This semester, Dr. Gregory Roper, dean of students, started Monday Night Meetings, a mandatory weekly event in which freshmen congregate in their dorms and engage with a guest speaker on topics ranging from academic success to dating and one’s approach to life.
“What I wanted to do with the job is really think of the ways that we could activate the Core in students’ lives. That seems to me that’s what the Office of Student Affairs at a place like UD should do. We have this amazing curriculum that’s an academic curriculum, but how does that stuff get translated over into students’ lives?” said Roper.
JP Kinney, a resident assistant in Jerome Hall and junior psychology major, said: “That’s the thing that UD does really well subliminally: personal formation. I think it’s Dr. Roper’s chance to really explicitly have a class on personal formation.”
Instances of talks include Dr. David Catlett’s talk on time management, Dr. David Upham’s talk on dating, and Dr. Andrew Moran and Father Thomas Esposito’s Charity Week special on having good fun.
Roper also emphasized that the MNMs are intended to help freshmen work through the causes of mental health issues rather than addressing them after the fact. “We need to start focusing on some of the things that help students before they have anxiety,” said Roper.
MNMs are intended to create a sense of community within the dorms. Monserrat Ortiz, an RA in Catherine Hall and a junior Spanish major, said, “Students will get there 15 minutes before so they would talk amongst [themselves] before the meeting started and after the meeting they would stay like 5 or 10 minutes, so they really got to know each other.”
Some Resident Assistants have created their own gatherings in conjunction with MNMs to bolster this effort.
Luisa de Vuono, an RA for Theresa Hall and a junior biochemistry major, hosts one of these events. “She has this thing called Monday Night Munchies. She makes snacks and drinks and stuff after the Monday Night Meetings and whenever we mentioned it she’d have dozens of girls go up. “It was a really good event,” said Danielle Tereszczyk, an RA for Catherine and a junior business major, who has her own event called Tea Tuesdays.
Another helpful feature of MNMs is that it allows RAs to make announcements to all of their residents at once. “It’s a time for the RAs to let the freshmen know what’s happening, what’s going on, events that are happening, reminders like housekeeping,” said Tereszczyk.
Caitlin Sullivan, a freshman education major in Catherine, said, “It’s really nice hearing all the events that are going on during the week because then you can look at your friends and be like, ‘Wait, I want to go to that too!’”
“Monday night meetings were an opportunity for the administration to convey things to this resident body,” said Luke Klein, an RA for Gregory Hall and a junior biology and math major, who mentioned that oftentimes for Greg, these things were negative. At one meeting, an instance of excessive cleat marks and dirt in the bathroom was addressed. “There might have been a negative perception of the meetings associated with that,” said Klein.
Andrew von Weber-Hahnsberg, the other RA for Gregory Hall and a senior psychology major, noted that when the Greg vending machines were damaged, the entire dorm was chastised at the next MNM. “The majority of people in Greg, they’re not the ones doing these things, so it can get kind of tiring especially when you’re already tired from a day of work,” said von Weber-Hahnsberg.
Von Weber-Hahnsberg believes that this frustration led to the creation of the petition to end MNMs. “There was a petition started that was essentially to voice the opinion of a lot of students,” said Klein. “A lot of students felt like they weren’t necessarily being heard and that might just be due to the fact that the freshmen don’t really understand how the administration works.”
In response to the petition, Roper emphasized that he prefers students to speak with him directly. “I just wanted to use it as an occasion to encourage them to say ‘you can talk to me’,” said Roper.
The petition requested that MNMs not continue in the spring semester. Roper is not yet sure if the meetings will continue in the spring, but if they do, they will be less frequent. He emphasized that this semester was a test run for MNMs, so improvements will be made for future semesters.
Von Weber-Hahnsberg believes providing some funding for food would improve the event. “I think just with food, especially if the food preceded the meeting by 20 minutes, the guys would be talking in a much, much better mood by the time that the character formation and the announcements and the chiding take place.”
The timing of MNMs was an issue for some students. “As a college athlete, the timing of the meetings was very difficult. I had to rush out of practice, eat a quick dinner, and go to the meeting all tired and sweaty. On the nights where I didn’t have practice, I would have to drop homework that I had to catch up on due to being out of town for a tournament to attend the meeting,” said Simone Meinerz, a freshman psychology major in Madonna Hall.
Lastly, there was some dissatisfaction with the speech topics. “The majority of the students I have talked to did not think the topics were necessary to discuss. Sure, maybe there were a few things that were helpful here and there and maybe a student learned something new, but to [me] it was all review,” said Meinerz.
“I don’t love how many dating talks we’ve had,” said Sullivan. “Boiling it down to one dating talk would be nice.” Sullivan enjoyed the academic success talks, but wished they were earlier in the semester. “If we had those earlier in the semester, that would be really nice instead of right before finals,” said Sullivan.
Although MNM’s have not been well received by some students, they represent another step in UD’s attempt to develop new ways for freshman to interact with the community.