I work at a boarding school and my partner can’t visit during the week because we’re unmarried

A reader writes:

It’s pandemic times now, but this question will still hold once things have calmed down. I am a residential faculty member at a boarding school, just out of college. I have a partner of several years who lives a couple hours away by train, and I would like him to be able to visit for more than just a day or two at a time.

I have spoken to the dean of faculty about this a few weeks ago (I got more emotional than I wanted to in this meeting … it’s been quite isolating living on campus during a pandemic). She said that because of the school’s religious heritage (which is no longer very strong or apparent), unmarried faculty members are not allowed to have significant others to stay outside of weekends … because they will set a bad example for the kids?

I’m not sure exactly what the reason is, because when I pressed it a little bit, she said it wasn’t because of how it would look for the kids (after all, they see us together every weekend). Rather, she said she wanted to make sure that I was “fully present” for the boarding students. This drives me crazy! Many married people live with their partners on campus, and they aren’t distracted by them. It makes me feel like I’m being treated like a flighty and irresponsible boy-crazy girl instead of a mature adult faculty member who can handle her personal life and her professional responsibilities.

Not being able to have my partner stay for more than a weekend at a time would affect my desire to stay in this job for another year, although I know that administration really wants me to stay. How can I bring this up in negotiations and make my desires clear? Is there a better way for me to press back against this rule, which I see as archaic and honestly kind of demeaning toward unmarried people? How can I phrase my objections in a way that the administration is most likely to listen to? Should we just bite the bullet and get married, even though we weren’t planning on it for a couple more years?

In a couple of months I’ll have to have the conversation with the dean about whether I’m staying next year or not, and I really want to stay if I can make it work with my partner.

Yeah, that’s odd. If they were concerned about unmarrieds sleeping over, they presumably wouldn’t allow it on weekends either, but they do. Although — are you expected to be available to students in the evenings during the week and not on the weekends? If so, they might just figure they having more standing to exert this kind of control during the week.

But you’re right that your dean’s statement about being fully present for students doesn’t quite make sense, because presumably that would be an issue for married faculty with partners on campus too. Why would unmarried partners be more distracting than married ones? (In fact, if they are more distracting, this policy is what keeps it that way because you don’t have a chance to normalize their presence.)

You’re likely right that it’s rooted in archaic views of unmarried couples.

But I also wouldn’t be surprised if they mostly want to ensure faculty don’t have random hook-ups staying over in on-campus housing during the week (understandable at a boarding school, where presumably you’re living on-site so students can interact with you outside of school hours) but are having trouble framing the rule in a way that distinguishes between “guy I met at a bar last night” and “long-term, unmarried partner.” They shouldn’t be having trouble with that, but maybe they are.

In any case, I’d be straightforward about it with your dean! For example: “I’d really like to stay next year. My only hesitation is my ability to have my partner stay for more than a day or two at a time. Just as married faculty can have their partners on campus, I’d like to be able to have my long-term, serious partner stay with me at times as well. If he could visit for more than a weekend, using the rules that apply to similarly long-term couples who are married, I’d be excited to renew my contract.”

If you can point to other schools with similar religious heritages that allow unmarried guests, that might help as well.

But don’t get married unless you want to get married. If it’s a matter of moving up a ceremony that’s definitely going to happen in X months otherwise, that’s one thing. But if it’s “we weren’t certain we’re ready to marry but it would make this easier” — that’s not fair to the marriage or to each other. That way lies problems.

Read an update to this post here.

{ 343 comments… read them below }

  1. HoHumDrum*

    Hey OP, if it makes you feel any better I used to live at a boarding school and this seems pretty par for the course, in that my school had very different rules for boys than for girls, and in general the way the school seemed to operate was “If you are capable of getting pregnant out of wedlock/teen mom style then you must be under strict supervision and full lockdown at all times. If you aren’t capable of getting pregnant out of wedlock/teen mom style you’re free to do basically whatever you want at all times, including doing X in your room and predatory behavior”. Hypocrisy and double standards based on old school sexist/racist/classist values just seems to be part of boarding schools, is what I’m saying. I liked my school overall but lots of aspects in the culture make me mad to this day.

    If it makes you feel any better, a single female teacher who lived in the dorms with us was absolutely dating (another teacher! juicy!) and none of us thought anything of it, so it’s only a problem from the admin end.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Ugh, because girls manage to get pregnant all by themselves, right? It would be more effective to give everyone solid health education and access to birth control, rather than keeping anyone who can get pregnant on lockdown. But then we as a society would have to view girls as actual people.

    2. Joan Rivers*

      There’s a legal status couples can apply for, at least in many areas, that’s “long-term partner.”
      It provides certain rights, I think including the right to see your partner in the hospital.

      If you don’t have that, or a legal contract of some kind, you’re risking that one of you could be very ill in a Pandemic and the other couldn’t make any decisions for them.

      So isn’t this a legal question?

      1. Joan Rivers*

        I mean, if you
        * refuse to register w/the state as a couple,
        * and refuse to have your lawyer draw up papers that give each other power of attorney or whatever,
        you do look more casual. The legal contract would be a good idea anyway, and it shows commitment to each other.

        I’m less outraged than most here because this place was LW’s choice to apply to and work at to begin with. Is this the only “repressive / regressive” thing about the place?

        And people talking about gay couples seems to be a red herring — I’m sure gays have had legal contracts w/each other before gay marriage was legal.

        1. OP*

          Thank you for these suggestions! Definitely something to look into. In terms of the decision to work here, as I mentioned elsewhere, the policies around visitors weren’t clearly explained during my interview. I was under the impression that a guest couldn’t live here or visit for more than 2 weeks at a time, but didn’t realize that if the guest was a significant other, they couldn’t stay during the week at all. I’ll know what questions to ask next time, if I end up working at another boarding school in the future!

          And no, the school is otherwise very lovely, welcoming, and open. And I do understand their concerns about this, to some extent. I just wish the reasoning was clearer to me and the policy more consistent/coherent.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            Good luck. You just have to be smarter than they are. You can do that! They may be due for a shakeup.
            Even if they’ve been vague, you can get a really official-sounding legal contract from your lawyer. IF you both commit to it. It gives you legal rights, I would think. Power of atty. is pretty legal.
            There’s nothing sadder than the stories of gay couples during the AIDS era who weren’t allowed to visit their lover because they had no legal right. And maybe family that their lover wasn’t even as close to were forbidding it.

            1. Managed Chaos*

              Power of Attorney would be helpful for medical and financial things, but it is unlikely that the school would decide that that was equivalent to a marriage license.

            2. pancakes*

              With all due respect, this seems quite uninformed and under-considered, and I’m not clear on why you think it’s valuable for someone who isn’t a lawyer and hasn’t done even a bit of research to be offering legal advice.

              1. JSPA*

                Plenty of married couples do not even have full power of attorney for each other (remembering that only a subset of states are common property states). It’s not a half bad practice, safety-wise, for individuals to have at least one bank account that nobody but they themselves can touch, and full POA removes that barrier.

                For that matter, four different people (maybe 5, or counting the very limited one of my accountant, six?) have limited or springing POA in my life. I’m only married to / romantic with one of them. A subset also have springing health care power of attorney for me (which may be what Joan Rivers intends to reference?) but again, while marriage automatically confers some of these rights, in some states (though not irrevocably!) each one is really a very different concept from marriage.

          2. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

            And if you had your best girlfriend come to visit, or if your parents wanted to make a stop over visit during the week…?
            Just curious

            1. OP*

              Family members and friends can visit during the week! Another teacher’s sister is here all this week, for instance, and other teachers have had friends to stay during the week as well.

                1. tiasp*

                  Honestly, I’d be awfully tempted to say at the start of each visit that you’d split up and were just friends, and miraculously get back together on the last day.

          3. K in Boston*

            WAIT, OP, hold on. So if the guest is NOT your partner, they can stay, but if they ARE then you have to be married. What?????

            I was sitting here thinking it was mostly the employer being really lazy about actually having to define acceptable guests at employees’ expense, which sucks but I can at least comprehend wanting an easy way to draw a formal line between a serious partner and a hook-up, and throw in the religious aspect and marriage is an even more appealing indicator beyond just the legal aspect of it.

            But the problem is basically that…they know this is your partner?! If you just never showed any PDA and said they were just a non-romantic visitor you were very close to, they’d be fine with it?

            Purely for entertainment and no other reasons I kinda want you to get into sitcom-esque shenanigans where you pretend you’ve broken up and go to wacky lengths to prevent people from knowing you’re anything more than just very friendly exes. Make up a fake partner with a fake Facebook profile and photoshop his face into your photos. “Brian and I had a great time making out when I visited him over the weekend! Looking forward to sitting on opposite sides of the room with my extremely unattractive friend John tomorrow! #platonic #leaveroomforjesus #mondaysamirite”

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Yeah, I was thinking it was a lazy way to define acceptable guest stays, but allowing family/friends over during the week and *specifically* not romantic partners…. that’s a whole ‘nother level.

              Especially as someone who has a lot of opposite gender friends. Do they specify same-sex or opposite-sex friends? Closeness of relation? Like if I had a “oh he’s totally my 6th cousin twice removed” would that be okay?

              Not even going into the assumptions then of cishet relationships.

              (To be fair, I was once in a situation where employment was incredibly limited, and one of my very few options was to apply to teach at a localish religious school. I actually investigated applying, and discovered I would have needed to write a very, very long essay on the importance of that specific religion and how it related to the position – a biology instructor – and I noped out. I went to a religious-based college, and took quite a few classes, but as a scholarly interest. I am very much not Christian, and it would have been a horrendous fit. Especially when I wouldn’t be “allowed” to drink in my own home on the weekends.)

              1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                Is that even allowed? geez. I work at a Jewish liberal arts college with students primarily from orthodox or conservative sects, and they have some restrictions (we have mens and womens hours in the library) but absolutely no restrictions on the employees. About half the library staff (me included) are not Jewish, and we get all the benefits (They do NOT skimp on bereavement leave–I got a full week off for my grandfather’s death) with no expectation that we’ll have particular beliefs or lifestyle.

                1. Natalie*

                  It can be fairly complicated, depending on the type of school and type of instruction the teacher does, but by and large, yes, religious schools are allowed to require teachers to adhere to particular faiths and lifestyles. This was expanded fairly significantly this summer by SCOTUS (Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru).

                2. Queer Earthling*

                  Yeah, I attended an extremely conservative Christian university, and both students and staff were not permitted to drink, have premarital sex, have same-sex relationships, or go dancing.

                  As you can see from my username, turns out it was not a great fit, but at least I have a good excuse for why I can’t dance?

          4. Student*

            It took me many years and experience working with people who were very different than what I grew up with, but I improved my life a lot when I finally decided that “lovely” people only included people who treat women as normal, reasonable adult humans.

            “Lovely” people do not ever, under any circumstances, treat me as if I was the property of men, to be protected like a porcelain doll around large rowdy dogs (and immediately discarded if I was ever deemed a “damaged” doll). I know from personal experience that it’s hard to believe that there are really places where women are treated like humans ALL THE TIME when you grew up with this – but there are. I encourage you to keep looking for them!

          5. Wintermute*

            I would, personally, attack this through the housing angle.

            In my state employers who provide housing have the same limits as any landlord and they are bound by the same laws. That includes laws about “quiet enjoyment” of your property and your right to have guests over. Even if you let a room in your house, you are going to in most cases be forced to allow overnight “romantic” guests because all tenants of housing, no matter the nature of their tenancy, are entitled to certain rights within their home.

            CHECK YOUR STATE HOUSING LAWS, might be worth a quick consult with a lawyer. they may not have the legal ability to do this, not as an employer, but as a landlord.

            1. Clisby*

              Always worth checking, but I’d be very surprised if this applied to a boarding school catering to minors.

            2. anon today*

              I know college campuses are exempt from many tenant protections, so boarding schools might be too.

          6. JSPA*

            I was going to suggest that some states retained domestic partnership after federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Other states automatically converted all same-sex domestic partnerships to marriages. (Which is sort of odd, because they’re…not actually identical things. Many people absolutely chose domestic partnership because marriage was unavailable! But that doesn’t mean that 100% of them wanted to be “married,” or even believed in “marriage,” per se.) Anyway, digression aside, some states now have both civil unions (available to same or opposite sex partners) and marriages. A civil union is absolutely a big step. (Some of them are weirdly as hard or even harder to exit, than a marriage.) But if you’re actually totally ready to be long-term-partnered, but not ready to organize a ceremony, deal with family, fund a big wedding until a couple of more years of water have passed under the Covid bridge, it may be possible for you to do the one now, and the other, later.

            Who knows, of course, whether that’ll meet the needs of the quasi-religious school.

      2. Bertha*

        I wonder if this is still the case, because my state seemed to have this option at one point, but after gay marriage was legalized, it seemed it was no longer the case.

        That said, I had “domestic partner” benefits prior to getting married a couple of weeks ago, and in order to obtain the benefits, my employer had us sign an affidavit saying that we lived together, were in a long term relationship, relied on each other, etc. But.. I am already seeing how this might not work in this case, because they don’t live together. Which in this case is kind of a circle, because they presumably couldn’t live together anyways.. either way, while perhaps the OP could suggest this type of affidavit or legal agreement, I wonder if they very fact they don’t live together could be prohibitive. Sigh. Frustratingly circular.

        1. Joan Rivers*

          “Power of attorney” is giving someone legal rights. It’s quite a commitment as I understand it. But lawyers can probably limit the power to certain areas and still make it sound very official. Official enough for this school, that sounds ripe for modifying its policy.

          1. Managed Chaos*

            You can give just about anyone PoA over you and most lawyers aren’t going to “make it sound very official.” It’s either going to be a legally binding document or it isn’t.

          2. JSPA*

            Full POA gives another person the right to act in your place, as you, no limits. And it can normally only be revoked in writing (though those details are included in the original POA).

            You can’t use it for voting, but you can use it to clear out someone else’s bank account, or buy a car in their name. That’s actually more power than most spouses have over each other, and more power than most spouses SHOULD have over each other.

            There are also limited POA’s. You want a property manager to be able to contract cleaners and repair people for jobs costing under $500, while you’re in the Arctic, tagging whales? You can give them limited POA for that.

            Health care POA covers things like, “who gets to tell them to pull the plug, or not, if I’m brain dead.”

            None of this is a smart or relevant way, in and of itself, to signal “we’re serious.” It’s like hunting a mouse with (respectively) an ICBM, a flyswatter, or a bag of popcorn.

            1. anon today*

              If OP’s partner is someone they trust with healthcare decisions, it might be a good idea to list them in a healthcare POA (unless they trust their family more, in which case never mind). Even without the pandemic and the possibility of being sedated for a ventilator, people can have car wrecks even when young and healthy.

