Student government deems campus climate unchanged


Students circled up in the Union Building Ballroom Sunday evening with Dean of Student Life Dorian Shager to discuss campus concerns and the current campus environment.
Though the crowd was sparse, consisting of primarily students involved in student government, the conversation was focused and deep. The group did not see the changes they had hoped to see in campus last semester, so they continued to brainstorm and to analyze the issue to better attack the issue at hand.
Students discussed how to further open campus to diverse ideas and the discussion of deeper, sometimes controversial issues, an element they feel is currently lacking in the DePauw community.
The group attributed this seeming lack of conversation to both a lack of time and a fear to delve into more intense conversation.
"Meaningful conversations are inhibited because of the way we live," senior Ellen Clayton said. "We live separated by greek houses. We are overcommitted. Meaningful conversations are limited because we are overworked."
Many others pinpointed the DePauw community's lacking addressing of complex issues because of their incessantly busy lives.
"Apathy is not the issue," said junior and student senator Mark Fadel. "The issue is time."
Aside from students' busy schedules, the group also highlighted the fear as a possible inhibitor to conversation.
"In order to have a lot of meaningful conversations, it requires that you have to get uncomfortable," said Student Body Vice President Nic Flores, a senior.
"We are so protective of each other that we keep it inside," said Vice President of Academic Affairs and senior Joan Bemenderfer. "We need to be more open to talk of these things, and not worry about getting in trouble or our rivals."
While the group did not believe that the campus climate has gotten worse, they do not think that the campus environment has changed.
The group brainstormed ideas to overcome these problems, such as sharing inspirational or interesting stories, such as the KONY documentary.
Aside from simply starting conversation, the students emphasized that in order to truly make a difference, students need to be informed about what they are discussing.
Junior Sara Scully, student senator of the class of 2013, emphasized the importance of learning before jumping into conversation.
"We need to be informed about the problems we are trying to tackle," Scully said. "We need to learn from people that are informed. It shouldn't just be an agree fest. In order to have meaningful conversation, we need to know what we are saying. These are complicated, nuanced issues."
The group will send out a campus climate survey in the near future to gauge other student reactions to the information and to collect other opinions.
"It's great to address some things that hinder us from having these conversations, but we also need to take action," Dorian Shager, dean of campus life, said. "We need to each commit to having one of these meaningful conversations before spring break - just a half hour to an hour-long conversation. We all have time for that."