the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
Q&A with Head of School Elaine White
By Chip Genung ’25
The winter term has seen many significant changes to daily life on the hill, with the most significant being sleep-ins on Tuesday and Friday and the exam dress code for the rest of the term. The entire student body is grateful for these changes, but there are still many questions in the air. Do these include the reasoning from the perspective of the faculty? How long are these changes expected to stay? And where does the school want to go with them, if they are part of a bigger plan? In pursuit of answers, I sat down with Mrs. White to discuss these changes. Here are what I learned.
Why do you believe that a dress code is important in the first place, and what place does it have in Westminster?
Mrs. White said she thinks “a dress code has a lot of important value to it”. She appreciates how it causes students “to think about how they are getting up and presenting themselves, in particular in an academic setting that I believe deserves respect, and I think having to think about what you are wearing in that regard is important.” She also believes “there are so many times one has to ask themselves what they should be wearing?” and that a dress code sets us up to ask those important questions.
What do you and the administration believe is the purpose of these adjustments?
“Both of these adjustments were made during the winter term specifically to support student mental health” Mrs. White stated. She talked about how due to the varied practice schedules during the winter “it is not as important to have the free time before afternoon program, like during the fall and the spring when everyone is going to practice at the same time”, and that these schedules allow for a built-in “mental breaks” already. Due to this extra time, they decided to put the free time at the beginning of the day in the form of sleep-ins on Tuesdays and Fridays. “And the same thought was around the dress code”, she said, “we have this six-week period once admissions season is over before March break, and this time coincides with when its coldest and darkest here. So if we loosen up a little bit and let kids have a bigger degree of freedom in letting them wear exam dress, it will help with their physical and mental health.”
What do you know/can tell us about where this would go? Would this become a permanent? For winter every year? A step toward a new dress code or something else?
She answered that if this “experiment goes well”, and it improves students' mental health and everyone wears what they are supposed to when they are supposed to, “that it would be something we do again next year”. She said doing it this year “starts a pattern” that hopefully we can continue in future years. She also added, “We did this so we could help the mental health and change things up a little bit, while still focusing on academics.”
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