    3. animaniactoo*

      Was it a French teacher dating an English teacher? Cuz that’s what happened at my boarding school. And they subsequently got married, don’t know what happened to them after that as I graduated around the same time as the marriage.

      1. London Lass*

        I could give you a long list of teachers who became couples and ultimately married and had kids at my school… Some of them still live and work there. The teachers’ love lives were a rich source of gossip for the pupils!

      2. HoHumDrum*

        Lol no! It was two math teachers, but the juicy part was there was clearly a love triangle situation going on with a third teacher. It was almost enough drama to make up for the fact that we weren’t allowed to use the tv on weeknights.

      3. Reluctant Manager*

        Mine was a first-year teacher of sophomore English and her student. I think they have a couple of kids now, but they’re lucky this was the early 90’s and not today, because the rumors would definitely have gotten her fired if not arrested.

    4. Cj*

      Last time I checked, you could get pregnant just as easily on the weekend as during the week.

      The random hookup things I could understand (for men and women), but I would assume they are more likely to take place on the weekend than during the week.

    5. Also Poor This Year*

      This isn’t comparable to OPs post, which outlines a policy that treats married and unmarried differently, not men and women. You’re talking about sexism when they’re wasn’t any in the original letter.

      1. HoHumDrum*

        I personally have never encountered a system that treats married and unmarried people differently that wasn’t based on sexist ideas, nor have I encountered such a system where unmarried men and women were treated with the same level of scrutiny. YMMV.

        1. Autistic AF*

          Yeah, marriage is an institution that treats men and women differently. Women may no longer be considered property, but there’s still a lot of identity change inherent (name, title. etc.).

        2. TL -*

          I mean, I could understand a policy that let your married partner live with you but didn’t let your unmarried partner have overnight visits during the week, if overnight visits during the week were generally forbidden.

          This is not that case, though, so it’s a moot point.

        3. D'Arcy*

          Agreed. Even if there is no sexism in the policy on paper, I *guarantee* it is completely sexist in actual implementation.

    6. A*

      I especially love this example because what would the ‘negative’ influence on the students be? Oh no, the teacher is dating another working professional they have something in common with, grab your pearls!!

  2. Glomarization, Esq.*

    As someone with some experience with prep schools, I’m afraid I think that “I want to stay but it will be hard if you can’t let me have my unmarried partner visit like a spouse” is not actually much leverage, and it may not come across very well at all, especially considering that OP is young and also a relatively new hire.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        That’s my point. OP doesn’t have much leverage, if any at all. A boarding school with religious heritage (and whatever longstanding culture it has) is going to do what it does. A young faculty member protesting about not being allowed to have her unmarried partner visit her like a spouse has a very tough row to hoe here, and in my view, it’s not a trump card for her to say, “Let me have my partner visit, or I may choose to go to a different school.”

        1. Yorick*

          It isn’t meant to be a trump card. It’s the truth – she wants to stay except for this problem, and she’ll leave unless it changes. So, she might as well give them a chance to change it before she leaves.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            They don’t want a chance to change. If she says anything (no matter how unthreateningly she phrases it) that can be misconstrued as “Change this, or else I leave,” they’re likely going to say “Fine. Leave.”

            1. pancakes*

              Unless you happen to work at this same unidentified school and have a great deal of influence in the administration, you aren’t really in a position to speak about their willingness to change. It’s probably unlikely, sure, but I don’t see a good reason to not take the letter writer at their word when they say it’s otherwise a lovely and open place, and that they want to keep her on staff if they can.

          2. ACM*

            I suppose it does depend upon how desperate they are for residential faculty, though. I would imagine they’re not easy to find, but I could be wrong.

      2. Teacher Trainer*

        Nothing. It’s just not likely to make much difference in this context. I worked in such a school for several years, and I left when I got into a serious relationship because of these types of attitudes.

        There’s no harm in raising it if OP is willing to leave if the school says, as I would expect, sorry but nope, that won’t work for us. But if she wants to stay and would stay even if they say no, it will harm her reputation and could impact her career path there (and beyond) to have raised it – she will look like she doesn’t understand the nature of the school and the role, like she is more concerned with her romantic relationship than with her work, and like she is too young/flighty/boy-crazed to be promoted/given additional responsibilities. None of which is reasonable, but all of which is likely based on my own experience and that of friends who have worked in that context.

        1. Moke*

          Yeahhh. I think this blog is great but it sometimes goes to far into “how things should be” versus how they actually are. Alison also tends to assume most people are fairly reasonable, intelligent and socially conscious like she is which isn’t always the case.

          The reality is that pushing this will put a target on her back as a “boy crazy” silly woman who isn’t “one of us”. Terrible but true.

          These institutions aren’t like some woke non-profit where speaking up might actually work. They have very long standing traditions that are not to be questioned, especially by a woman in a junior position. Sad but true.

          1. Moke*

            By the way, I didn’t mean to throw shade with my “fairly” descriptor. Alison is of course very much all of those things. Bad phrasing.

          2. Weekend Please*

            In this case though, the OP has already said she does not want to stay unless the policy changes. The advice would probably be different if she wanted to stay regardless.

            1. OP*

              Hi, OP here! You’re right that I wouldn’t want to stay, but I might have to, depending on my ability to get a different job, etc. I already worry that I’ve damaged my standing a little by bringing this up with the dean (and getting so emotional during that conversation)… What people have said in this thread expresses my fears around having these conversations and being potentially left without a job/housing if it doesn’t go well.

              1. le teacher*

                I am a teacher who has worked at a few private schools (albeit non-religious). I think some of the other comments are being a bit overly negative. Ultimately, in my experience, if you are a good and reliable teacher, a normal administration will want to keep you and hear your concerns.

              2. High Score!*

                It’s none of their business of you are married or not. Just tell them you got married and decided not to change your name. I don’t normally lie or suggest it but when azzhats stick their noses into my personal business, then I think it’s ok.

                1. Joan Rivers*

                  The school has the right to ask for a legal document showing you’re married if you say you are.
                  A legal contract w/power of attorney might be enough for them, though, the school doesn’t sound vindictive, just stuck in a rut.

                2. EventPlannerGal*

                  I mean, that might have worked if the OP had done it *before* the whole impassioned conversation with the dean situation, but I think the opportunity has now passed. Like, what, “oh hey dean, I know you wouldn’t let me have my partner come visit and I was really upset about that and made my feelings known… but hey, uh, totally forgot to mention but we got married so it’s fine! No, there’s no pictures. No, I’ve never mentioned it. No, I can’t show you any documentation. But uh, we definitely got married.”? On what planet is that not going to make the OP look like a bizarre liar? Even if she doesn’t want this job, presumably she wants a reference other than “that woman who lied about getting married to the dean so her boyfriend could stay over”?

                3. Ellenaria*

                  In this case, it might be their business. They have a right to decide what adults have access to the dormitory where kids are sleeping. It’s easy enough to explain to parents, “vetted faculty members, and their spouses, whom we background-check before they move in.”

                  It’s a harder sell, understandably, to say, “Any faculty member can have any adult overnight guests she wants, indefinitely.”

                  I attended boarding school, and now live in employer-provided housing (though not in an academic setting). The limits here seem reasonable to me. I’m frankly surprised she’s allowed to have unrelated overnight guests even on the weekends!

                4. A*

                  I disagree that it is none of their business. This isn’t a typical employer/employee situation – this is a boarding school where faculty/staff is living in the same space as minors. It is absolutely the school’s responsibility to vet anyone living on the premises. I speak from experience having been a boarding school student. OP’s school has wonky reasoning, but in general this is a thing that comes up and with good reason. Staff/faculty living on campus typically go through background checks, sensitivity training, etc.

                5. Bored Fed*

                  So, lie to your employer, and about something that is important *to them*? That sounds like an excellent way to get fired, you know, for dishonesty. Do you really think that someone who is dishonest will — or should!– be trusted in authority over minors?

                  The fact that the policy is, to us, foolish does not in any way justify lying.

                6. pancakes*

                  This is not good advice. I agree this relationship shouldn’t be / really isn’t the school’s business, but the letter writer telling them she got married would almost certainly result in them asking for a marriage certificate or some other documentation, and it’s pretty self-destructive to lie to one’s employer about documentation one doesn’t have! And could have long-lasting career implications. Being known as a liar isn’t an asset. Being known as a sloppy, impulsive liar is even worse. It would be far, far more sensible to follow Alison’s advice.

                7. pancakes*

                  I can’t reply directly to A, but I disagree that the school is doing meaningful vetting simply by demanding that couples be married in order to spend weeknights together. Marriage isn’t in itself a background check of any sort. If they want anyone spending weeknights on campus to have passed a background check, they can do so without marriage having taken place.

                8. Snuck*

                  I agree with Elenaria….

                  There’s a distinction to be made between occasional visitors, and frequent ones. Having your sister stay for a few days is wildly different to having a regular boyfriend who comes multiple times a week or month.

                  Someone who lives on campus full time is vetted. This would include any formal spouses. The school is drawing a line between casual visitors and permanent residents, and isn’t defining it well.

                  I can speak to organisations like Scouts in Australia having a policy that includes permission for parents and friends to attend up to THREE nights overnight a year, but if you are going to attend multiple you must get a Working With Children Check (a form of police check that confirms you haven’t had complaints made against you – founded or unfounded – of messing with kids or other serious crimes). A policy like this would probably be best for the school – prove you are safe to have around our children, or don’t stay… a few nights to visit is one thing, but to be around more is not wise without a safety process.

                  Another thought is… a married couple who live on campus are highly likely to be less ‘distracted’ than a person who has their partner fly in from interstate for a week or so every now and then. The married couple lives there, and knows their duties, and gets on with work. They aren’t having a holiday in each other’s bedrooms. After school I assume there is a wide range of activities and supports for the boarding students – everything from supervising homework to getting kids to/from activities, through whatever other day to day issues and meals and medications and just being there for their emotional support requires. The married couples I know who have lived on campus and worked have been able to not be distracted by their partners while working, but can you say the same for a person who has their partner fly in for only a week here and there?

              3. Yessica Haircut*

                You shouldn’t worry about the impression you’ve already left on the dean! At WORST, the dean may privately judge you or think your request was immature, but even that seems pretty harsh given that we’re all just trying to remain sane and alive during the pandemic. (And to be clear, I think this policy is bonkers and that employers having religiously motivated moral codes of conduct for staff is a massive overstep.) But I don’t see any scenario where the school dismisses you as a result of any of this. I’d advise you to quietly start the job hunt and plan on staying if nothing else pans out. I don’t see you being left with no job and no home from this situation, though.

              4. nonegiven*

                If you both had jobs in the same area, would you be living together? That’s what I’d consider a serious relationship.

              5. JSPA*

                I suppose you could try “due to Covid, we took inspiration from the Friends, and now consider ourselves married in the eyes of God.” But frankly, unless they’re looking for a loophole as hard as you are (which is possible)–and unless you honestly mean it, on some level–I don’t think it’ll fly.

                I’ve seen places that would be fine with, “it’s ok, so long as the students believe you’re married,” but that was before the internet, before the concept of facebook status, before easily searchable records, and before everybody could so easily be deep into everybody else’s business.

                I guesstimate you have a 5% chance of this working, and a modestly larger chance that, cumulatively, if a lot of people leave on that basis, they’ll get around to changing the policy in the next 20 years.

                I don’t think it’s unprofessional to bring it up, especially if you couch it as, given Covid and the social negatives of traveling repeatedly for brief periods, you hope they will revisit their rules.

                I look entirely askance at anyone who reads, “we are mutual support and we look out for each other” as, “I’m prioritizing more nookie and snogging over my job.”

                But I also don’t count on it working, unless you give them a more persuasive reason than, “I’m feeling more irreplaceable than I actually am; are you feeling that way, too?”

                1. Tamar Rowe*

                  Friends do have a ceremony and a certificate witnessed by all of the participants. Affirmations are actually taken very seriously by the Society of Friends. My marriage certificate is A3 sized and has about fifty people’s names on it as witnesses!

          3. Joan Rivers*

            I’m surprised the focus is on “what should be” when there ARE legal recourses, at least I’ve heard of them.
            Maybe one of this couple is not so eager to memorialize their commitment legally? You don’t have to get married to give someone the right to make medical decisions if you’re in the hospital, etc.
            And “longtime partner” is not the same thing as “committed partner.” Married couples break up too, but they commit to each other and to the state legally. Divorce can be messy but marriage at least gives certain rights that simplify medical decisions, etc.
            I think LW, or SO, wants the rights of marriage w/o committing legally to the clarity of the legal process.

            1. Joan Rivers*

              What I’m trying to say is the state needs some kind of legality to allow some rights, and if it’s not marriage, there are other ones. But refusing to do anything and saying “Ain’t it awful?” seems counterproductive.

              1. Aquawoman*

                This is a private business, not the state. I guess they can discriminate against single people if they want to, but they will lose some good employees over it. The idea that I’d have to arrange my personal life to satisfy my employer’s poorly-explained whims is a hard no for me.

                1. Joan Rivers*

                  But if you choose to work there you can ask questions first. Or go elsewhere.

                  The state is involved in lots of things. Teaching certification, e.g.

                  If you can give yourselves rights by seeing your lawyer, it seems like a good option to explore.

                2. Not Mr Keating*

                  The schools are well aware that they might lose the next Mr Chips over this policy. That’s acceptable to them.

                  This is a boarding school, where the lives of faculty and students are quite intertwined. The school’s definition of a “good employee” is holistic and asks whether the employee behaves consistently with the school’s values, not just how many Westinghouse scholars the teacher produces.

                  Also, the parents are likely selecting the school for precisely this reason.

                3. JSPA*

                  They’re not discriminating in an employment sense; they’re clearly equally willing to employ and house unmarried people.

                  They’re not willing to house additional people who are not family.

                  And that’s not terribly unusual, is it, even when not in a work context? Plenty of leases make it clear that you can’t have overnight guests, or guests for extended periods. And in some states (CA for example, I believe?) if someone lives in a place for 30+ days, it requires formal eviction proceedings to remove them, even if they were never on the lease.

                  I can absolutely see not wanting to open up that possibility for someone who doesn’t already have the right to be there, by virtue of the very common “family” clause.

            2. Elysian*

              But this isn’t hospital visitation – this is a (presumably) private employer, who could easily change its policy. This is more like letters that come in that say “my work won’t let me dating couples bring a plus one to the holiday party” than it is like hospital visitation rights.

              Besides, it isn’t clear that giving the boyfriend her power of attorney would do anything to improve the situation here. It is totally unrelated. I’m not sure what other “legal process” besides marriage would either (1) pacify the school’s concerns and (2) actually exist.

