Whether it is viewed as a buzzword or a necessary and achievable objective, community is something that college campuses strive for, particularly the residence halls of Seattle Pacific University.
There are many events that take place on campus and within residence halls that aim to create and revive community among the student body.
One of these is Emerson Hall’s quarterly Coffee House, an open mic night in the Emerson lounge during which students from all halls are encouraged to share talents, art and stories with their peers.
With the aforementioned goal of bringing students together to celebrate and support each other, this quarter’s Emerson Coffee House took place last Friday, Nov. 16, and was another event meant to foster an environment of community in residence life.
“If someone is being vulnerable and performing you have to know that that comes from a place of them wanting validation or wanting to share a talent and that’s a really vulnerable place,” Taylor Petrucci, a sophomore and Emerson Hall resident, said. “So when you have the task of responding to that, you have to be really gentle and empathetic in the way that you do that.”
Petrucci, however, suggested that the judgement-free atmosphere associated with Coffee House does not always carry on after the event .
Indeed, the reports of Emerson Hall Council regarding the event did not align with those of some students in attendance who expressed that this event was less of a reflection of the residence hall’s sense of community, and more of a reminder of its lack thereof.
Agreeing with these statements, freshman Alex Turner explained that, while this event created a mostly supportive environment, “other times, not so much.” Turner characterized living in Emerson as “very cliquey, very judgemental,” creating what he feels like “separation,” rather than community.
“Welcome to Emerson!” Turner said jokingly, wearing a fake smile.
This picture of Emerson Hall directly opposes the one painted by the members of Hall Council, who all agreed that Emerson Coffee House is a tradition which embodies the welcoming nature of the hall.
“As a community I think Emerson is pretty welcoming to everyone: [you can] come as you are and we are going to enjoy having time with you,” Katelyn Ashworth, Emerson Hall Council Vice President, said before the event.
Since many students participated, either by signing up in advance or deciding to share an impromptu song, dance or poem after the scheduled performances, this quarter’s open mic did appear to provide students with an encouraging atmosphere and supportive audience, which was so large that there were students standing in the back.
Whether this attitude of support, or pseudo-support, takes place on the level of daily interactions, however, is a point of contention.
Reflecting on the event as she was cleaning up, Emerson Hall Senator Abby Kleinknecht addressed this question honestly.
“We could always improve as humans, but I think we’re getting there … no matter what [you] look like or act like, or anything, you’re welcome [in Emerson] and we are really trying to make it that welcome area,” Kleinknecht said.
Although she did not explicitly identify any problems facing the Emerson community, Kleinknecht detailed how Senate is working toward becoming more effective in residence halls. Advertising the role of Hall senators and increasing their accessibility for students who have suggestions for improving residence life, Senate hopes to improve communication between students and leadership.
This initiative involves implementing “floor reps” who will have the responsibility of sharing the thoughts and concerns of each floor with their hall’s senator, as well as sharing what is being discussed in senate meetings to their floormates.
Kleinknecht hopes to see this happen during winter quarter.
For now, however, the representation of Emerson Hall, through Emerson Coffee House, as an inclusive community wherein students feel comfortable enough to share with and feel supported by one another, is seemingly not the reality for all residents.