On Monday, August 31, Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley announced plans for the expansion of campus programming in response to growing concern over the decline of space for social events in recent years.
“Often the most meaningful social activities on campus are the ones students create for one another,” the email reads. “In recognition of this, additional funds have been made available for the use of student groups creating social activities.”
The email further explains that the rationale for these new initiatives is due to the closing of the three fraternities Psi Upsilon (Psi U), Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) and Beta Theta Pi (Beta) this year. The University’s goal is for these new programs to compensate for the role that Greek houses typically play in social life on campus.
Whaley explained that the University began working on this last spring.
“We often hear from students that there’s actually a lot to do on campus, until you hit about 11:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, and students are concerned that there’s not a lot to do after that point,” Whaley said. “So, last spring, [SALD] ran a pilot program for the first part of the spring semester, and they did a bunch of different things…to see what kinds of activities students would be interested in, and to do a little bit of research, I guess, to try some things out. So, we thought, based on the feedback that we got from that pilot program last spring, that it would be good to expand for this year, and then certainly with the three fraternities—Beta, DKE, and Psi U—not being in program housing this year, we’re conscious of the fact that those are some major social spaces that both those organizations and other students used.”
As a consequence of this research, there are six initiatives set to begin this year.
One program includes grants for student groups to establish a fund to support weekend events planned by these groups. The grants will be issued out of the office of Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development [SALD] Elisa Cardona. Whaley explained that this was primarily due to the creativity of students at the University.
“[Because students are so creative,] why don’t we find a way to help encourage students to be part of solving this challenge?” Whaley explained. “I think [Cardona is] going to specifically be looking for things that are sort of happening in that quiet period, say later in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays.”
While SALD has always funded student-driven programming, this year’s increased budget intends to extend resources to a greater variety of student groups. Assistant Director Bualong Ramirez explained how the office allocates funds and advises students to create meaningful programs.
“The student program fund has always been on a weekly basis and we try to review what comes in,” she said. “We try to be as equitable as possible in making sure that the same one group isn’t asking for money every single week and that’s the only group that is getting access to our funds. So it’s really a first-come, first-serve type of process…. And with the new budget, we definitely have to review that again and see if those numbers will change. But that in general has been, whoever comes and whatever they need, we try to work with the students as closely as possible.”
SALD has additional plans with the University. There will be programs launched every Saturday this fall, including late-night events both on-campus and off-campus. The Saturday programs, whose success was determined by a pilot program during the spring 2015 semester (consisting of trips to a trampoline park, a late-night pool party in Freeman, and other such activities), will include day trips to local attractions as well as on-campus events.
In addition, SALD intends to work more closely with the Senior Class Officers in creating events specifically geared toward seniors.
The email also explains that the University will continue their popular music series in Usdan during late-night dining on Friday evenings, expand the film series to show a Saturday late-evening showing of “Game of Thrones” on the big screen, and explore acoustic music and other programming at Pi Café.
Students have expressed their excitement for these new initiatives. Josh Byron ’16 hypothesized about how these changes might benefit students.
“It’s a good way of rearranging funds [for] groups that could use them,” Byron said.
Phuong Le ’18, the House Manager of French Hall in Nicolson Five, was also enthusiastic.
“I think for program halls, it’s really hard to compete with bigger houses, but now that we’re getting some of the funds it will be more balanced,” Le said.
Whaley added that while he is looking forward to the enactment of these changes, the new additions can be somewhat stressful.
“I’m excited for a couple of different reasons,” Whaley said. “We have some real pressures on us…. The local fire marshal last year reduced the occupancy levels for the senior wood frame houses, so that kind of created a situation where you can’t have these huge parties in the Fountain houses anymore. And with the three fraternities losing program housing status, those spaces are offline, so I really feel like we have a responsibility to work collaboratively with students to try to come up with what replaces those things and to work collaboratively to come up with better solutions.”