              1. Elysian*

                Sorry, if I wasn’t clear, I mean the letters about dating couples who can’t bring a plus-one when married couples can.

              2. Joan Rivers*

                And THIS is how you get the school to CHANGE its policy, by handing it a very legal-looking document your lawyer draws up.
                Sometimes an employer just needs a good enough reason to point to to make a change.
                During the AIDS crisis there were couples who couldn’t see each other and it was a tragedy! It still happens. Please don’t minimize giving yourself rights when someone else won’t.
                Hospital visitation and medical decision-making is not minor. It would be a side benefit for OP. Because it could happen to them too. Pandemic?
                But the main thing is, the school could be persuaded by an official contract, even if the couple doesn’t register w/the state as a couple.

                It’s better than just complaining and doing nothing. Isn’t it?

                1. Elysian*

                  I don’t think you understand what a power of attorney is or how it works. The school will also have lawyers, so giving it a “legal-looking” document isn’t going to trick it somehow. Plus, a power of attorney doesn’t even need a lawyer to write it, and it can be withdrawn at any time. Giving my boyfriend the right to make real estate transactions in my name or the right to override my decisions about my own medical care (for example) does nothing to convince the school he should stay overnight. It is in no way legally analogous to marriage under the law. They are just different things entirely which convey wholly different sets of rights.

                  I’m not saying complain and do nothing – AAM’s advice is good here. I’m saying the school didn’t ask for power of attorney and there is no reason to think it would help in this situation.

                2. Yorick*

                  Agree with Elysian – I actually think LW would look sillier to the dean if she showed them a power of attorney that she had created with the boyfriend. That kind of document would in no way address the policy that is in place. A lawyer can’t write you up a letter that says a religious organization has to treat you like you’re married.

                3. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  Being able to visit your girlfriend is not the same as being kept away from her bedside when she’s dying. This is serious overinflation. Honestly, the LW basically just didn’t understand the policy and finds it hard to deal with. Which is OK– she can ask for changes, but she should not expect them, and getting a lawyer is serious overkill here.

            3. Yorick*

              I seriously doubt a power of attorney would make any difference. This isn’t about the partner having a right to decisions for the other partner, it’s about the school thinking it’s improper for unmarried partners to visit during the week.

              Also, you can have a serious, long-term relationship in which it would be perfectly appropriate for the boyfriend to visit and stay for a few days, but still not be at the point where you want to give the boyfriend legal power over you and your things.

            4. TL -*

              Woah, I’m a big fan of “if you want the legal rights, get married,” but – I don’t think this is the case.

              Wanting your partner to be able to visit you (especially during a pandemic!) is a pretty normal aspect of dating, especially long-term dating, and while I do think there’s some special considerations here because it’s a boarding school, the fact is the school allows for overnight visitors during the week generally. So OP’s request to have an overnight visitor (whether or not they have a romantic and/or sexual relationship) is reasonable and she shouldn’t have to get married to achieve that.

              1. Snuck*

                I think the school can decide not to have long term visitors to the site that are not cleared by them … particularly as they are responsible for the health and safety of the minors in the boarding school.

                Everyone is focussing on her ‘rights’, but no one is stepping back to think about WHY the school might have this policy.

                Personally I don’t understand why the school allows overnight visitors at all. Go get a hotel room if you are visiting…. assuming these visitors are wandering around the same halls and dining areas as the students, they are using the same entrances and exits?

                It would be different if the accommodation is in an entirely different building, and doesn’t share common areas, then I can see a lot more ability to keep visitors and students separate.

                And equating a long term boyfriend to a married partner is not a solution to me (my opinion). While I am not suggesting they should marry to have conjugal rights, I am going to quietly suggest that in a school that sells itself as religious, even if it’s lip service only, there will be families who are sending their youth there on that basis.

                In this situation it is a female boarding supervisor. Is she supervising male or female students? Probably female? So the visitors who can stay – are they male, female, or either? (She mentions female ones in her comments) Not that it’s right to assume gender plays a role, but a lot of the risk management of predatory behaviour takes this view.

    1. Observer*

      I’m afraid I think that “I want to stay but it will be hard if you can’t let me have my unmarried partner visit like a spouse” is not actually much leverage, and it may not come across very well at all,

      I get that there is not much leverage here. But why would it “look bad”?

      1. NerdyKris*

        It would show that she isn’t willing to embody the values the school teaches. Religious institutions tend not to want staff that are telling the students something different.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          The school’s values are that it’s a sin to have a man stay over on a Tuesday night, but it’s fine on a Saturday night. I wonder what religion this is?

        2. Observer*

          What values are at play here? It’s not just that the OP says that they don’t see any evidence of religious values. It’s also the fact that SO *IS* allowed to visit on the weekends. So, obviously it’s not about the value of never having unmarried couples around. What’s more, even though “religious heritage” was the original excuse, the dean essentially conceded that this really is not the case.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        One, because it would be naive to try this as a negotiation strategy when the school’s answer may very well be, “OK, then. Sorry to see you go.” And two, because choosing this hill to die on would show that OP is not on board with the culture of this school (or, probably, of most boarding schools).

          1. Tiffany*

            Sure. It’s restrictive, dumb, totally in their prerogative, common in the world of boarding schools, and unlikely to change.

          2. Suze*

            Eh, for the type of school OP is describing, the majority of applicants are aware this is the culture and are willing to work with it.
            This isn’t a diss at OP for not knowing or support for all these types of policies; just that this isn’t something new or unique and since boarding schools are often steeped in tradition, plus parents (the clients) are more likely to be in support of this, they’re likely to get exactly who they want.

          3. A*

            Well, sure – I think it’s ridic as well which is why I’d never apply to a religious school (or a live in arrangement regardless). This is something that is presumably taken into account when choosing to work for a religious boarding school and living on site.

    2. Alice's Rabbit*

      You’re right. Ghis is the line the school has drawn, and it’s not a terribly uncommon one. Unless OP is an expert in some rare discipline, she really doesn’t have the leverage to get them to change this rule. She’s fairly easily replaced.

  3. january blues*

    I do also think that “live-in partner” and “long-term visitor” are two different things! Spouses who live on campus full-time are a bit more integrated into campus life than 2-week-long visitors. It seems like the discomfort lies partially in that? Possibly it doesn’t, and people have spouses who live apart from them who come to visit! In which case, ignore me! And use that in your follow up conversations.

    But this could simply be that having visitors who aren’t members of the community for long periods of time feels like a potential risk. Do spouses who live on campus need to go through background checks? Do they have relationships with students, even if through irregular dinners or other sorts of events? What responsibility to students do people who live on campus but don’t work there have? I don’t doubt your partner would be able to fulfill those responsibilities even if he doesn’t live on campus full time, but it might be harder for senior faculty to imagine.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Was gonna ask about the background checks as well. Seems like an easy way for the school to fix this policy. Long term partners get background checks and are allowed to stay and it keeps students “safe” from random guys from the bar.

      1. M*

        Yes! I work in a boarding school and my spouse and children live on campus with me. My spouse has to go through the same background check as I do, annually. When my children turn 18, if they still live on campus, they will also. Anyone who has any kind of adult visitor for longer than 1 week is also required to have that person background check- relatives from out of town, for example, would be considered the same as a visiting partner or a friend.

        We have had some challenges in the past with longer-term visits like the one OP describes. When someone doesn’t get to see their partner often, then the visit can be a distraction- I have definitely had direct reports basically stop working when partner came to visit. But we dealt with that as a performance issue with specific employee rather than make a policy forbidding visits at all.

        1. kbeers0su*

          And this is the crux here- if OP isn’t doing her job (meeting some expectations) because of her partner’s visit, it should be addressed as a performance issue. Same as for any married person.

        2. OP*

          Thanks for this insight! I would love to be given the chance to prove that having him here during the week wouldn’t be a distraction… plus, I’m only on duty for 1-2 nights during the week, so the other weeknights are technically my own. I think it makes sense to handle it on a person-by-person basis rather than having a rule. (And like I said, siblings are allowed to visit during the weeks when significant others can’t, and I would imagine they’d be a distraction, too.)

          1. Managed Chaos*

            I think often institutions shy away from handling things on a person-by-person basis instead of a rule because it leads to too many gray areas. It opens them up to legal suits, among other things.

            In my mind, this is like an age boundary. Sometimes you just have to have a hard line to prevent having to decide things on a case by case basis. It’s not fair to everyone involved, but they have to draw the line somewhere. Marriage is a legal institution so it is an easier boundary to draw than trying to judge couple’s commitment levels.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            I wouldn’t classify a sibling visiting as nearly the same level of distraction as a significant other.

          3. JSPA*

            Is there a reason–financial or otherwise–that you two can’t have a very simple pied-a-terre off campus? That is, you have to live on campus for the 1-2 nights you’re on duty. Are you also an RA for emergencies every other night of the week, or can he rent a tiny studio in town with a bed and good internet, and you stay with him there five nights a week?

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If she’s required to live there, I doubt that could ever work. She’s presumably on call when off duty.

              1. Elizabeth Proctor*

                I went to boarding school. Every dorm had two teachers living in connected apartments. Someone had to be staying in one of them overnight at all times–I assume they coordinated schedules with each other if they were going to be traveling (there were also usually two other faculty/staff associated with the dorm via dorm duty–presumably if both live-in staff needed to be away, one of those other staff members could have stayed in one of the apartments.) Definitely wouldn’t work 5 nights per week.

        3. PT*

          Yes, the background checks is exactly what I was thinking. I’ve worked with kids in extracurricular/day camp capacity in rec centers that were open to the public, and they made it VERY clear that while staff significant others may have legal access to the building like any other person off the street, they would have to register as staff or volunteers to assist or participate in the delivery of programming.

          So if your husband dropped off your lunch in the break room fridge, that was fine, because any member of the public could feasibly do that. But if he came to help do a soccer demo or time a swim meet, he had to go through the same registration as everyone else volunteering or working the soccer practice or swim meet.

          Second-degree contacts are a huge risk to kids.

    2. Pidgeot*

      Yes, this.

      My suspicion is that when the partner is there on weekends, they are nominally “supervised” by the faculty member, who is off-duty. But when the faculty member is on duty during the week, you would in essence have this other person unattended (in a school with minors). This is probably a liability for the school, and I would suspect that this is at the root of the policy.

      1. Weekend Please*

        I was thinking the same thing. Are visitors in general banned during the week? If so then I can see where they are coming from with their policy.

        1. Weekend Please*

          I see the OPs update that other guests are allowed. In light of that I think that this definitely is a double standard.

          1. OP*

            Hi, OP here! Yes, other guests are allowed to stay during the week. In a not-very-professional moment, I brought up to the dean that I could see more of my partner if we broke up, which is technically true (I know, I know!). It’s what contributes to my sense of being judged for being an unmarried woman doing ‘scandalous’ things by having her significant other over to stay.

            1. A*

              Yikes, that’s definitely a weird discrepancy. There are plenty of valid reasons to have restrictions, but it’s so inconsistent here I’m having a hard time understanding the justification. Do the other guests that are allowed to stay go through background checks?

    3. MsClaw*

      This is a reasonable compromise that OP could consider floating — like if their SO is open to being vetted by the school, maybe they could make an exception?

      I spent some time in a boarding situation, and I agree with another comment that the spouses of our live-in faculty were involved in student life. I don’t know if this was actually a condition of them living there (one live-in faculty member had a spouse who lived off campus, I don’t think we ever interacted with/met them) but it was the reality that we all knew Mr./Mrs. Live-In as members of the school community. So that’s another thing they might want to consider; is there any formal or informal expectation that a frequent visitor would be palling with students? Is OP’s partner into that if it’s an expectation of the school?

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Yeah, I’m definitely anti-outdated/heteronormative policies when it comes to boarding schools. I do have some experience as the “significant other” in a similar circumstance. In my case, I was visiting my (same sex) SO on campus at a non-religious school, usually on the weekends but I did spend a couple of weeknights to include a duty night or two. The Dean mentioned to me that she was a little hesitant about my visits at first, but when my SO mentioned that I was a former prefect/proctor at another boarding school and that I had a military clearance, she felt more comfortable. She then said that after watching me interact with the students, she was totally open to me being on campus whenever. I was a little put off when she mentioned her initial hesitation, but then on the first weeknight, I realized where she was coming from. There’s no avoiding curious teenage students. I embraced it and put on my old proctor/coach hat when interacting with the students. It would be great if the OP’s Dean could give her SO the same leeway I was given but I can also see how my background provided me with some cushion (albeit a background colored by certain privileges…).

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Even without the background check, the LW’s comparison to a married couple living on campus doesn’t fly for me. A visitor requires more attention than a partner who’s there all the time. The LW understandably would want to maximize quality time with her partner during visits, and that’s just a different animal versus a partner who lives on campus full-time.

      1. OP*

        Hello, OP here! That’s a good point @AvonLady Barksdale, and I agree to some extent, but it doesn’t really explain why guests who are friends or siblings should be allowed to stay on weeknights, and partners be the only kinds of guests who can’t stay on those nights.

        1. Blarg*

          How do they determine “friend” vs “partner?” Are they assuming everyone is cisgender and heterosexual and therefore female-presenting friends can stay weeknights but male-presenting friends cannot? What about “friends with benefits?”

          1. kbeers0su*

            Likely, because of their religious views, they are choosing to assume that yes, all partners are cis/hetero and therefore any woman host/woman guest or male host/male guest are just friends. Easier to pretend you don’t know then to get into the religious views/politics of it all.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I think what could be a bit different is the frequency that a sibling or friend would come for extended weekday visits versus a partner. Not that it would be universally true but I would think a sibling/friend overnight extended visit during the week would be rare and special exception where a partner would be more likely to have a more regular frequent visits.

          I would guess that a lot of this comes from their experience with specific situations and why the policies seem a bit more haphazard. They haven’t had a problem with someone’s sister interfering yet, so there isn’t a rule against it yet.

      2. KateM*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking, too – a visitor necessarily takes more attention than someone who lives with you all the time. Once the novelty of being together wears off and you settle into daily habits, you are much more “present” for students than you are in case of a visitor.

      3. iliketoknit*

        Yes, this was exactly my reaction – having a guest implies hosting responsibilities, while a spouse just lives there and can fend for themselves.

        But if the school is letting friends/siblings stay on a weeknight then we’re back to antiquated ideas about single women, it seems. (While I think having even a long-term partner come to stay could be a little distracting if they’re not there all the time, I’d think that in many cases a sibling or friend would require more attention from a host.)

  4. Total*

    “They shouldn’t be having trouble with that, but maybe they are.”

    How would you go about framing that? IE, allowing long-term folks and avoiding short-termers? I started writing it in my head and started running into issues of being much more intrusive than I’d be comfortable with.

