Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture

By Michael Moffatt | Go to book overview
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THREE / A Year on Hasbrouck Fourth

A DORMITORY IS A PLACE TO STORE POSSESSIONS AND SLEEP AT NIGHT--BUT A RESIDENCE HALL IS MUCH MORE. IT IS AN INTERDEPENDENT COMMUNITY WHERE STUDENTS CARE ABOUT AND RESPECT ONE ANOTHER AND A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE CAN SHARE AND LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER.--Shaping a Community: A Guide to Residence Life at Rutgers College


COMMUNITY?

Rutgers students enjoyed much of the fun of college life, especially in their freshman and sophomore years, on their coed dorm floors among the sixty other young women and men with whom they happened to share the same level of a college residence hall in any given year. They did not need to form personal groups with these particular youths. The students could have lived anonymously in the dorms, side by side like strangers in a New York apartment house. 1 But their own peer culture, and the deans, encouraged them to link up with everyone else on their floor. And on nearly one hundred dorm floors at Rutgers every year, they almost invariably did so.

The deans characterized these student groups in an officialese that was uniquely their own. It emphasized student choice and it obfuscated deanly authority. Dorm floors should be "interdependent communities of caring individuals" who "enhanced their college experiences" together, the deans recommended. The deans "fostered" student "community- building" through the "residence life" infrastructure, through "role- models," "mediation," "programming," "non-credit courses," and "hall government." Power did not really exist in this voluntaristic world of deanly fantasy. Collective standards somehow emerged without agents; the deans were simply the custodians of an impersonal democratic process:

-71-

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