We’ve got spirit….Yes we DU!!!!

    Dillard students filled the cafeteria on Wednesday Oct. 11 for the student government association’s (SGA) version of MTV’s popular show Total Request Live. Some students “walked it out,” some did the “Ratchet,” while others nodded their heads and snapped their fingers to the music all throughout the lunch hour. This event is just one of the many activities SGA plans to provide for their students this year.


    The office of campus life and SGA have devised a plan to engage all students, however this is very difficult due to the fact that 60 percent of the student body lives off campus, according to Dr. Freddye Hill, vice president of campus life. Hill said that the plan has to be broad enough for students who live off campus to participate in events and become leaders. A commuter organization has been created, which meets every other week. This organization is headed by senior Sharon Walker, who was hired by campus life to ensure the communication between off campus students, campus life and SGA exist.


    Student leaders play a tremendous part in the planning and executing of events, they work extremely hard to provide students with activities and events that interest them. Dominique Hayes, president of SGA recognizes the importance of student leaders on campus and said their duty is to make sure communication is clear between campus life, student leaders and students. “Everyone looks at you when you’re a student leader, you can’t expect students to participate if you’re not going to.” Ronnell Perry, vice president of SGA said he wanted people to know that student leaders are here to make everyone feel included. “Student leaders are here to create an environment where everyone is welcome and to provide and outlet for students to socialize. We want to ensure all students best interests are taken into consideration.”


    Life after the Hilton and the return to the Oaks could not have come fast enough for the students. While many students could not wait to return to their home on the Oaks, some still had their worries. One student in particular, Megan Thomas, a mass communications major from Houston, Texas was hesitant, but ecstatic all at the same time about her return. “I was excited to come back, but the shape of the campus was a big concern. I really didn’t know what to expect when I got here, but now that I’m here I see the process is slow but it’s coming along.”


     The morale of some students has seemed to go up since leaving the Hilton however participation hasn’t particularly proved that. “I think returning to campus was very significant for everyone. I know people enjoy being back on the Oaks rather than in the lobby of the Hilton, yet participation in campus events remains the same,” said Mahauganee Shaw, assistant dean and director of student engagement and leadership development. The “same” Shaw refers to is the amount of participation while at the Hilton. Perry said he doesn’t think the morale of the students as a whole has gone up. “The morale of students who are always involved in campus activities is heightened but others have just become complacent.”


    Dillard has a team of individuals committed to the success of campus activities. This team consists of Dr.Hill, Shaw, and Nurse Gill along with the members of SGA and other student leaders. When speaking about the state of the campus and the student’s dedication and support of Dillard, Dr.Hill spoke with extreme passion. Hill said she recognizes the difficulties with the transition, and complications with the renovations the lack of internet, cable and electricity in some apartments have affected students.


    Hill said, “What I find encouraging, inspiring, and affirming is that even with the uncomfortable setbacks and disappointments the students have supported the institution and have been patient and understanding. Dillard students support has not wavered in spite of obvious disadvantages they face. My colleagues and I have to stand up and provide the best educational environment for these students. We work 13 hour days and then take the problems home, they don’t just disappear when we leave at the end of the day. We’re going to ensure our students get more than they deserve.”


      The office of campus life along with the student leaders of Dillard are still committed to ensuring each student has an opportunity to participate and engage in activities on and around the campus. They have used old tactics such as flyers tacked to bulletin boards, table tents, and word of mouth to employ student participation. They have now upgraded their means of communication by implementing a group on the popular college site facebook.com, through the use of an events e-mail and soon a web page will be developed.


    Many students are excited to be on campus and say they are disappointed by their peer’s lack of participation in activities. Elgin Slack, a sophomore business and marketing major from New Orleans, La., said he is very excited to be back on campus since he didn’t get to experience the aspect of campus life pre-Katrina. Now Slack gets to enjoy campus as best as he can. Slack said that the lack of participation was solely because of the students, not the administration or those who plan the activities. “People are not doing anything. People are not alive. The campus is dead. It’s not the environment at all, we’re just so slothful and then people try to blame everything on other things. They feel like the campus is not up to par so they don’t have to be up to par,” Slack said. Slack is an off campus student so Walkers efforts to reach out to those residing off campus have not gone unheard. Slack said he participates in everything offered. “When there are parties, I’m there. When we have rallies in the future, I’ll be here. I want the full experience of college. I pay 21 thousand a year; I might as well gain some social skills in addition to an education. Some people just want to sleep all the time. This is college, live an experience your life!”