    1. singularity*

      Agreed, because what constitutes long-term versus short-term? Obviously there’s a difference between hookups/one-night stands and a partner, but what arbitrary limit would they have to impose for it to be feasible?

      If you’ve been partnered for 6 months or longer? (And again, how would you prove that it’s a long term relationship?)

      1. Total*

        Exactly. I’m not sure I want to be having interviews with my employees about exactly how long and how meaningful their current relationship is.

        1. Yessica Haircut*

          There’s another suggestion elsewhere in the thread that the school allow teachers to “register” their romantic partner prior to allowing overnights, which would involve the school running a background check to make sure the partner is OK to have around the students. I think that would go a long way toward solving the issue and making it fair, because it seems unlikely a teacher would want to go through that rigamarole for someone they’re casually dating, and if they do, as long as the significant other passes the background check, it doesn’t REALLY matter if they’re a short-term date. And if you cap the number of SO registrations an individual teacher can apply for in a calendar year (say 2 at most, in case you end a long-term relationship and begin another the same year), the system could be fairly and equally applied to everyone without putting too much burden on the school–and more importantly, without requiring intrusive interviews about whose relationship “counts”!

          1. Total*

            “allow teachers to “register” their romantic partner prior to allowing overnights”

            And for those LGBTQ folks who are not out? There are lots of communities & schools (esp religious ones) where I can see forcing someone effectively to divulge their sexuality would be really problematic.

            1. Arctic*

              I am gay and am usually sympathetic to this. But requiring adults spending the night around kids to register is a must.

              1. Total*

                Having adults register *as a romantic partner* is different and much more consequential than having adults register as a guest.

                1. Arctic*

                  I don’t think the person you responded to was seriously suggesting they register the person by specifically identifying them as “romantic partner.” Just that your romantic partner should be registered.

                2. Total*

                  “I don’t think the person you responded to was seriously suggesting they register the person by specifically identifying them as “romantic partner.”

                  I think they were: “that the school allow teachers to “register” their *romantic partner* prior to allowing overnights.”

                3. TL -*

                  I think a lot of these comments are assuming the only overnight guests that would be allowed are romantic partners, which actually isn’t the case.

            2. Yessica Haircut*

              This is a good point. It’s definitely not a perfect solution, though I think it’s probably better than an across-the-board “unmarried partners don’t count, period” policy.

              I think this is all a good illustration of why workplaces with religious origins/missions who are comfortable imposing “morality” based codes of conduct on their employees are generally terrible.

              1. Total*

                “I think this is all a good illustration of why workplaces with religious origins/missions who are comfortable imposing “morality” based codes of conduct on their employees are generally terrible.”


            3. BPT*

              If you’re not out, then would you be having your SO as a regular overnight guest? Once or twice you could probably pass off as a friend staying over, but more than that people are probably going to catch on, especially if the SO is local.

              I’m not saying that treatment of LGBTQ people isn’t a problem, especially at conservative institutions. And nobody should have to proactively “register” their sexuality. But there is a balancing act you have to do with protecting children at the school from any random adults that might be around. Background checks certainly help.

              1. Kaitydidd*

                That was my thought, too. Having your partner over repeatedly is probably going to end up outing you if you’re not already. Or at least it would out me. I’m not great at being closeted.

                Adults absolutely need to be background checked and registered as guests in a situation like this. Parents driving/accompanying student teams to overnight sports competitions for my public school all had to be fingerprinted and stuff whether or not they were married. There also wasn’t some weird benefit of being married, though.

              2. Total*

                “If you’re not out, then would you be having your SO as a regular overnight guest?”

                There’s a difference between something that might be informally known, and something you have to declare to the administration (and have a background check?!).

                Also, I have to say I’m not really comfortable with saying it’s fine to out someone because it’ll happen anyway.

                1. TL -*

                  A background check is really, really, really normal if you’re going to be interacting with kids in a position of authority, up to and including a teacher’s spouse at a boarding school. That is ideal grooming territory, and a background check can prevent a lot of repeat offenders from having a chance to offend.

                  This isn’t about “did you take your principle’s car for a joyride?” type stuff; it’s mostly looking for “are you a registered sex offender or someone who has been convicted of molesting children?”

                2. Julia*

                  Yeah, I had to pass a background check to teach an afternoon class once a week at a regular school with all the other teachers still around and parents coming in for pick-up. For anything overnight, it would even be more important.

            4. GothicBee*

              Well, the proposed idea of getting a background check is for people who would be expecting their partner to stay with them long term. And I can’t imagine expecting your partner to stay with you long-term at this school without people picking up on the fact that you’re not just friends whether you’re explicitly out or not, so I think that objection is kind of moot. Though I do agree LGBTQ people are probably disproportionately negatively affected by the rule in general.

              1. Clisby*

                No, the idea behind getting a background check is that NO visitor is allowed to stay overnight on campus without being vetted. No friend, no sister, no brother, no person you picked up in a bar, no parent … nobody.

                1. Total*

                  Which is fine, but as the OP noted, the current policy is to allow a couple of free overnights for guests before a background check is required. That’s inevitably going to tend to pick up the romantic partner.

            5. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “And for those LGBTQ folks who are not out? ”

              If they’re not out, would they be having partners over at all? Your question may be moot.

              1. Total*

                “If they’re not out, would they be having partners over at all? ”

                I would think that that would be up to them. And yes, I’m familiar with a lot of situations where someone was not out professionally but was still partnered in a way that meant that people informally knew. “Out” can mean a broad spectrum of things and I’m really uncomfortable with something that looks like policing it.

                1. Kaitydidd*

                  Thanks! My partner is out socially, but absolutely not out at work. I show up as a friend that we don’t ask questions about when it’s their friends from work.

              2. pleaset cheap rolls*

                So Kaitydidd, are you saying you might have your partner over for an overnight stay in work housing, but registering them as a long-term partner would be offputting? It seems to that staying overnight at the school is being out at work so the registration is not adding to that visibility.

            6. Dahlia*

              Require it for all guests. Don’t call it romantic, just call it “guest registration”.

              Siblings should not be treated differently just because you’re related to them.

          2. Mockingjay*

            Shouldn’t a background check or visit registry apply to any visitor, romantic or not?

            It makes more sense to have the same policy cover all overnight or long-term guests, regardless of relationship – friend, family, or significant other. “All guests of Hogwarts staff members must pass a background check and be registered. Staff members are responsible for ensuring guests adhere to Hogwarts rules of conduct. Please submit the guest application form 2 week prior to the intended stay. Guest passes are valid for 1 year; however dates for each visit must be provided to the campus security office in advance.”

            1. Clisby*

              +100. It makes no sense to me that boarding school would allow a resident faculty member to have any guest – romantic partner, family member, old friend, last week’s hookup – stay overnight without first being background-checked.

            2. Toothless*

              I could see this if you got like one or more “guest stays free” passes for like a sibling spending the night on a road trip or something, but if the same person wanted to stay more than once/twice in a month/year or something then they have to register.

            3. Malarkey01*

              I think some of this would depend on what sort of interaction is expected and possible for guests with students. Private school rules also vary significantly on background checks.

              Non-boarding school but my kids’ private schools don’t require background checks for parents on field trips, including overnight ones, even though kids in small groups are assigned with a parent and do things on their own without supervision with that chaperone. However if you are going to coach one of the teams at the school you need a check. It’s an arbitrary line, but one each school draws and one parents can decide if they agree with when they register their kid.
              Plus background checks can be expensive and involve time/paperwork that they may not want to do for infrequent visitors that won’t have any interaction with kids.

            4. Snuck*

              Bingo! Winner! Easy solution – any and all visitors who stay overnight in the accommodation that includes tens/hundreds? Of vulnerable minors should be able ot produce a police clearance not older than 3mths, or if you have a formal working with children style check a valid one of those.

              But I still agree with the comments above – having a romantic partner stay for a week can be very distracting and is wildly different to having a sister or friend visit, or a married partner who is established regularly in life on campus. The best way to manage this though would be to performance manage any outward issues that occur when the romantic visitor is staying – if duty calls aren’t answered, if public displays of affection set off rounds of gossip in the students, if there’s undue ‘noise’, if the whole thing isn’t handled with professional decorum… then address the behaviour and performance manage (and take away the privilege?).

    2. Libervermis*

      I’d be inclined to phrase it as “spouses and serious partners”, explain the reasoning, and tell folks I’m trusting them to make the call. If there are requirements like background checks, note that too. I can see where someone might choose to deliberately misunderstand, and it’s possible that approach just Does Not Work for HR/legal folks, but I’ve never found that a policy stops deliberate misunderstanding. If I trust someone to care for children, I trust them to make this judgement call. If they make it badly (more than just a mistake), we probably have some bigger problems than this one issue.

      1. Arctic*

        “If I trust someone to care for children, I trust them to make this judgement call.”

        But, unfortunately, that trust has been demonstrated to be misplaced in boarding schools all over the world. A new scandal emerges every other month.

        1. Snailing*

          That’s an issue with the original hiring and the school not doing their due diligence, though. It doesn’t really have anything to do with partners vs spouses.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Exactly. It’s a policy, not a law. But even laws don’t have to be perfectly unambiguous. This policy can allow judgment calls by management in borderline cases.

        1. Total*

          “This policy can allow judgment calls by management in borderline cases”

          Right — that’s where things start to fall down for me. What’s the borderline between serious and not-serious? I’m not comfortable with making judgments about the seriousness of other people’s relationships.

          The way they’re doing it now avoids much of the issues by making creating bright lines about the time (weekend) and legal (married couples are allowed all week). That avoids the school having to weigh in on individual relationships.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Look, life is ambiguous sometimes. The border doesn’t have to be defined. A gray area is ok. Why is everyone so afraid for managers to just manage?

            This is like when managers send passive aggressive memos to an entire department because they’re scared to talk to the one problematic employee about being late, or being uncooperative, or listening to loud music without earbuds. Or it’s like when a manager won’t address problematic attire because the dress code doesn’t explicitly forbid something.

            Everything doesn’t have to have perfectly clear boundaries to account for every potential scenario. Managers get paid more than everyone else because they are expected to do the extra work of making judgment calls when there are borderline cases.

            1. Total*

              “Why is everyone so afraid for managers to just manage?”

              Among other things, because managers in these kinds of situations have a long history of making irrelevant moral judgments part of their decisions.

            2. Maeve*

              Well one reason it would be very easy for implicit (or explicit!) bias to creep in when making judgment calls about the seriousness about same-sex relationships.

    3. Arctic*

      I think you could have a policy where any potential long-term guests must be registered with the school with a criminal background/sex offender list check run on them. That process rules out anyone you met at a bar that night. And you probably wouldn’t even bother doing it unless it was a relatively serious relationship.

      But I don’t know how you enforce that. It’s much easier to just find out you had someone over on a Tuesday. Than to run their name against registered allowed guests unless OP has to go through security every time (which is possible.)

      I do think the OP should acknowledge that the school may be doing things the wrong way but there are some valid underlying concerns at play. Even if they were poorly articulated.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Yes, I’d definitely say that the requirement for guests to be police checked would be a suitable way to handle this, especially since it addresses the actual issue (safety of the children in the school) instead of the optics issue (the children might realise that not all adults in relationships are married!!!). In fact I’d be astounded at any school that allowed adult guests to stay over without a police check, regardless of relationship status. I volunteer with a young person who lives in a residential school and I’m not even allowed into the building, I have to meet her at the door and take her out for the day.

        1. Arctic*

          I’m hoping the LW just didn’t mention background checks because it wasn’t super relevant. Because if they are really just letting people have sleepover guests on the weekends (when I assume kids are still around) without any even basic safe guards? Then the problem isn’t that they are too strict. It’s that they are way too lax.

          1. OP*

            Hi, OP here! Yes, repeat visitors need to get background checked – we were asked to have that done when my partner started visiting in September. I absolutely understand the safety concerns about having random adults around campus. But if the background check is done for a serious partner, and someone is coming every weekend already, I’m not sure I see where the increased liability is if that person were to stay longer. Thanks for your input!

            1. Arctic*

              Right, I totally agree! My original comment was that requiring this would be a way around judging how “serious” a relationship is. This was just a side tangent.

            2. Meg Murry*

              In normal (non-pandemic) times, do most of the students stay on campus during the weekend, or do many of the students leave most the weekends?

              I had friends that went to a regional boarding school where most students went home (or to each other’s homes) on weekends – so on weekends it was understood that students staying on campus would not be under the same kind of supervision they would during the week. I wonder if that is playing into the “visitors/partners ok on weekends (when rules are different) but not during the week”.

              Also, given that they are currently operating under pandemic / lockdown rules – could you ask that this policy be revised or revisited when they start to ease up on those policies? I imagine they will not just go from “pandemic rules over, now we go right back to the old rules” but rather through a period of revising anyway.

              Last – are there any residential staff there have recently gone through the “long term partner to married” transition? Anyone that could serve as a mentor to you in how they handled this kind of situation? Any chance of your partner became your “fiance” (even if there was no official wedding date in sight) that that would somehow make it ok?

            3. Clisby*

              I agree with that. Although I think any overnight visitor – not just repeat visitors – should have to be background-checked before being allowed to stay on a campus where minor children live.. Jeez, I had to have a background check just to be a volunteer reading tutor in the public school down the street.

            4. A*

              oh wow, ya if they already did the bg check I think their justification is even weaker than I first thought. So inconsistent!

          2. Clisby*

            I thought the same. Someone upthread mentioned that LGBT folks might not be willing to “out” themselves, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If I were teaching at a boarding school, I would think it was entirely reasonable for my sister to have to have a background check before staying with me on campus for even one night. Or my brother. Or a cousin. Or my best friend from college.

    4. Heidi*

      I’m wondering if having visitors register ahead of time with their names and length of stay could help with this. That way, the school could have some oversight regarding who is on campus but they don’t need to scrutinize the depth of anyone’s relationship.

      1. OP*

        Hi, OP here! Before we have visitors, we need to submit a visitor request form with contact information, length of stay, etc (as well as covid-19 screening/tracking questions). Then visitors are checked in and out of campus by a member of the administration.

          1. OP*

            Repeat visitors do! I don’t know the exact rules, but my significant other was asked to get a background check after he had visited for a couple of weekends.

            1. Clisby*

              IMO, it should have been required for even one night, weekend or not. Frankly, I’m not seeing that this school is vigilant enough about the safety of its students.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, I don’t know the age of the students, but even field trip chaperones had to get background checked at the school my mom used to work at. The only exceptions were when people (me included) volunteered for a program that was administered by an outside group.

