Dooley’s Week, one of Emory University’s few time-honored traditions, garnered significant attention this year due to actor and comedian Pete Davidson’s virtual Q&A session. The Student Programming Council (SPC) held the event on April 8, where SPC staff member Gabriela Rucker (23C) relayed interview questions from Emory students to Davidson. Students could also communicate directly with Davidson through the Zoom chat. However, opportunistic students abused the chat throughout the session, hurling insults at Davidson, Rucker and SPC. The hosts had to disable the Zoom chat and prevent Davidson from reading the inappropriate comments. It was humiliating.
The remainder of the session became incredibly awkward, as the deep, systemic fragmentation within Emory reared its ugly head. It not only illustrated Emory students’ inability to coalesce around a shared sense of school spirit, but also reflected poorly on the character of our student body, which begs the question: why? Why have Emory students failed to establish a positive sense of community? The answer lies in the University’s social structures, which isolates students in groups based on academic departments, athletics and social organizations. The result: a general apathy in the student body causing a toxic virtual environment further magnified by internet anonymity.
This is a major problem that needs to be solved. To create a more welcoming, integrated campus community, SPC should hold less materialistic events, use common spaces more effectively and leverage student feedback to increase event turnout.
These solutions will help address the two prominent factors at play: Emory’s lack of a unifying sports culture and the Greek Life social monopoly. Both varsity sports and Greek Life are extremely insular and homogenous. When looking for weekend events both before and during the pandemic, many Emory students flock to Greek life, putting these historically racist and classist organizations in control of Emory’s social scene. The result is a lack of cultural diversity, and if students don’t buy into that elitism, they risk painful isolation.
Ordinarily, students can engage with each other and form meaningful friendships in classes, but the advent of online lectures has severely limited this. In addition, without more meaningful on-campus activities, many students never have a chance to interact outside of academic life. Many events are catered toward specific groups like business school students, pre-health students and varsity athletes, making it clear that Emory’s pre-professional reputation manifests in Emory’s social scene as well. This divide has played a large role in the Emory student body’s disunity.
According to the college rankings website Niche, we are ranked No. 202 in the U.S. for quality of campus life. Quite frankly, this is depressing, and SPC must do more to help fix this. Specifically, they should focus on smaller-scale events, such as mixers, meet-and-greets with SPC staff and evening events on weekends. Mixers could happen on a large, speed-dating scale, which could help students from varied backgrounds meet each other. This is already done for graduate school students, and the same type of events could work for undergraduates. Meet-and-greet events would allow students to interact meaningfully with the staff that coordinate and assist them during spirit weeks on campus. Such a diverse, interactive slate of events would increase satisfaction within the Emory community and create a more unified campus.
If Emory wants its students to enjoy their time on campus and develop real pride in their institution, SPC needs to move past simple giveaways and distribute its funding more appropriately throughout the year. Shifting funds to disperse throughout the year would allow students to remain immersed in Emory’s community outside of Homecoming in the fall and Dooley’s Week in the spring.
SPC’s responsibility is to foster engagement across social groups through inclusive programming, not occasional spectacle, and concentrating most of its effort — and, presumably, its budget — exclusively on those two weeks is a poor way to accomplish that.
Moreover, people are often too busy during the afternoon hours on weekdays to fully engage with SPC’s planned activities throughout Homecoming and Dooley’s Week. This leads to many students simply grabbing free merchandise and food every day before rushing to class. Instead of holding events in the middle of the day, SPC should send surveys to Emory students to gauge when to plan large activities like spirit weeks so that people can actually attend. Moreover, activities throughout the year should happen in places outside of Asbury Circle, like McDonough Field, the First-Year Quad, the Goizueta Business School’s Patterson Green, the Clairmont Campus or even indoors at the Emory Student Center.
The harassment at Pete Davidson’s visit showed a disappointing version of Emory’s community. But, as long as SPC evaluates the social scene of Emory and shifts its focus, it doesn’t have to define us. As we’ve seen, no amount of sweatpants or free food can replace or even promote a real sense of community. If you’re an Emory student, you know that’s something we all sorely need.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Martin Shane Li, Sophia Ling, Demetrios Mammas, Sara Perez, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.