    There are of course some major differences between campus activities post-Katrina and pre-Katrina. Some of the differences are the numbers in enrollment, the funding, and the importance of participation. Post-Katrina’s enrollment rate is half of what it was pre-Katrina; therefore the budget for student activities is cut in half, according to Shaw. The majority of the events are sponsored by the student activity fee, which each student pays $50 a semester.

Dr.Hill said the office of campus life has always been committed to engaging participation but this post-Katrina semester is quite different. The fuel has been more than added to the fire, sprits have been lifted; everyone seems to be extremely driven. “Post-Katrina provided a vista for us to seize new opportunities and asses what’s been done in the past. Our commitment to student engagement has given us a sense of urgency to ensure students have the best educational learning experience,” said Hill. Shaw also said she recognizes this urgency and is committed to increasing student participation. She said, “Studies show that students who are more engaged in student activities and student life are more effective upon their graduation.”


     The urgency for participation has not only been sparked from the faculty, staff and student leaders, interest in the welfare of the students but research and studies have provided insight as well. “Research has showed skills and success were due to engagement. Students are more likely to develop social skills, cultural skills and become leaders as well as problem solvers. These students learn how to interact with those that may be different. Engagement equals being a good student. African American students are more likely to be successful, have high grade point averages and do very well. Engagement is broader than being a member of a club, it’s being a member but understanding what you’ve done,” Hill said. Hill said that she wants to use the resources to develop maps for success, liven up the campus and celebrate Dillard which was already started through a campus wide Hawaiin celebration at the Hilton.


        A major concern that has been presented this semester has been the lack of fresh person participation throughout their orientation week, welcome week and in general. Dominique Barnett a returning psychology sophomore from San Francisco, Ca. was present during orientation week because she was a returning student. Dominique said she was appalled at the lack of fresh person involvement. Barnett said, “I was excited to come back on the campus. The campus life staff had everything together but the upperclassmen participated more than the underclassmen. The activities were in order the first week but the class of 2010 didn’t take advantage of it and still don’t. They feel like they don’t have to participate but the thing is they paid for orientation week. I participated in everything I could and it wasn’t even my orientation week. Why would you stay on campus and not do anything? Why would you just want to sleep?” 


       Mecheel Bishop, a freshmen sociology criminal justice major from Oakland, Ca. said she participated in everything during orientation week. “I went to all the activities even I thought they were boring. I paid for them and I was interested in knowing what they were about.” While some of her classmates slept or hung out in their dorm rooms in Williams Hall Bishop and her friends were out exploring their new campus and participating in each seminar and fun activity. When asked her opinion about the lack of partaking in events by her class Bishop said,” I don’t know why my class didn’t participate, some thought the seminars would be boring, they were lazy. Some of the sessions may have been boring but they may be helpful in the long run. For example the test taking seminar might be very useful. The came for the fun stuff, at the sessions less than half the class went but for skating, the movies and the parties all the freshmen were there. Their priorities weren’t straight.”

Hayes said the target of SGA is specifically the class of 2010 because their lack of participation. “Welcome week was a success but it’s never been a problem with upperclassmen being active participants. Our main focus is the class of 2010 being engaged, we’re trying to figure out how to draw them in.”


         With all the efforts campus life, SGA and other student leaders are making to ensure the students of Dillard have health, lively, exciting campus activities and events; the responsibility is still up to the students to come out and participate. The team can only work so hard and provide so much. The charge is to the students, not only to participate but to get involved and help. Students should look out for events such as the basketball and volleyball games, Halloween costume party, Game day on the Oaks, DU Gentlemen’s pageant, UNCF walk, Trick or Treat on the Oaks and much much more!!!