    5. EmbracesTrees*

      Sure this is difficult but the idea that “it’s just too hard” is the same rationale that many orgs used to exclude long-term same-sex partners before marriage laws were equalized.
      Yes, I’m sure that that now someone will respond, “well, OP *could* get married, so it’s on her.” But (1) that sidesteps/ignores the initial argument in this thread (nothing like a moving target to keep people unequal). And (2) continues to privilege marital relationships which, lets be honest, is problematic for a lot of reasons.

      1. Total*

        I agree with you, and actually I wouldn’t have any problem with allowing non-married couples live on campus without *any* requirement about seriousness. It’s when we start to try and weigh whether *this* relationship is serious and thus deserving but that relationship is not serious and thus undeserving that I throw up my hands.

    6. Awkward Interviewee*

      This was discussed below a bit, but I wonder if being officially engaged would help. That would be one way to show the seriousness of the relationship.

      1. Clisby*

        I’m not sure why the “seriousness” of the relationship matters. What’s far more relevant is whether the visitor has undergone the same criminal background check the teacher has.

    7. Richard Hershberger*

      This. I was surprised by the suggestion that this is easy. Relationships run the entire spectrum with random bar hookup at one end and being married for all purposes other than the piece of paper at the other. There are no clear divisions along the way, and it can be hard to tell from the outside where a relationship lies on the spectrum. For that matter, it can be hard from the inside. I see neither an obvious spot on the spectrum to draw the line, nor how to determine on which side any given relationship lies.

  5. Dust Bunny*

    Can you take some vacation days over a weekend and stay together off campus?

    This arrangement wouldn’t work for me, but I wouldn’t work for a boarding school in the first place because I assume that they would have restrictions that I wouldn’t like, possibly because of religious/”moral” issues but also possibly because having an unvetted adult who might be considered a flight risk since they don’t have a permanent attachment to the person they’re visiting on campus seems like not a great idea from a PR standpoint, especially if the person they’re visiting would still have contact with students during that time. (I think this would be different for colleges, but I assume this is a boarding high school, where students are younger/mostly minors.)

    1. OP*

      Hi, OP here! Regarding off-campus housing (temporary or long-term), I would consider living off-campus next year if it would mean being able to live with my partner, but there’s almost no available/affordable housing nearby since it’s a rural campus. I’d have to change schools to make that work.

      1. Smithy*

        Is your school co-ed? I actually think you might have better luck if your partner offered to sleep in another room on campus during the week.

        The boarding school I went two was secular and very liberal – and while it was 20 years ago, they were very not-chill about long-term unmarried partners in residence life. That being said, they were more understanding to the reality that they were a remote campus and they weren’t heartless about staff connecting with family/friends.

        I completely understand that this may feel like caving and having your relationship made to feel juvenile or micromanaged. But I this might be seen as more of a low lift compromise by the school.

  6. lemon*

    I had a roommate who worked at a secular boarding school and had on-campus housing. It seemed like the reason they needed a second residence was so they could date without scrutiny (they were also LGBTQ, which I think contributed to their desire for privacy) and so they had a crash pad for partying on the weekends. My extremely liberal residential LAC also had on-campus housing for faculty/staff, and there was a similar requirement that only spouses or legal domestic partners (this was pre-marriage equality) were allowed. So, unfortunately, I think this is fairly common for on-campus housing. :(

  7. Dumpster Fire*

    Would it make a difference (to your school) if you were engaged? Not sure if that’s something you’re ready/willing to do (or say, at least) at this point, but if that makes a difference in their response to your request, it might be worth considering.

    1. entoloma*

      Definitely tell them you’re engaged. That might help establish the seriousness of the relationship, and there’s zero cost. There’s no law saying engaged people have to get married soon or ever.

    2. Casper Lives*

      I don’t think this would work. OP lives there. Her colleagues would ask her about wedding planning, and she would have to discuss venues etc or risk the jig being up. That would be worse! Then she’s the teacher who faked an engagement!

      1. Awkward Interviewee*

        Eh, I think in the Current Times, there’s an easy explanation for a long engagement: They want to be able to have more than immediate family in attendance, so they’re waiting a couple years until more people can safely travel/gather for their wedding.

      2. nonegiven*

        Just say there is no point in starting plans that specific until you both have jobs in the same area.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Sometimes that can really backfire. “Okay, so just wait till your wedding till you have overnight relationships!” or you get pressured into “when’s the wedding?” and the dreaded “you shouldn’t have nookie before marriage because it’s for making kids and marriage is about making kids…”

      (The last one is from direct experience. What a year THAT was….)

    4. OP*

      There’s one couple living together on campus who are engaged, not married, but that was an exception because their wedding last summer was cancelled because of covid. I’m not sure our being engaged would help with the visiting issue… but I’m considering it.

  8. Amy*

    I’ve spent a lot of with various New England boarding schools. I’m a little surprised one would be surprised by this policy.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        It absolutely is unreasonable. She’s allowed to have friends or siblings or anyone she’s not romantically involved with stay over long-term during the week. So any of the arguments about distraction or leaving a non-school related adult unattended are moot. She’s also allowed to have her partner stay with her overnight on the weekends. So any arguments that it’s about propriety of unmarried women are also moot. There are no arguments that make this policy of singling out unmarried partners only as being not allowed to stay overnight during the week makes sense.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          I think it could also be an expectation thing. They don’t expect a sibling or friend to visit often the way a partner might. They might think a sibling visit would be once a semester or so where a romantic partner could practically be there all the time.

          1. nonegiven*

            How many people get that much PTO that it would be more than an extra night or two at a time or a week once or twice per school year?

            1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              Depends on what kind of work the SO does and if any of it can be done remotely. Before the pandemic, my job was 60% onsite/40% offsite (fully remote right now), so I could easily have done long weekends with an SO 2 hours away every weekend, traveling Thursday after work and Monday after work, as long as I had a place to work remotely during the day on those remote-work Mondays and Fridays (such as in their apartment while they were busy teaching).

              Some kinds of remote work, although not mine, might also have lent themselves to a rotating one week local/one week away schedule or something else along those lines. Some people also may work 4 tens or other non-standard schedules, particularly if they’re trying to make things work with an SO who lives just far enough away that it doesn’t make sense to live together but it does make sense to see each other regularly.

        2. Amy*

          Many of these boarding schools are more a lifestyle than a job. They are sui generis, almost like joining an intentional community.

          I live almost on the campus of one now. Students go to chapel, often dress in identical blazers, professors sometimes wear robes and they have all kinds of traditions and pranks going back to the 19th century. For me, it wouldn’t work as a career but many people love it. Aspects of it remind me of that M. Night Shyamalan movie where the think they live in a 19th century village when it’s really the 21st century.

          But it’s a very pretty backdrop for picnics.

      2. Random Commenter*

        Perhaps it’s typical for the region, but I’d argue it’s definitely unreasonable.

        As the OP has mentioned, the rules would allow for their partner to stay during the week if they were married, or if they were not romantically involved at all. It’s only disallowed for a non-married romantic partner. That’s pretty ridiculous.

        1. A*

          I went to a New England boarding school and this was not experience, so definitely not regional across the board. My school didn’t allow any overnight visitors, live in staff/faculty could live with a SO (married or not) but they had to be living together full time and go through the same background check process etc. as the staff.

          The issue here isn’t whether or not overnight guests should be allowed, it’s the inconsistency in their application. Makes no sense!

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Yes, I think the inconsistency/illogic of this school’s policy is definitely the problem. It would seem less strange to me if they had a blanket “no sleepovers on campus with so’s for unmarried teachers” policy. That would be annoying and outdated, for sure, but it would make a certain kind of (annoying and outdated) sense. Whereas the policy they have doesn’t seem to have any kind of sense or logic to it.

          2. Clisby*

            Yes, that’s how I see it. Either overnight guests are allowed, or they’re not. If they are, IMO they all should have to pass criminal background checks before staying even one night on campus, and if there are restrictions on which days overnight guests are allowed they should apply across the board.

        2. Tamar Rowe*

          Surely if they were married, they would be living together full time unless there was a particular reason not to? Which is a different situation to a frequent visitor.

          When I was a student, I had a boyfriend who used to visit my shared house. My housemates could object if it was too often in a way that they wouldn’t have if he was renting one of the rooms and living there full time.

    1. OP*

      That’s helpful insight, thank you! I didn’t go to a boarding school, and this is my first time working at one, so I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. We discussed the visitor policy a little in the interview, but I was told that no one could live with you or stay for more than 2 weeks, not that no significant others were allowed to visit on weekdays or for more than a couple of days at a time. I guess I feel a little baited-and-switched, if that’s a word. But helpful to know that it’s common, thanks!

      1. ResLife*

        Honestly, this is going to be a pretty standard policy at most boarding schools, especially more traditional ones, and ESPECIALLY ones with any sort of religious connection (however old and weak it might be).

        It sucks, but you’re going to find a standard view of that from most boarding programs. They do not want your significant other there on the nights that you are on duty. It’s not fair that a boyfriend (or whatever) is treated differently than a husband (or whatever), but that’s usually the attitude. I lived in a boarding dorm for 5 years and most of the younger faculty who weren’t married moved out so that they could continue their relationships. You will VERY frequently run into the attitude that you’re expected to be unofficially available even on school nights that you aren’t on duty (like I had to attend community dinners twice a week, not on my duty night).

        Especially if you are a fresh out of college teacher or res life faculty, generally the attitude I have seen from most schools is that you can take the job or leave it. They will just hire someone to replace you if you quit and many of these boarding schools expect a lot of turnover. (My school did one year contracts and our head did not care at ALL about retention.) You have to weigh the benefits of res life (mostly in terms of how much money you save on rent/utilities – I saved a down payment for a house) vs. the negative impact on your social life and life outside of school.

        1. OP*

          That’s really interesting, thank you! I agree that I have very little leverage, even if I’ve been getting really good feedback so far and teach a niche combination of subjects that they might have some trouble hiring for. I think I have to weigh up the benefits of free rent and financial stability (which is amazing!) versus actually getting to live my life like I hoped I would be able to. It’s pretty isolating being in a rural place during a pandemic (few of the usual events to get integrated into this new community), without my partner, so that’s probably influencing my thinking/feeling about this as well. Inspiring to hear that you were able to save so much, congratulations!

          1. A*

            I would encourage you not to dwell on the ‘free rent’ bit as typically that is reflected in the compensation package (and if not, if you’re getting paid the same as if you were living off campus than holy cabooses that’s a good deal minus all this inconsistent policy application).

            I ultimately chose not to accept a position at my old boarding school not only because I wasn’t interested in the lifestyle sacrifices, but also because I realized quickly that what I thought would be free room/board was definitely not… the salary was notably lower if I accepted an on campus position specifically because that was included.

            Just food for thought!

  9. Yessica Haircut*

    Oof. I don’t have any meaningful advice for the OP, but, frankly, this sounds like an untenable long-term professional situation. Maybe it’s because I was raised in an extremely strict religious household and my freedom in adulthood is precious to me, but I can’t imagine living under these kinds of onerous rules as an adult, especially imposed by my employer.

    Sending you good vibes, letter writer, and sincerely hoping you are able to find a workable solution!

    1. OP*

      Hi, OP here! Thank you so much for your comment / compassion. It really does feel weird to be back in the mode where I feel like I’m being watched 24/7 and judged for something that I don’t think is wrong (having a partner stay over when we’re unmarried). It doesn’t feel like real adulthood. I love this school and I love my students, but I don’t want to feel like my employer is controlling my personal life or judging me for it.

      1. Tiffany*

        Sorry to say that being watched 24/7 and judged for your lifestyle is part and parcel for teachers living on-campus in a private boarding school. Some people love the boarding school lifestyle and lots of others find it oppressive, but there’s next to nothing you can do to change it as a young first-year hire.

        1. M*

          This. I have lived and worked in boarding schools my entire career- 20 years- and I love it. For me, the benefits outweigh the challenges. There are a lot of quality of life benefits and it can be really rewarding to get to know students well.

          But you absolutely trade many levels of privacy and making changes is usually a slow slow process.

          1. OP*

            That’s really lovely to hear, @M! If I were married and/or had my partner living with me on campus, I can see myself being really happy here long-term. There are a lot of special things about living on campus, the kids are great, and the free rent is amazing. This is just a tough year to be isolated and unable to see my partner very much, I guess. We’ll see what next year holds!

      2. Yessica Haircut*

        I think that’s completely understandable, and in your shoes, I’d probably be exploring other job opportunities too, even if I liked aspects of the boarding school role.

      3. bleh*

        Worked in Residence Life at a College – same rules. I was late 20s and had previously lived with partner. It made me feel like a high schooler sneaking around. Gross.

      4. Reluctant Manager*

        There are a lot of approaches here, so this is just my opinion…

        I think the personal touch can make a big difference in situations such as this one, where the faculty are living in the same fish bowl but also have the expectation that some people will come and go every year. I suspect that cultivating a warm, personal-but-professional relationship with people who have influence (such as the dean), introducing your partner when they’re visiting (what seems more responsible and normal than inviting your colleague for afternoon tea?), and referring to them as your “partner” might go a long way. No drama–be someone who they don’t have to worry about taking a mile if they just make this reasonable accommodation.*

        They have seen young teachers come and go, some who stuck but most who didn’t. They have the emotional urgency of young love in the air all the time, and probably the simmering of a pair of teachers who are on the verge of divorce… I bet they are generally unmoved by romantic relationships, and I bet a year here and there doesn’t feel like a big deal. (They might be more willing to consider it for Year 3.)

        *Obviously this doesn’t mean accept the unreasonable/abusive/illegal in exchange for this one thing–just that it will go a lot further if this is the only issue.

  10. employment lawyah*

    Boarding schools are weird. Religious ones in particular can have a lot of rules which stem from tradition, beliefs, or teachings and which are not necessarily alterable through cold logic. Depending on the school, this also may be a Board of Trustees thing, which can take a while.

    If they’re applying the same rules to all resident faculty (male/female, gay/straight, etc.) then it seems unlikely that this will change in the short term. If they like you and if you would otherwise plan to leave over this, you might want to give them that info and work with them to try to find a solution by next year though it may not work.

    1. kittymommy*

      I was thinking along these lines as well, that it might be something from the Board and/or donors/bequests. It would explain why her supervisor/Director might have difficulty explaining it, especially if it’s something that person doesn’t actually agree with but doesn’t have the ability to do anything about.

      1. Agnes Teapot*

        Boarding school grad here and I imagine this rule has little to do with what the school administration personally thinks and much more to do with how a parent, paying high tuition costs, may perceive it and raise holy heck (no pun intended) and cause major headaches for the school. Image is a top priority with prep schools and all our residential staff members who were unmarried would take long weekends from time to time, off campus.

        1. Ellenaria*

          Yep, I think this is a big part of it. My boarding school had a lot of international students, from China, India, the Gulf, and various African countries. Those international families paid higher tuition than the average American student. To create an environment where children from conservative cultures around the world, as well as a variety of American backgrounds, feel comfortable without their families is a delicate art.

