Many Covenant students claim that during the selection process, it was the college’s distinctive hall identities that were a major if not the primary factor that distinguished Covenant from similar private schools. Alumni also testify that during their time spent on campus, hall cultures reinforced an intense sense of fellowship between hallmates and future generations of hallmates after graduation.
However, the recent disintegration of some hall customs such as 2nd South’s “Cecilia” and ban on Ghetto’s wall mural— fondly known as “The Bricks”—raises concerns among students and alumni alike for the future of all hall traditions. Others, including Student Development, see the changes as a product of natural hall evolution and the necessary readjustment of outdated customs.
“What made me 100% sure I had made a good decision to come to Covenant was the hall life here: to have such great friends that you have so little in common with,” said Carter Hall President, Matt Schroeder.
Sophomore Grant Lovelady followed in the footsteps of his father and three uncles to move onto Ghetto after witnessing “how the men that have continued to mentor them and be in their lives post-college have been guys that lived on Ghetto.”
Lovelady fears that these hall cultures are beginning to become more uniform under the direction of Student Development. “If you are sacrificing diversity and character for a professional look, you are going to drive away the people that have made Covenant such a special place over the years,” he said. “People come here because it is different…because they can see the different subcultures here. It’s a picture of the Body, and the goal of the Body is not to look homogenous.”
He says that Student Development currently “is treading a line whether they intentionally know it or not.”
“Cecilia” was an annual dance party during which 2nd South wielded lasers in a darkened elevator lobby to Simon & Garfunkel’s hit by the same name, and, in the words of resident sophomore Daniel Simmons, “would strip down to various degrees of partial nudity.” Schroeder, another 2nd South veteran says “Cecilia” originated at least 15 years ago.
When Carter Residence Director Evan Marbury moved into the elevator lobby, 2nd South met to discuss the ritual with Marbury. To the chagrin of some residents, a mutual decision was reached to can the tradition due its proximity to Marbury’s office and potential disregard for students facing same-sex attraction.
Ghetto’s campaign to “#savethebricks” began on Oct. 11 when Dr. Derek Halvorson, Jonathan Ingraham, and Marbury met with Ghetto to explain that the “painting of the bricks” was no longer permissible under universal hall policy.
The iconic mural has existed on the hall since 1982. Originally, every hall was allowed to paint the walls, but even after the policy was altered in the ’90s, Ghetto continued to decorate the space. Later, in 2005, all Carter halls were allowed to paint until renovation.
Ghetto’s last design was painted in 2005 and remained untouched until this fall—primarily because Ghetto was the last hall to be renovated.
“My perspective is that to do away with the bricks will indeed quiet some of the complaints that arise from the proper larger community, and perhaps make a renovated Carter Hall look much nicer,” says former Dean of Students, Donovan Graham, in a letter to Halvorson, “but it will also strike a serious blow to the heart of what has always been a remarkable community that has helped produce remarkable men.”
Noah Wiersema, Ghetto’s RA, has since approached both Student Senate and Dean Voyles with a compromise enabling every hall to paint murals, so long as the design is approved by Student Senate and Student Development and funded by the hall. Wiersema says that “reception from Student Senate was very good, and…Student Development has also been very helpful in the proposition’s formulation.” Final logistics have yet to be laid out before ratification.
“I think the way the men of Ghetto are approaching their appeal is really cool to see,” says Ingraham. “They are using the means set up in the Covenant community to bring something to change…the proposal is a well-written, thoughtful effort at that.”
Ghetto is also concerned that the administration will remove their name due to misconceptions about its potentially controversial connotation. Lovelady explains that 2nd North was not dubbed “Ghetto” to mock minority groups, but to memorialize hall participation at the The Northside Ghetto Mission and the hall’s original austere living conditions.
Ingraham says that the “issue of the name ‘Ghetto’ has been brought up on a number of occasions by different students, college alumni, family of students, and the friends of the college,” and while it has been discussed by Student Development, “no concrete actions have been proposed” concerning the topic.
Some students outside of Ghetto and 2C also claim that Student Development plays a definitive role, for better or for worse, in altering existing hall traditions through regulation and student placement.
Bloodfield RA Prescott Davis has noticed that this year, administrative involvement “seems a little more forced,” while Junior Hall President, Ian Webb says, “Student development is trying to get a handle on hall culture so that it is more tasteful, but they are not trying to disintegrate it. They’re just trying to get rid of the negatives, which in the end, might get rid of some hall culture, but I definitely don’t think that is their intent.”
Junior Autumn King claims that the dilution of hall identity comes through the intentional placement of RAs and large numbers of freshmen that are unfamiliar with preexisting traditions on certain halls. She attributes the “unhealthy” condition of hall culture to Student Development for “cracking down and doing what Niccolò Machiavelli explains in The Prince: killing the nobles, the seniors, spreading the serfs, and dividing up the villagers to destroy old culture. Ethically, it’s questionable. But effective, yes.”
Schroeder specified that student dispersal was something Student Development did use to temper unruly halls: “I know that it has happened, that it does work, and it is kind of planned out when they do that.”
Ingraham says that the standardization of hall culture is not a component of Student Development’s plans for the future: “I’ve been around Covenant for a while now, and I’ve probably heard that said every few years.”
“I think it’s a beautiful thing the administration doesn’t have to conjure up hall cultures,” he says.“I think what we try to do is draw lines and connect dots. I don’t want to draw specific lines for individual halls, but I would rather say, ‘here are the lines that I didn’t even make, but are in your student handbook.’”
Ingraham hopes that there is “freedom within that context for individual hall culture to flourish.”
He says the changes experienced across campus are because “cultures also will change over time. They’re not stagnant. They are made of people that come and go.”
Ingraham and others on the Residence Life Staff guide the student placement process jointly with Admissions, who typically determines roommate matches beforehand.
“At the beginning of every hall meeting, we state that we will not be guided by traditional views of what hall culture may be,” says Director of Admissions, Scott Schindler. “We place students where we think they will be best fit.”