to Paresky Commons on Thursday, February 14 in their quest to spread love for Valentine’s Day.
Throughout the past week, students had the option to purchase ‘valentines’ for their peers, which were then delivered by the ten Blue Key Heads. Funds from this event were donated to the American Heart Association.
Sima Shmuylovich ’21 looked forward to the festivities, especially because this was her first year participating. Blue Key Head kisses were cancelled last year due to concerns from the administration about consent, so Lowers and Juniors have yet to experience the tradition.
Shmuylovich said, “I’m excited to actually see them in Commons because they didn’t have them last year, which was my [Junior] year. So I’ve never actually seen them before, but I’ve heard a lot. And I’m really excited because I got a ton for my friends and an extravaganza for my roommate.”
To deliver the ‘valentines,’ Blue Key Heads approached students and asked if they wanted a necklace, candy, sticker, compliment, hug, or kiss on the cheek. They provided a variety of options to alleviate some previous concerns of pressure and consent, according to Blue Key Head Tyler Murphy ’19.
“This year we are hoping to advertise the Blue Key Head Valentines and kind of make it a more inclusive process so that you’re not just buying a kiss for your friends but you’re actually just buying some sort of love for them,” said Murphy.
The night before Valentine’s Day last year, Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, sent out a school-wide email announcing the administration’s decision to stop the Blue Key Head tradition of giving physical kisses on the cheek for Valentine’s Day.
According to Elliott, the decision was part of a faculty conversation around building a culture of respect, consent, and inclusion.
“In particular, we have come to learn that there are members of our community who have in the past felt triggered by this tradition–the ways in which older students approach other students, the physical act of kissing, or the visible mark of these kisses. As well, community members have raised concern because some students feel left out and sad when other students receive many kisses while they receive few or none,” wrote Elliott in the campus-wide email last year.
This year, the Blue Key Heads met with Elliott and Rajesh Mundra, Associate Dean of Students and Residential Life, in the fall to go over any community hesitations regarding Blue Key Head kisses and to propose their ideas for a comeback.
Blue Key Head Kelly McCarthy ’19 said that they needed to be proactive in order to bring the valentine celebration back.
“We held a panel at the beginning of the winter term to present our additions to the [Blue Key Head] Valentine’s tradition. The forum was open to all community members. It was held before a faculty meeting on a Monday evening and we were able to answer any questions that arose. Since we were able to facilitate this open dialogue between faculty and students, it seemed that the valentines would be making a return,” said McCarthy.
Murphy said that the Blue Key Heads hoped to broaden the scope of the annual celebration by focusing on other gifts in addition to kisses.
“When we’re approaching people, we’re going to be asking if they want a necklace or a candy or a sticker or a kiss and not just a kiss and so there’s kind of more options for everyone to choose from this year,” said Murphy.
Blue Key Head Zenia Bhathena ’19 added onto Murphy’s sentiments.
“There’s a lot more options so that people don’t have to say a no…Do you want a kiss, a candy, a compliment, a sticker, a bead, a hug? And so they can have that opportunity to say ‘I want a compliment. I want a sticker’ instead of a no. Kisses are not the default,” said Bhathena.
Upon purchase, the valentines were divided into categories. The first kind was the standard in which the recipient had the opportunity to choose a gift from the Blue Key Head. The second kind was called an “extravaganza.” Extravaganzas involved extra attention from a Blue Key Head.
“My favorite thing about the personalized extravaganzas is that it’s supposed to be very funny and out of the ordinary. It makes each Blue Key Head [have] their own twist on Valentine’s Day and helps us as seniors get to know everyone in the school,” said Bhathena.
For her extravaganza, Bhathena drew portraits and caricatures of people posing in her sketchbook. She made them intentionally funny with stick figures and poor artistry. Other Blue Key Head extravaganzas included slow dancing, a love song serenade, a ring pop ‘proposal,’ and speed dating in which the Blue Key Head and the recipient would reenact a pretend date.
“Each of the ten of us has something specific. For me, I have a good friend of mine, Andie Pinga [’19], who knows how to play the saxophone. [She] is going to be following me around and playing Careless Whisper on the saxophone while I serenade people…It’s going to be really exciting…they’re sort of just these big displays [that] cost a little extra money, but it’s all for a good cause,” said Blue Key Head Will Ennis ’19.
McCarthy said, “It’s important to us to keep traditions such as this one going while also being mindful of our community members and making sure everyone feels included and comfortable when spreading the love.”