          I remember once a young male teacher living in a dorm had his girlfriend stay for the weekend. That was the gossip of the century! The boys were blatantly listening at his door all night.

          1. A*

            And I would not be thrilled to pay the $60k a year or so it would cost to send my son to boarding school to have this become his focus…. ;)

  11. Profe*

    Unfortunately this is really common with boarding schools, which is why they have a hard time retaining younger faculty. Typically teachers stay for a year or two, or 30 (and are married to fellow faculty). Good luck pushing back, but admin likely knows it’s a dealbreaker and doesn’t care that much.

    1. Miss Jean Brodie*

      Yep, came here to say that this is one of the facts of life with most boarding schools and is one of the factors responsible for the churn, especially with younger faculty. It doesn’t necessarily make much sense (although I do think schools just don’t want to put themselves into the position of arbitrating what constitutes a serious relationship), but for schools, that turnover is part of the cost of doing business.

    2. Anonymous for the this comment*

      I think it really depends. When I was younger, I had a friend who worked a live in position at a non-religious boarding school. Said friend and I had an on again off again friends with benefits type situation for awhile, and I would stay with them at their on campus apartment for several days at a time. If was often during school breaks, but not always. The attitude there definitely seemed to be that whatever the res life staff did in their own apartments was their business.

      1. OP*

        Thanks for this contribution! This is more what I thought it would be like, given the heavy focus on “the apartment would be your home, you can do what you want there” that came across from administration in my interviews. They said that several times, and it doesn’t really line up with what I’ve experienced since getting here.

    3. Batgirl*

      This is probably hitting the nail on the head. If there is not one long standing employee in an unmarried partnership it’s probably because the school wants it that way and not because the OP’s wish is in any way unusual.

  12. Brett*

    On a completely non-religious non-moral aspect of this…
    employer provided housing, especially in education, has some complicated tax issues, some of which require only spouses and dependents to live in the housing.

    1. Brett*

      I’ll add that it is entirely possible the dean of faculty is unaware of the tax implications (especially since the dean herself seemed a little unclear on the complete reasoning).

    2. Delta Delta*

      This is a very good point. There could be income-related issues that OP hadn’t considered for the partner.

      Related – I’d be curious about how OP’s compensation structure works. The phrase that she must always be “fully present” for the students suggests that she actually does not receive any time off. If that’s the expectation, she may be paid below minimum wage.

      1. Me*

        She’s likely salaried therefore minimum wage is not relevant. The typical boarding school expectation is if they live there they are part of the community and engaging. She also almost certainly gets time off whether it’s on school breaks or rotating duty nights or weekends. I have friends who live/work at boarding schools. It’s different because they live there but they’re not constantly actually working.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “She’s likely salaried therefore minimum wage is not relevant.”
          In education? I’m not so sure about that.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Yes, in education.

            Your “off” hours are expected to be respected for normal student interaction and responsibilities. If there is an emergency, the expectation is also that you will be available to help deal with it anyway. It’s more like being on call than on duty.

          2. kbeers0su*

            I think what you’re referring to is FLSA, which sets a minimum salary for exempt folks. As long as she’s paid at least that rate, then having her be either on call broadly or on duty for assigned nights is ok. I say this as someone who (for many, many years) worked in similar positions, supervised these positions, and worked through the changes to FSLA (both proposed under Obama and implemented under Trump).

          3. ResLife*

            Keep in mind also that most private school teachers are not in a union. The boarding school I taught at offered 1 year contracts and no union, so there’s not too much opportunity for teachers to push back. These types of schools often expect VERY high turnover from the younger faculty. Especially in res life, many only stay 2-5 years.

      2. lemon*

        Teaching professionals are exempt from the FLSA so they are not required to be paid a minimum wage or overtime.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      That doesn’t explain why the OP can have a friend or sibling spend the night on weekdays, but not a romantic partner.

      1. Clisby*

        Right. That’s irrational. The friend, the sibling, the romantic partner should all be required to have criminal background checks before they can spend even one night on a campus with minor children. If the school isn’t requiring this, they’re crazy.

      2. Brett*

        I think it is drawing the distinction between visiting and living there.

        I’m pretty sure the school would object to the OP having a friend or sibling live with them as well. When it is a romantic partner, drawing that distinction between visiting and living with gets tougher. (I mean, how is the school drawing the distinct between “friend” and “romantic partner” in the first place?)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But we’re not talking about anyone living with them. We’re talking about someone spending the night on a weekend vs a weekday. That’s where the line is being drawn, and it makes no sense to draw it there, unless their duties are different on weekends.

          1. Elsajeni*

            I think it is a fair point, though, that they might have to either define for themselves what counts as “living in the apartment” or abide by some agency’s definition of it, which may include something like “anyone who stays over more than X nights per Y time period is considered a resident” or overlap with policies like “guests are restricted to weekends; only residents may stay in campus apartments during the week.” It doesn’t seem like that’s the only factor here, since the OP has noted that they’re more lenient with non-romantic-partner guests, but if it’s *a* factor, then getting permission for her partner to stay over during the week would involve changing those definitions or policies, which is going to be a little more complicated than just, like, reasoning with them about the nature of her relationship.

  13. Mrs. Vexil*

    I wonder if this sort of “work culture” question was covered pre-employment? Or if one side or the other just assumed the other side (mistakenly) thought the other knew the way it would work? It’s been a while but I was a student at an all-girls boarding school- and seems to me, Monday thru Friday the campus was kind of a closed community for everyone, students and residential faculty and staff alike. Organized events (like, going into the city for a play or concert) and sports took place after class hours on weeknights, but socializing and guests were for weekends for the girls and the faculty. I do remember a lot of the young single women teachers/administrators in residence leaving for weekends when they weren’t on weekend duty.

    1. OP*

      It did come up in my interview, and I do think there was a miscommunication, since it wasn’t laid out clearly. I was told that no one could live with you or stay for more than 2 weeks, but the dean didn’t mention that significant others couldn’t stay on weeknights, or that other kinds of guests COULD stay. I definitely know to ask more about this policy specifically if I work at other boarding schools in the future.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Is that 2 weeks at a time or cumulative? I mentioned this earlier but I can see this coming into play with the differences between how often a sibling versus a partner would visit. It sounds like trying to draw the line between living and visiting and a sibling might come visit for a week or so, but most likely wouldn’t stay for a week, leave for 2 days, and then come back for another visit. However a partner would be expected to have a more regular visitation schedule where they are there much more than an occasional special visits and they are trying to nip that in the bud without explaining it very well.

  14. embertine*

    I lived and worked at a boarding school and was not allowed my partner to stay at all in term time. Allison is right, the idea that it’s fine at weekends but not during the week is inconsistent.

  15. magc17*

    Just curious: if they’re planning on getting married, would referring to her partner as her fiancé make any difference?

    1. Batgirl*

      I’d personally be surprised. Whether it’s for tax or religious reasons, engaged is not married. It could certainly help if it’s just a question of “we don’t want a selection of hook ups here” but at this stage, they should know he’s a fixture in her life. Possibly they don’t want a different serious boyfriend visiting her every year? The unspoken nature of this culture is very annoying.

      1. not a boarding school teacher for this very reason*

        Unspoken culture is exactly what’s happening. It sounds like OP did due diligence when interviewing and this is an understandable frustration. The only other thing I could possibly suggest for next time is if you get the chance to talk to other faculty who are also young and unmarried during the interview process, read heavily between the lines on what they tell you.

  16. Alison*

    As an adult women in a long term, serious relationship where I have been living with my partner for the last seven years but we have no intention of getting married I am pretty incensed for the OP. Not all people in relationships get married for tons of reasons and insisting they live separately is ridiculous*. I wonder if this rule is somewhat to do with OP’s age. If a woman in her 40’s or 50’s wanted to work there and live with the man she had lived with for the last 10 years even if they weren’t married would it be looked at the same?

    * I understand that in this case it isn’t that the partner wants to live there, only visit, but if he did he wouldn’t be allowed to.

    1. Batgirl*

      I bet the older partnered woman just wouldn’t get the job. That would be a very interesting legal position to take if it was just women but if they are wise to that they just need to ban it for men too.

    2. Suze*

      Yes they would and would likely be even more surprised if the hypothetical older lady pushed back. This is how things are in this line of work.

    3. Gulane*

      Yes, they would. This is just how it goes in this context. That’s generally well known and understood, and that’s part of the trade off people make for the financial and other benefits they get from this arrangement. It’s unreasonable and unfair, sure, but it’s how it works and OP really isn’t in a position to change that.

  17. blink14*

    Former New England co-ed boarding school student here from the early 2000s. This is very much in line with the culture and really the requirements of being a faculty member living on campus, both for faculty actually living in a dorm or on campus in a school owned residence. I had many dorm parents, both married and unmarried, some living with their kids in dorm apartments and school residences. All have dorm affiliations. This is a huge piece of the boarding school culture, as a faculty member you are expected and required to integrate as much as possible with the student body. I can’t ever remember a time that any of my dorm parents actually living in a dorm having a significant other present for more than a few days, unless married or in a very long term partnership in which the campus is that person’s permanent residence as well.

    There is also the question of safety – who is this person, what is their background, etc? Of course things can happen with those who have been permitted to live on campus – in my time there was a teacher who was having multiple affairs with female students, and his wife lived on campus with him and was affiliated with one of the after school programs.

    Overall, the boarding school culture sort of unintentionally forces a situation where couples tend to both teach/work at the school, or the partner who is not a faculty or staff member is heavily involved with student activities, dorm parenting, etc. It’s an insular life revolving around the school, and that’s what boarding schools are looking for in teachers. You are committing your professional life and a huge part of your personal life to the school. If that’s not for you, than the boarding school life isn’t for you.

    1. OP*

      Thank you for this insight! As much as I like the school and the students, I do need to have a think as to whether a boarding school / residential faculty role is right for me in the future.

      1. blink14*

        You’re welcome! I’m happy to share more about my experience as a student – I definitely came out of it with a different view than many students, I wasn’t and probably still would not be considered the model boarding school student. I have a good sense of what the pros and cons really are, from the student perspective.

      2. wicherwill*

        I’ve seen blink14 reply throughout, and I’ll add here as well from my perspective as a a former New England co-ed boarding school student from the later 2000s. I had a wonderful time, so that’s my bias, but I’ll note re: teachers–there are definitely two categories of teachers. Half are the type that blink14 has described–ingrained in the school life (by choice!) and deeply available to students. The other half, which include some of my favorite teachers (with whom I am still in contact), could have been weekend cultists for all I knew.

        There’s a whole sort of universe you can enjoy when you’re part of these wealthy private education systems. Again, acknowledge my bias (I loved loved it, and so while I’ve had heart-to-hearts with my former teachers as an adult I tended to connect with those who also enjoyed it) but setting aside the ethical implications of private schooling, being a teacher at one of these schools means you never worry about things like funding or finding support for a student who needs extra help.

        All this aside–yes, the no-habitation-unless-married rule applied across the board at my secular school as well!

        1. blink14*

          So many schools to wonder where you went! I will say that my school was on the more traditional end of the spectrum – lower number of day students, very insular campus, small number of faculty that lived off campus or out of the local area.

          Definitely can depend on the specific school’s culture and set up. A school with more day students tends to have more faculty who are a little less involved or live off campus. A school with less faculty housing produces a similar effect.

      1. blink14*

        Back at ya, friend! I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a student these days with social media. Did you all have a printed, real FaceBook directory of all the students? What a nightmare that was!

        1. Nothing But Flowers*

          I am older than both of you (late 90s), but NE boarding school alumni represent! I agree with everyone else – young faculty left after 1-2 years or got married and stayed forever. None of our dorm parents were unmarried, aside from the one gay couple (legally unmarried, but in all other ways).

  18. Rara Avis*

    I started my career at a girls’ Catholic boarding school. My boyfriend (now husband), although an employee of the school, could not visit me at all because there was no separate entrance to the dorm room I lived in (others who had apartments with separate entrances could have visitors), and men could not be in the dorm with the girls. I understood the logic, but I also knew that working at a boarding school would be short-term for me — I wanted more of a separation of life and work. The girls were obsessively interested in teachers’ social lives and even if it had been allowed, I would not have had him spend the night — just taking a walk together around campus led to weeks of gossip and intrusive questions.

  19. Three Flowers*

    Actually, as someone who used to be an administrator/supervisor at a residential educational program, the dean’s perspective on focusing on students does make sense. A married couple who live together permanently are *not* a distraction to each other the way a long-distance partner visiting for a week would be. The past-religious-heritage stuff adds a layer of confusion here, but it’s totally reasonable to ask faculty who work with under-18 students on the residential side in any way (activities, after-hours duties, dorm parent, etc) not to have any overnight visitors during the week. The program I worked with had no religious heritage at all and that was our policy.

    1. Three Flowers*

      Should clarify “layer of confusion” re past religious stuff: OP is getting distracted by this, rather than it confusing the school’s policy. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with the validity of the policy.

    2. OP*

      Hello, OP here! Thanks for your comment. I agree that it would make sense if no visitors at all were allowed during the week, but siblings and friends etc can stay on week nights, it’s only partners who aren’t allowed to stay as guests during the week.

      1. OP*

        Also, I’m curious as to whether that goes for just the days/weeks when faculty have residential duties, or every night of the week? I’m only on duty for 1-2 nights a week and 1 weekend a month, and in theory the other nights and weekends are my own.

        1. Batgirl*

          Does that mean you’re ok to leave the campus and stay with your partner? I wonder how much of a technicality that is, or if youre expected to jump into the fray if something unexpected happens.

          1. kbeers0su*

            Agreed- I mentioned something about this below. You need to clarify what it means to be on duty vs. if you’re always on call. Because I’ve had live-in roles where I was on duty certain nights (i.e. expected to respond to any call/situation) but I was always on call (i.e. could be called at any time to help with any situation should the need arise). So perhaps they’re thinking you’re always on call and you’re assuming that if you’re not on duty, then you’re also not on call.

            1. OP*

              This is a really good point and I don’t actually know the answer for sure, so I’ll ask around! I know that you’re allowed to leave the campus when you’re not on duty, e.g. people can go out and do things in the wider world, but are you still theoretically on call? Could you stay the night somewhere else? Not sure.

            2. Three Flowers*

              This is an excellent question. (We had a similar distinction w/r/t alcohol because of our very small permanent/admin staff. Whether you were technically “on duty” or not, you could not drink at all or leave campus for more than an errand. That changed only if you were on a formal day off. This is a lot stricter than most schools, though, because it was summer program risk management and we had specific accreditor regulations about the number of on-campus, compos-mentis [ie totally sober] leadership level staff we had to have around at any given time to handle an emergency. Boarding schools have way more human-power than we did.)

