Along with four students, six faculty members of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Social Climate and Out of Class Engagement journeyed across campus on a chilly November evening.
The evening walk was not a casual stroll or tour of campus, but a way for faculty and senior staff members to get a closer look at Elon University’s social scene after dark.
They traveled across campus to locations the students frequent while not in class. The group started in the CREDE and worked their way across campus, according to Naeemah Clark, co-chair of the task force and associate professor of communications. They ventured to common gathering spaces like editing bays in McEwen, the Intramural Fields, a crowded Oak House and an empty Great Hall.
“We went into Oak House and it was packed,” Clark said. “There is something about that that is very telling.”
The Presidential Task Force, charged with examining Elon University’s social climate, recently began the crowdsourcing and information gathering stage of its work, sparking conversations among students and faculty on possible problems and changes.
Idea walls outside of dining halls — which since their installation have elicited blunt thoughts such as, “We need to get rid of Greek Life” and, “Open Nades on the weekends” — as well as upcoming open Town Hall forums and surveys are methods the task force is using to gather students’ feelings on the overall social climate.
The Task Force, started in August and formally titled the Presidential Task Force on Campus Social Climate and Out of Class Engagement, isn’t limiting what could be considered parts of Elon’s social climate.
“The Task Force is looking at healthy, meaningful and engaging opportunities for students beyond the classroom,” Clark said. “Other task forces are already looking at intellectual climate on campus. We’re not looking at curricular issues, but pretty much everything else — SPACES, the surrounding area, on campus and off campus housing, organizations, the way the org fair works. There’s really nothing in the social climate that the title doesn’t touch.”
According to Clark, one of the reasons Elon President Leo Lambert initiated the Task Force was because he felt that despite a wide range of social opportunities, some students still didn’t feel like they fit in.
“When we think of Elon students, we think super involved and engaged,” Clark said. “There are some students that [Lambert] was encountering that they feel like Elon isn’t a place for them and that they don’t belong.”
Some students feel the disconnect could come from a strong party scene and Greek Life presence.
“Honestly I feel like [the social scene] is very stratified,” said sophomore Grace O’Hara. “If you don’t have that outlet, there’s definitely a lot of other things you can do, but it’s not publicized nearly as well.”
Others believe that social circles are determined based on what groups students are involved with.
“The weekend scene is basically about the groups you’re in. I’m not much of a Greek Life person, so I don’t go to the Greek parties or anything — nor would I even be accepted into them,” said sophomore Christian Jacob. “I’m more of a sports person, so I go to club soccer mixers or rugby. That’d be about it.”
Clark said a mission of the Task Force is to look at existing spaces and what Elon offers and then further improve upon it.
“Many people have asked me, ‘How do you know when the task force ends?’” Clark said. “I don’t have an answer. I feel that for me, if I am talking to as many different students as I can and being really smart in how we look for themes and look for patterns emerging, then I’ll feel like I’ll be successful. It’s a never-ending process.”
In addition to continuing to speak with students throughout this semester and next, the Task Force will be holding an open Town Hall at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 11 in McKinnon Hall and sending out a short survey at the end of November.