By Steven Stangle
This article was written in response to an article published on November 1, 2012 by Bryan Grover ’14.
The Minervas at Union seem great and, to those of us familiar with them and who use them to their full potential, they work. Each Minerva house is an incredible resource to those who stop judging them based on rumors and stereotypes and actually take the time to visit their house and attend council meetings.
The funding of Minerva houses is based on the number of students enrolled with only $125 of each student’s tuition money going towards the program. I’m sure every student on this campus can easily recoup that money on food alone, without even considering speaker fees, event materials and the perks of a free common space. The Minerva budgets are not flexible and a house cannot apply for additional funding at any time. Minerva councils spend their year balancing the budget and ensuring that each house gets as much as it can from the allotted amount. Each house continues to host events from week one of fall term to week ten of spring term, an important responsibility that is taken very seriously by all involved.
Minerva council meetings are large, each council numbering between 15 and 30 students, a similar size to a lot of the Greek organizations on this campus. Each council determines it’s own elected positions and the positions are not taken lightly or used as mere resume padding. Most importantly, each position has a critical role in the operations of the houses. Councils work hard to host events for the general student body, both events of their own planning and events that clubs bring to Minervas for co-sponsorship. Minervas were created to allow students to host events that would have never happened. Events like Green House’s Dinner With Professors, or pre-speech dinners with speakers such as Joseph Kahn at Sorum, would never happen without the system.
Some people claim that Minerva events are unsuccessful because they are dry, but they are not required to be non-alcoholic and Minervas regularly throw events where alcohol is served. For example, Wold Casino Night offers wine while gambling and Golub’s Oktoberfest offers a wide selection of beer. There are always reliable and oftentimes large groups of people who attend events. Green House’s Dinner with Professors has over 20 attendees weekly who come for the home-cooked meal and stay for the hour-long discussion. Beuth’s Haunted House, where council members scare students for a Halloween celebration is always successful. This year, the twisted fairytale theme attracted over 100 students.
The number of Minervas is perfect; there are far too many events that utilize Minerva space or funding to channel them through any fewer houses. Most houses tend to have events daily, be they house-run or club initiated.
Minerva Central also hosts many events each year. It’s speakers host a dinner and discussion at a Minerva house before presenting in the Nott Memorial to large crowds. This term alone Joseph Kahn, a renowned director, and Kate Bolick, an esteemed feminist writer, spoke to students. Events like Fall for Schenectady, All Around U, and Orientation speakers happen all thanks to the hard work of the Minerva program.
The Minerva program is the farthest reaching program on campus and the only system outside of academics that involves every student, whether they take advantage of the opportunity or not. I challenge students to find any other organization on campus that can claim 100% campus membership and can host events including dinner and discussions about civil rights and human trafficking, bubble parties, and even Green House’s famed Erotica night. The scope of events that is produced by the Minerva system in any given week, let alone over the course of a term or a year, is incredible and something that cannot be rivaled by anything else on this campus. Yes, a large number of outside groups are involved in the majority of events on this campus but that is another wonderful part of the Minervas: it allows for collaboration and gives smaller clubs the opportunity to expand themselves and help advertise their names.
Minerva council is working to find new and innovative ways to further the system. One of the ways that has been discussed is actually competition. The best way to find information about what the overarching Minerva council is doing is to attend your own Minerva’s council meetings, the times of which can be found on the blackboard by the mail room or by asking your student rep whose name can be found by a quick check on the Minerva website. It should also be noted that over 300 students live in Minerva houses each year and that the paid employees who work with the system are also responsible for the housing of the 300 students and any disciplinary consequences. Of the two employees in the Minerva office only one works solely for the Minerva system, Dean McEvoy is also the assistant dean of students and thus has more duties than just overseeing the houses. Ben Foster has been with the Minervas since their conception. How can it be considered wrong to have someone overseeing the Minerva program when a specific staff member oversees Greek life, which is responsible for housing about the same amount of students but only encompasses approximately 35% of campus?
College is about finding yourself and the Minerva program helps so many students with that. Through leadership positions and programs like Minerva Mentors, Minerva fellowships and pre-orientation trips, the system offers positions and support to students who are interested, be they Greek, club members, theme house residents, Minerva residents or even a freshman who is new to campus. We highly recommend that before someone sits down to disparage this system he take the time to attend a council meeting and a few events. Maybe then he would realize exactly what they’re missing out on.