      2. Three Flowers*

        Interesting. That *is* weird. But I’d be more inclined to say that your employer should extend the no-visitors-if-you-have-responsibilities rule to *any* visitor, not just partners, rather than getting rid of the rule for partners.

      3. Meg Murry*

        Even if it is technically not “against the rules” for residential faculty to have their sister / BFF / whomever visiting or staying over during the week, I suspect that in fact having overnight visitors that often is also frowned upon. Just because it isn’t “against the rules” doesn’t mean the teacher wouldn’t be judged/reprimanded for it – and while they might not be outright fired for it, I suspect they would be pushed out or not have their contract renewed for “bad cultural fit”.

        I suspect a big part of this is that OP doesn’t have a boarding school background and therefore doesn’t know all the unspoken rules / “the way things work here” – and those things weren’t spelled out for her because the people who have been there forever or were boarding school students themselves don’t even realize that they aren’t “obvious to everyone”.

        1. OP*

          @Meg Murry I think you’re absolutely right about the unwritten rules. It’s been frustrating trying to figure it all out, and because I started here during covid-19, there’s been less interaction with other faculty, less faculty orientation, less training etc than usual, so I’m often left feeling confused about things that seem obvious to others. And because there’s less of the usual school structure, events, etc this year, it’s harder to get a handle on the school culture, too.

  20. Smithy*

    I went to a non-religious pretty liberal boarding school (free condoms in the bathrooms!) – and for full-time residence staff….I don’t think they’d be able to make this request. Something about the optics of being available and on-duty during the week were more the issue at play, but the results were the same.

    With that being said, I actually think the OP might have better luck asking if her long-term partner could stay in another dorm room during the week. Essentially make the case that during the week, they could share off-duty meals/free time with partner – but partner would sleep in the dorm room during the week and be otherwise occupied when the OP in his own space when the OP was on call.

    Where my school was, the travel to get there was a trek – so there would be sympathy in not wanting to make someone travel all that way for a single over night. If the OP’s school is single sex, and the partner is of the opposite sex…..then I think this request becomes harder.

  21. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    No advice, but this took me all the way back to Home Country, where unmarried couples staying together was something frowned upon. (In an almost 100% Atheist society, go figure.) Now-ex-husband and I were still dating with the plans of getting married after he graduated college in a bit over a year. He came over to visit me on his winter break. I lived in employer-provided housing at my first job and shared a room with two other young women, so he could not stay there. I pulled some strings and got him a nice hotel room all to himself in a hotel not far from my housing. When I came down there for some 1:1 time right after my work day, the hotel staff did not have any issues with that. But he was not allowed to have anyone stay the night in his room. Apparently the night started at 9:30 PM. Which we found out when several hotel staff came to his room and shouted and banged on the door until I got dressed and left the room (much like in yesterday’s letter about the no-show employee, haha). Today, it would be a deal-breaker to me, as I do not plan to remarry, ever, but do have a partner and will probably have others in the 3-4 decades I have left of my life. If I was required to live in employer housing, but could not have a significant other over, I would not be able to take that job.

  22. Batgirl*

    I don’t know if my read here is correct, but this seems to be a stance against living together before marriage? As in, they are categorizing a visit at the weekend as just courtship, or at least very different to being there most of the time, or all of the time. I think you need them to explain the difference. I work in a Catholic school where its ok to mention an unmarried partner but in some you’d have to pretend they were just a boyfriend. This stuff matters.

  23. HarrietWriterPants*

    For the first three years out of college, I worked and lived at a boarding school in Ohio. I had no RA duties in the dorm; I lived in an unused dorm. Once I had a very unpleasant conversation with the headmistress because it had “come to their attention” that I had a male visitor over for a few nights in a row (my boyfriend from out of town). It was not written into any kind of contract or use clause about the living arrangements; she just said it was frowned upon to have visitors of the opposite gender. Two years later, I had an equally unpleasant conversation with the new headmistress about two kids who had looked into my living room windows after their dorm lights-out and seen me watching TV and kissing my girlfriend (I’m bisexual). She did not spend the night, but I was nonetheless reprimanded for having a visitor and for being seen “in a compromising situation” in my own residence. I pointed out that the windows in question did not have blinds, shades, or curtains, and was told that I should have raised this issue with maintenance in advance in order to prevent this very sort of unexpected spying from occurring. Big sigh. In my experience, they just didn’t want unmarried teachers/counselors to be romantically or sexually active in any kind of way that the kids could gossip about. End stop. There was no healthy separation of work/life boundaries at that job. I wish you all the best.

    1. kbeers0su*

      Ew. Everything about this sucks. Especially when they blamed you for students being out past curfew peeking into windows. Let’s talk about how the students should have been addressed, and how not doing so is going to lead to them thinking that 1) they have a right to be out past curfew 2) that spying on others is ok 3) especially when you get dirt on a staff member 4) that they probably then used to cast you in a poor light to deter some of the attention they should have received for their bad behavior.

    2. blink14*

      This sounds pretty normal in a boarding school experience, to be honest. It’s definitely not the life for everyone. Campus is a fishbowl and you have to be ok with altering your life to fit that.

  24. Pinto*

    Here is the thing, the school has parents it needs to answer to. Likely very wealthy ones that the school needs to rely upon in order to have a place for you to work. And they are not going to risk parental backlash when Susie shares that Miss Smith’s boyfriend is here visiting this week. This isn’t the corporate world and normal accepted business protocols won’t apply. There is nothing legally inappropriate with the schools stance whether it seems antiquated or not. So the real issue is whether you are willing to accept this and renew your contract or whether you simply want to move on.

    1. Smithy*

      Yeah – this reminds me of the situation too many teachers found themselves in professional trouble when any kind of vaguely adult content was found on social media even if the activities happened on holidays/off-hours.

      There are just far too many parents – religious or otherwise – where they don’t want their children’s educators’ personal lives to touch their children unless they can control it. And for private institutions, all the more such.

    2. blink14*

      Nail on the head, exactly. I was a boarding school student and the lives of students and faculty were intertwined on a daily basis. The faculty and staff were held to a very high standard of conduct.

    3. K in Boston*

      When I was in high school, my Latin teacher told me it wasn’t uncommon in the past to fire pregnant teachers as soon as they started “showing” because then kids might…….you know………be aware………..that you had…….you know………..done stuff………………

      In my youth, this seemed unfathomable, and now seems more like, gross but sadly not all that surprising.

    4. Not Mr Keating*

      Exactly. And parents are entitled to enroll their kids in religious institutions that will act consistently with religious values, including prohibitions on faculty having premarital sex.

      That might not (scratch that; would not!) be the choice I would make, but as they say, different strokes for different folks.

      And yes, there is absolutely a difference between having a friend over for one night and a romantic partner. You’re not sleeping with a friend.

      The only way this is inappropriate is if it’s being selectively enforced (eg, for female but not make teachers).

      1. anonymost*

        “And yes, there is absolutely a difference between having a friend over for one night and a romantic partner. You’re not sleeping with a friend.”

        I wholly disagree with this statement (although it’s likely the same thinking that the school administrators/board espouse, consciously or not). Unnecessarily moralizing adults’ sexual choices aside, it’s frankly a completely inappropriate measuring stick and makes a lot of assumptions about an employee’s relationships, romantic or otherwise. What sex acts count? What if I’m asexual but still have a partner I’d like to have over? No thanks.

        1. Clisby*

          I disagree, too, if only for the glaringly obvious fact that “having a friend over for one night” could be sleeping with the guy you just hooked up with in a bar and will never see again.

        2. Koikoi*

          I agree that it is silly for an employer to make such rules for their employees, but as far as religious schools trying to cultivate a strict, traditional, moral environment modeled by teachers for students, it makes sense. And it is precisely because they don’t want to wade into the details that they make rules like “no romantic partners”.

  25. Elena Vazquez*

    Background checks cost money particularly if you’re doing drug testing and it could be costly for the school if the staff member has multiple partners over the course of employment. There’s also liability issues if the guest falls or gets injured. I’ve worked for companies that just don’t allow non employees into their building. This policy doesn’t seem all that unreasonable given similar policies at other places.

    1. Clisby*

      Oh, the school shouldn’t have to pay for the background checks. That cost should be borne by the faculty/staff member who wants to have overnight guests.

  26. itiswhatitis*

    Can you claim you’re engaged? If they’re trying to distinguish between hook ups and serious relationships that gives them a graceful out. And just because you’re “engaged” doesn’t mean you have to get married any time soon, or any time at all for that matter. If you and your partner are considering moving up the wedding just to accommodate them then getting/pretending to be engaged sounds like it wouldn’t be an issue for you?

  27. Wanderer*

    I have worked in residential situations with minors, and I understand wanting to be strict. The reason, for me, is about protecting the safety of minors, which means limiting the adults who have access to their place of living, especially for extended times or in regular occurrences. It might be unfortunate, but admins absolutely must think about the ways that their systems might be vulnerable to a predatory person, and do everything they can to limit that, even when it might put limitations on other things, too. There should be real limits on non-employed, non-vetted adults being in that space, especially for longer periods of time or in regular intervals, where they could get to know the campus and students. It does seem the school might be inconsistent on their rules, so I think that’s worth understanding better. I also think that the rules should be made to account for various ways of life–there isn’t one way to be single or in a relationship, and there shouldn’t be unfair distinctions based on gender, orientation, or anything else. But I also agree with the former student who pointed out that if having your personal life integrated into the campus isn’t for you, then this type of work might not be for you long term.

  28. animaniactoo*

    From my own experience as a former boarding school student: I suspect that what he meant by “be more present for the students” is (particularly if your school is as small as mine was): This campus is a gossip hotbed. Particularly relationships, and anything that reeks of sex. The STUDENTS are likely to be distracted and gossiping about this and we don’t want to deal with that.”

    In which case, I can tell you that you will absolutely be gossiped about and that is a situation for the school to handle, not avoid by placing the burden of managing that on you.

    I am also willing to stake a largish amount of money this rule is in place because at some point before, it was a problem with ONE faculty member.

    Points I would suggest:

    1) You are less able to be present for your students if you are missing your partner and unable to get some solid one-on-one time with them. Of more than a few days or over breaks. That is not how relationships thrive and it’s an unreasonable expectation – even for resident faculty.

    2) IF their presence means that you are distracted and less present, THAT is the time to raise it as an issue, not a pre-emptive ban “just in case”.

    3) Part of being resident faculty is modeling healthy and NORMAL adult behavior. Having a partner stay for longer than a few days does not fall outside of that. Watching someone have their partner while still in the dating phase around AND continuing to handle their job well is good modeling. And if you screw it up and the school has to discipline you, then seeing THAT is good modeling for the kids in “actions have consequences”.

    4) By continuing this ban, they are reinforcing a mindset on the kids about sex and relationships that can be very unhealthy.

    5) If there is student talk, that’s normal and if it’s not about this, it will be about something else. You are willing to discuss how your relationship should be discussed with students if it comes up. Either by you, or by other faculty members.

    6) Are they banning tvs? Cuz if not, seeing you have a partner present during the workweek is not going to be any more influential than what they see on tv. And what they see on tv is likely to be less balanced than the actual norms of such a visit.


    For yourself, personally – yes, we know EVERYTHING. Far more than you think we are aware of. The speed of light has nothing on a small residential campus full of teens.

    1. OP*

      Haha, this comment made me smile. My apartment in the dorms has really thin walls, so I shudder to think of all the times students have heard me singing loudly to myself while doing chores.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Actually – the thin walls could be part of the history of this rule also, especially if students tend to leave or have loud parties on the weekends – the school REALLY does not want to have students telling their parents they could hear “sex noises” coming from their teacher/RA’s room.

    2. Jackalope*

      Non-residential experience, but relevant. I was living overseas & working with a specific group of kids and young adults in a medium-sized village. Thanks to my accent & slightly foreign look (I was the same race but very different complexion as the people in the village), I stood out and everyone knew me. The apartment building I was living in didn’t have good heat in the winter, so one night I went out a bit late (maybe 10 pm?) to get some milk so I could make homemade hot chocolate. (As a side note, heat up milk, pure chocolate [no nuts or anything], sugar, cinnamon, & nutmeg, and it’s AMAZING!!) I will note that in this culture it is common for people to be out late, more commonly in the summer (no air conditioning means once the sun is down everyone goes outside, and you see little kids running around the park at 11:30 at night), so this wasn’t a big deal. I ran into one of the young adults I worked with, said hi, and went into the grocery store to get my milk. A few days later I ran into another one of my young adults, who said something along the lines of, “Hey, Jackalope! I talked with Ellie who talked with Rae who said that Mary heard from Janae that you bought milk this week!” I still shake my head over the fact that *this many people* found it interesting and gossip-worthy that I bought milk. (I will add that I was so happy when I moved back to the big city; it was a bit bigger than I liked, but at least I could have some anonymity there, and most of the students I worked with didn’t know where I lived.)

      1. Koikoi*

        Similar situation, I ran into a former student at a school event, and was asked if I went on a date with someone 3 months ago. Someone saw me in another nearby town with someone of the opposite sex, told someone who told someone who told someone and now people were gossiping about my mysterious significant other. It was probably just the teacher in that town.

        But we got similar talks about publicly presenting ourselves, because gossip travels in a small community and teachers are a standard for moral and good behavior for their students.

  29. kbeers0su*

    I would be interested to know what OP’s “on-call” or after hours responsibilities are. I’ve worked at schools (similar role, but university) where during the week all live-in staff are on-call for their own buildings, and have to be able to respond to any needs (facilities issues, intoxicated students, suicidal students) by being sober, present, within an agreed-upon distance from the building, and readily reachable by phone. On weekends, myself and staff in a similar positions would rotate who was on-call, and we covered a larger area. So I would rotate with three other people and be on-call for all three buildings this weekend, and then one of them would do it next weekend, and so forth. OP didn’t mention if these responsibilities were written into the job description or otherwise an expectation, so that might help clarify what her options are.

    1. OP*

      There’s a rotation for being on-duty during the week and the weekends. So I have 1-2 nights of being on-duty a week, and 1 weekend on-duty out of every month. I am happy doing these duties and really enjoy it for the most part! But in theory, the nights and weekends that I am off-duty are my own. People who aren’t duty can leave campus, etc; if there are issues, then the people on duty are expected to handle them.

      1. kbeers0su*

        Right. I would get clarification on the expectations for your non-on duty nights. It’s possible that although you’re not on duty (and required to respond) they still expect you to be available (in an on call capacity). I know many college/university systems like this. So you need to know the expectations for both situations- what specifically is required of you when you’re on duty? (You seem to have a handle on this.) And then what are the expectations for you when you’re not on duty? I would get clarification for both weekdays (normal work week) and weekends (not normal work week). Because it may just be a cultural/unspoken policy that during the week (since it’s a normal work week) even if it’s outside your normal work/office hours, the culture is that everyone is around and engaged in student life. If so, then that fits with what the Dean tried to (poorly) explain about the difference between weekday and weekend.

