The Log investigates: Changes in the Dorm Visitation Policy

Zoe Alford '23, Staff Writer

Beginning the past academic year, the prospect of a new dormitory visitation policy at Loomis Chaffee has led to ongoing discourse among faculty, students, alumni, and parents.
Before the pandemic, Loomis Chaffee’s dorm visitation policy allowed all students to visit same-sex friends in their dorm rooms at any time without open doors or further requirements. At the end of their sophomore year, students would be permitted to “interdorm”—visit opposite-sewx dorm rooms—while leaving the door open and signing in with the dorm faculty member on duty.

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This policy, however, raised questions of equity regarding gender and sexual identity. The Student Life Office felt that it did not align with Loomis’s mission of equity and inclusion. Coming out of the pandemic, the administration sought to update and alter the policy so that it better fits the school’s core beliefs and creates a safer environment for the community.
“We wanted to make a policy that merged the ideas of health and wellness with our institutional liability and also equity. The center of those three things is what we would call this new visitation policy,” Dean of Student Life Jessica Matzkin said.
The result would be a campus-wide pilot Open Door Policy applying to all students regardless of gender and sexual identity. The policy was officiated as a pilot program before an All-School meeting on April 8, 2022, and is set for the rest of Spring term.
The policy assigns a specific time period each day that students can visit rooms of other dormitories: 7 p.m. to 7:40 p.m. from Mondays to Thursdays, and for around three-hours on the weekends. Students must sign in and out of dorms during visitation times while rooms with visitors must prop the door open using a trash can. Students have the ability to visit any dorm room if they follow the new guidelines.
Another new aspect of the pilot policy is that day students can apply to become an “honorary resident” of a dorm of their choice. Honorary residents may share the same privileges as the boarders of a chosen dorm, while following the open-door rules for all other dorms. As in the past, students within the same dorm may visit each other at any time with the door closed.
While the policy was brought forth with good intentions, it was met with backlash from students, parents, and alumni since its proposal in the Spring term of 2021. They felt as though the students’ right to privacy, the right to private and intimate conversations, was being threatened under the policy’s implementation.
Another concern has been that students will find ways around the new regulations, ultimately leading to more rule-breaking followed by disciplinary actions. Additionally, there was a general sentiment that the LGBTQ+ group would be the scapegoat of students who were frustrated with the updated policy.

At the end of the last school year, the Student Council ultimately delivered a letter to the administration sharing their apprehensions.
“The old policy was not equitable but, with that said, the Student Council’s meeting with faculty did not convince the council that the administration’s new policy was the solution,” Student Council Vice President Ryan Fortani ’22 said. “Students on the Visitation Committee felt that the new policy was not something that would work for this institution—considering the values of responsibility, student freedom, and trust that we’ve seen placed in the student body at Loomis in the past. While our visitation regulations need to change, we believe that this is not the appropriate solution.”
As a result, the Student Council is working on a proposal for their own revision to the visitation policy, one that retains student freedoms while being equitable. They will present their proposal to the faculty in May, when faculty will be voting on the future of the pilot program.
“We are going to let faculty vote on which policy they feel like we should implement. We hope they choose our policy because we believe it acknowledges the reality that we need to change our visitation policy while allowing student liberties,” Fortani said.
Both the Student Life Office and the Student Council are taking into account how peer schools are handling the same situation.
“Majority of boarding schools have an open-door policy, and it was something we didn’t have. I think that most schools are moving in the direction of trying to make their policies more equitable. Some schools have already had a policy like this for years, and there are others that are in the process of revamping their visitation policy right now like us,” Dean Matzkin said.
However, the student bodies of other boarding schools like Loomis have not all reported positive outcomes resulting from the new visitation policy.
“Student Council actually did a lot of research on the visitation policies at peer schools. For example, we talked to Phillips Exeter Academy’s Student Council Presidents last year and they wrote out a statement explaining how the visitation policy created a campus-wide culture of social isolation and rule breaking. Their entire school pretty much agreed that this was not a policy that worked for their community,” Fortani said.
Following its introduction on April 8, the Open Door Policy will be in place till the end of this academic year. Meanwhile, StuCo solicits the feedback of the community for the coming weeks, in hopes of developing an alternate solution.