My mom has a saying, one she repeats every time I try to upgrade something simply for the sake of upgrading it: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The message is simple: don’t risk breaking something that works unless there’s a real need. It’s a message the administration needs to hear about the Minerva system.
The Minervas were functioning well last year, serving as a social hub for those who don’t want to participate in weekend Greek life. Why is the administration now looking to reformat the entire system? The administration’s reasoning is that the Minerva system has failed to fulfill former president Roger Hull’s original vision. That vision was that the seven Minerva houses would simultaneously tie academics into the social life of Union and reduce the role of Greek life on campus.
Minerva mentors, Minerva fellows, and the Minerva speaker series all successfully reflect this vision of academically focused social spaces. It is undeniable that Hull’s vision was a valuable one, but it had serious flaws, not the least of which was an underestimation of the popularity of Greek life. Minervas were never going to fill the role of Greek life on campus.
The fact of the matter is that many Union students like to go out and party hard after a week of intense studying and Greek organizations excel at providing opportunities for this. Still, Minervas did find an important niche on campus: providing non-Greek social opportunities.
My experience with Minervas last year was a highly positive one, especially since I wasn’t into the Greek scene. A number of clubs I enjoyed, such as Cad and Board Game club, met in Minervas on weekend nights. Minerva hosted events also fill this niche, providing fun non-Greek, and often non-alcoholic, activities.
One of the most common accussations by students and administrators alike is that the money used to fund these events is wasted. This belief couldn’t be further from the truth. The money given to individual Minervas, about $30,000 a piece, is used extremely effectively.
It provides, among other things, fellowships to study abroad, opportunities to hear incredible speakers and, most importantly, plentiful opportunities to have fun outside of the Greek system. It is thoroughly worth the investment to ensure that all students, not just Greeks and partiers, have plenty of social activities to partake in.
Trying to change the Minerva system, either to reduce “budgetary waste” or to replace Greek life on campus, is more likely to backfire than succeed. Minervas have the ability to provide non-Greek social options in a way that is unique to Union, a feature simultaneously benefits current students and prospective ones.
The administration should think carefully about changing the Minerva system, since changes could ostracize those who don’t enjoy the Greek scene.