    2. blink14*

      This depends on the boarding school. For the typical, New England boarding school, a dorm parent is responsible for monitoring their dorm during study hall hours, dealing with any issues that come up between students, emergency response, holding dorm wide events, etc. There is also the expectation that they will open up their home in the dorm (usually an apartment) as needed to support a student, as well as more scheduled small events like pizza parties for a certain floor, a senior TV night (TV use is usually pretty regulated), drinks and snacks before a school wide event, etc.

      Faculty that don’t live in a dorm are usually on duty for set evenings and handle similar functions during their on duty hours. If they live on campus, that includes opening up your home during certain hours for students to come by, social events for the dorm, etc. If you live off campus, it can be something like a group trip to a local grocery store or something like Target – you drive and are responsible for the students safety – plus the usual in dorm monitoring on your specified shift.

      However, it really goes beyond the dorm at most schools. Faculty and staff are involved in coaching sports, helping with drama and art productions, coordinating school wide events and after class activities. You are, in some form, always on duty. The spouses and families that don’t work or go to the school become ingrained in the school culture as well, by participating or volunteering their time.

  30. Lady Heather*

    I wonder if this qualifies as family status discrimination where OP lives. “Unmarried people need to be fully present for their students, but married people are allowed to pay attention to their spouse instead of their students”.

    I think it would qualify in my country, at least.

      1. Lady Heather*

        Not to actual churches, no, but a school doesn’t qualify as a church unless it’s post-secondary education that turns people into priests. And I think the church exemption is only applicable regarding hiring and firing – I can’t see “we need unmarried people to be more available (do more work) than married people for the same pay” get past a judge. Churches are exempt from having to hire, for example, married priests – they aren’t exempt from equal work=equal pay and equal pay=equal work.
        It would also need to be uniformly applied and listed in the job advertisement.

    1. kbeers0su*

      I think if it’s US there is often leeway for religiously affiliated schools. I know many colleges and universities that will not allow significant others/LGBT partners to live in, but who do allow spouses and children. What’s odd here (as has been pointed out several times) is that it’s not an all-or-nothing policy. It’s ok on the weekends, but not during the week. That seems to be more about work duties/weekday work expectations than the actual person/relationship.

    2. Natalie*

      In the US, familial status is only protected for housing, not employment. (And even then, the only familial status that is addressed is the status of having minor children in one’s household.) Marital status is not a protected class in either context.

      In addition, religious schools have historically been given similar carveouts to churches.

  31. NancyDrew*

    OP, look at this from a numbers perspective: How many times per year do you expect to have your SO visit you during the week (rather than a weekend)? Is it something like once a month, or something like once a semester? Because if it’s a rare occurrence…is it worth leaving this job over? (I would think not, but I’m not you!)

    If it’s a frequent desire…then, yeah, ask yourself if the seriousness of your relationship is more important than your job. And with that comes questions about what this job means to you, is it leading you to your ultimate goals, etc.

    You’re probably not going to change their minds on this policy. So it’s a matter of figuring out your priorities.

  32. Suze*

    IMO OP, this isn’t a pushback situation. Echoing others that this tends to be the culture in these schools, as someone who went through one and has relatives working similar positions to yours. It’s more likely to backfire. Being a boarding teacher tends to have a bit more emphasis on being a boarder yourself than one might expect.

    If it’s not going to work here, you may have to look at schools beyond whatever scope you were using before, just because the likelihood of the other schools in your area being just like this are very, very high.

    I hope you get an outcome you can be satisfied with. It’s can be an odd world if you aren’t familiar with it.

    1. OP*

      Thank you for this insight! I think you’re probably correct about how widespread this kind of policy (or more restrictive policies) is, and that it isn’t a pushback situation. Luckily, it’s only a temporary problem (this year/possibly next year), since I imagine we’ll be getting married within a couple of years and/or I’ll be moving on to a different school.

  33. Tex*

    The two potential issues I see (that the headmistress can’t seem to articulate other than tradition) are:

    1) Liability. Even private businesses have employees sign restrictions if the company is paying for housing on short or long term assignments. At one company I worked for, you couldn’t have someone move in a spouse temporarily for an extended period of time, you had to register as family status and there was more paperwork to sign. This was the official rule and it was mostly obeyed, but it wasn’t enforced for weekends, unless there were problems. There were other similar rules that made no sense, until someone violated them in a big way – such as the ‘no parties’ rule. An intern hosted a raucous party in the company apartment and, despite cleaning up, was fired anyways. If your partner is at the boarding school monthly for two weeks unofficially, what’s the liability for the school if something innocuous happens? – like a trip and fall, or an accidental fire in the oven, etc.

    2) The school then gets into a bind of defining what is a long term partnership. Is it 6 months or a year or 5 years? What if a teacher stayed there 5 years, started dating serially and every spring semester moved in a new person for the spring semester?

  34. Jennifer*

    Yeah I do think they were trying to avoid people bringing random hookups back to campus, which is understandable. You don’t want randos wandering around a campus with underage kids all times of night. I’m just not sure how a new rule should be worded? Or maybe they can say all non-spouse overnight guests must be preapproved?

  35. Two Point Four*

    This nonsense is why I always lie.
    As far as my employer is concerned I am married and have 2 kids.
    No regrets.

    1. allathian*

      This works only as long as your job doesn’t require a security check of any kind. If it does, marital status is definitely one thing they’re going to look at. Getting caught in a lie in a security check is likely going to make you fail it.

  36. Harvey JobGetter*

    I think it’s worth asking/looking into whether unmarried male teachers are held to the same standard. I would not be surprised if they are not.

  37. Marriage Penalty*

    One thing I do want to point out here that could come up for this school in future if they continue this policy is that we do not in fact have true marriage equality in the United States. People on Social Security disability benefits are often in the position of losing their benefits or comprehensive insurance coverage if they get married (https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2020/08/31/a-simple-fix-for-one-of-disabled-peoples-most-persistent-pointless-injustices/?sh=e9f2c916b71f). A teacher at this school could conceivably have a long-term partner who can’t afford their medical care without those benefits, and therefore not be able to just decide to get married simply because of this policy.

  38. Haha Lala*

    I’m frustrated for you OP!
    Is there anyone besides the dean that you can talk to on campus? Not to overrule them, but to get more insight. Maybe your direct supervisor (if that’s someone different) or a more senior teacher that’s been around longer. You can’t be the first unmarried teacher that has been in the situation, so has anyone been allowed to before? Do partners typically just pretend to be “friends” to get around the rule?

    I’d agree that having your partner stay over on weeknights is no more distracting to you or the students than any other guest. You could have your brother come visit and students could get all worked up thinking he was your boyfriend… but that’s within the rules!

    Can you ask to see the policy in writing (if you haven’t already)? I’d be curious as to how they spell out that friends/relatives/other people are allowed to stay weeknights but partners aren’t. It may be a case of the written policy is varies from how it’s actually enforced.

  39. A*

    Oof, this is a tough one. I agree that the reasons given don’t make sense. However, I went to a boarding school for high school (graduated 2005 so it’s been a while!) and they had a similar rule. In my schools case it was more straight forward though in that staff/faculty living on capus (especially in the dorms) were not permitted to have overnight guests at any point. However they could live on campus with their SO (married or not, but had to be full cohabitation)which included the SO going through a full background check, sensitivity training etc.

    The justification was always for safety purposes. Faculty/staff living on campus all had background checks etc. whereas their guests would not. At first I thought it was overkill, but I changed my tune once I looked at it from the parents perspective. Spending a large amount of money to send their minor child to boarding school, I don’t think they’d be happy to find out their kid is sleeping down the hall from a stranger. For liability reasons, it was a black/white scenario.

    Most of the younger faculty would move off campus after a few years, and often move back once they decided to make their live in SO arrangement permanent.

    I definitely think it’s worth asking about though because the reasoning is not as solid here and the application inconsistent so it doesn’t appear to be a safety concern.

    1. Alex*

      I also went to boarding school (and am even older than you) and to the best of my knowledge this is how my school handled it too.

      I think it makes sense that you can’t have overnight visitors, because you are in the same building with minors and there is a liability issue. I know that one of the single teachers that lived in the staff apartment in my building got engaged during her time there, but I don’t ever recall seeing her SO in the dorm or her having him overnight.

      Married staff lived there and I assume had a background check done on them.

      It definitely wasn’t about married/unmarried, though, because there were definitely a few teachers hooking up with each other and staying in each other’s apartments….lol.

  40. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I’ve worked at two boarding schools, and the rules for having “sleepovers” were very different at the two because the setup was different. In both cases the students slept in 7 nights a week, which I don’t think is the case for LW.

    1. Some residential staff live in the same buildings as students and are on overnight on-call roster; some live in other nearby buildings owned by the school, but not physically on campus and with no students. No non-school visitors in a house with students in it; “roommate” staff can basically do what they like.

    2. School has a fully enclosed campus. There is no staff accommodation that isn’t in a building students sleep in. Nobody can have visitors when students are in residence.

    I think it very peculiar indeed that LW and colleagues could be allowed overnight visitors of any kind in the same building as students. That’s a safeguarding nightmare.

    If she’s allowed visitors when the students are away, it’s baffling that the only forbidden visitor is an unmarried romantic partner. That can only be prudery.

  41. I'm just here for the cats.*

    Maybe this has been addressed but I’m confused. Is LW wanting her boyfriend to move in with her or just to be able to stay longer than a day. When he’s staying is he staying in her residence or elsewhere?
    If she wants him to be able to move in and he can’t, couldn’t he find a place closer to rent? If it’s just wanting him to stay longer.is there like am air b&b he could rent?
    I’m assuming that she can leave school grounds at least sometimes, as long as she’s close by.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      It sounds like OP would like their partner to be able to visit mid-week, not to move in permanently. While B&Bs or even a hotel might be an option, they do cost money, and teachers tend not to be well paid.
      The bigger issue in this situation seems to be that the restrictions apply ONLY to non-married partners. Married couples can live together on campus, or presumably have mid-week visits if they live apart. Relatives can visit mid-week. Friends can visit mid-week. But partners cannot if you are not married to them. Partners can visit on weekends, so it’s evidently not a “students can’t know that you have a partner” rule, and OP is only on dury a couple of nights a week (during which they presumably would not have visitors anyway since they are technically working.
      Given that pretty much any other relationship is allowed to visit, it is difficult to come up with a reasonable, non- unmarried females with male overnight guest (gasp!) explanation as to why this rule is in place.

  42. Thoughtful*

    I doubt this is a popular opinion (I haven’t read through the thread), but my thought is, “Don’t take a job somewhere knowing their culture and then try to change their culture.”

    Sure, if you’re HIRED as a boss to change the culture, that’s one thing. But, you had a choice to take this job or not.

    I work as a teacher in a private religious school (not my religion, btw). I was told the norms of this school when I was offered the job, and I chose to accept the job. That means I chose to accept THEIR rules and follow THEIR norms when I teach.

    Going into a school or other business and telling them that you don’t like their rules after you’re hired, seems disingenuous and rather rude.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      Except in this case these rules were not made clear to the OP when she took the job. Should she have clarified before accepting the job? Maybe. But it’s sometimes difficult to know what to ask, especially if it’s not something you’ve encountered before.
      And it could be that the school stated that “occasional (overnight) visitors” were fine, and did not clarify that this specifically excluded non-married partners during the week, despite including pretty much every other kind of relationship.
      Sometimes you just don’t know what the issues are with a particular job until you’re already in it, at which point you can deal with it, attempt to change it, or leave and remember to ask the question for the next job.
      We can’t all be omniscient, and I think it would be at least worth a conversation with the current school before deciding whether to stay or go.

    2. Batgirl*

      Not only was the OP not told at the interview stage but it all continues to be very vague and unspoken.

  43. Junior Assistant Peon*

    This is one of those situations where it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Tell anyone who asks that the dude is either a platonic friend or your cousin, avoid PDA’s, and you should be fine. Realistically, they don’t want you bringing back some dude from a bar and having noisy sex that students could overhear.

    1. Disco Janet*

      But she already asked for permission and was told no, so I’m not seeing how this is applicable.

      1. Batgirl*

        The phrase “easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” means do NOT ask for permission. I found it to be solid advice when I had an anxious boss who fore-worried about completely imaginary concerns.

  44. Elm*

    I was a teacher.

    I got married BECAUSE I was a teacher.

    Don’t get me wrong–I love my husband and we’re exceedingly happy together, even after so many months of strict isolation. But after getting out of a really bad marriage, I didn’t want to remarry. (I also got threatened with being fired for the “embarrassing” divorce by my previous school. I didn’t make a scene, tell the kids, or anything; it was “what if people find out?!”)

    My husband and I were both happy to cohabitate. But, at the time, we wanted kids, and teachers still get fired for having kids “out of wedlock.” Teachers still get fired for cohabitating, too. I’ve known teachers who have been disciplined for even going on innocent and sober dates in their free time because someone saw them. (And don’t get me started on things like being seen buying a bottle of wine or going to a therapist.) I’m talking public schools, too, not private or religious.

    What’s funny is the kids couldn’t care less, and most parents don’t care, either. This is an archaic system that needs to be burned down and rebuilt, viewing teachers as humans.

  45. lilsheba*

    Ohhhhh I really hate archaic attitudes about couples only counting as a couple if they’re married! It can be just as committed and just as serious and just as real when not married, a piece of paper changes nothing.

  46. A girl has no name*

    To be clear, the rules at your school are definitely outdated. I also agree with other commenters who say an institution like this is not likely to change except on a geologic time scale. Your boss is more likely to get rid of you than the policy.
    However, I do have to say, as someone who’s worked in a similar situation just out of college- in my case it was a week-long residential outdoor school- never underestimate the ability of preteen and teen kids to distract themselves with your personal business.
    “Ms. No-name, do you have a boyfriend? Then do you have a husband? Well, what about [insert name of male staffer?] Why don’t you go out with him? Do you like him?” “Ms. No-name, are you just friends with [insert any male coworker they saw me talking to] or are you dating?” “Ms. No-name, do you like living out in the woods? Ms. No-name, how are you going to find a husband living out here?”
    We had to practice saying “My private life stays private.” Over and over.

  47. Not A Mouse*

    Late to the party, but I’m a “faculty brat” who grew up on boarding school campuses, and I’m back living with my parents at a school where my dad is the Head thanks to COVID. This is super normal and is just a thing you kind of have to accept if you work at a boarding school, for good or ill.

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