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  • Lydia Yu

Dorm integration takes the W

Across the country, many boarding schools, including our Californian neighbors like Cate, have installed a policy of dorm visitation by a member of the opposite biological sex with restrictions in place. Following this general trend, Stevenson has finally taken its first step in this direction.

As with most bureaucratic processes, vast amounts of planning, energy, and time has been invested into this switch, which seemed to happen with the snap of two fingers. The Director of Residential Life, Lucy Stockdale, describes, “With a significant policy shift, like this [one], it takes about two years.”

Two years ago, the head prefect of Silverado, Kyla Cotton ‘21 was one of the initiators of this change. Sarah Koshi, who spearheaded this initiative, credits Kyla: “I think Kyla Cotton has brought up the idea to Ms. Peterson at the point of the pandemic where there were so few kids in the dorm… Erin [Peterson] mentioned it to me, and it seemed like a logical in-route to start integrating and finding ways to expand our leaders’ reach and unify the dorms [when students] felt disjointed from each other.”

One and a half years later, finally, beginning on November 29, Stevenson prefects in Silverado, Atwood, and Wilson/TI now do rounds on both sides of the dorms. Koshi describes the intention behind this policy change: “It’s such a strange concept that you could be a prefect in the dorm and not even know the people who live in your dorm. So I wanted to find a way to break down some of those barriers. Student leaders are an important resource… so we [want to] make them more available to everybody.” Most prefects reflect the same sentiment about their experience so far. For example, Wilson prefect Amber Voluntad responds, “I think it’s really cool because I wouldn’t have normally gotten the opportunity to get to know each of the kids on that side, but now… I know everyone’s names.”

Aside from the positive feedback from prefects, students seem to be indifferent to this change. Although, it should be noted that, in an anonymous survey sent to every Stevenson boarding student, 8 out of 64 people, or 12.5%, responded that they are not comfortable with any student of the opposite biological sex to be on their side of the dorm. Students suggest changes to improve this policy. Sophomore Will Simonds describes, “It has changed nothing for me… [Except,] I have to get up from my homework, and walk across the room to answer their [female prefects’] questions. They should be allowed to walk into the room, so I don’t have to move.” Atwood Head Prefect, Yoko Cabrera corroborates, “If the intentions were to benefit the prefects, that is definitely happening because one hall tends to be more problematic than the other halls. This balances that load equally. If it’s to benefit the students, I don’t think that’s happening.”

As Stevenson evolved from an all-boys school in 1952 to the way it is today, it will continue to shift and evolve. Dorm integration is a significant change that is currently actively discussed among school officials. Koshi teases future plans, “There are definitely things in the works. But none of it is ready yet, so we don’t want to make any promises.”

The boarder population seems to be positively responsive to the idea of further dorm integration. In the same survey that was referenced earlier, more students chose the option, “I want both biological sexes to be able to visit both sides of the dorms at all times with no restrictions,” than any other option. 26 of the 64 responses chose this option, spanning across all dorms and grades. This google form did not collect the gender or sex of the surveyees, which is a significant flaw. Due to the more prevalent sexual violence against women, Atwood Prefect Melody Cai suggests, “We should [emphasize] acknowledging and respecting the struggles that people who identify as female go through as we continue to integrate.”

Overall, the changing of prefects’ duties has proceeded smoothly and successfully. Stockdale summarizes, “It’s really helped to unify the community. Prefects are so much more aware of what’s happening in students’ lives across the entire dorm that it really helps them to elevate their guidance and support.”

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