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Moneta inspires praise, criticism

Since coming to Duke last August, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta has restructured the Division of Student Affairs, prepared the campus for the largest residential change since all freshmen moved to East Campus and is the first in his position to sit on President Nan Keohane's senior officers council.

A year after his arrival, however, colleagues and student leaders say that perhaps Moneta1s greatest impact has been bringing a fresh perspective and a new leadership and management style to campus.

"The year was fast, rapid, intense, exciting and very fulfilling," said Sue Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs. "With [Moneta] there's no such thing as phasing something in."

Duke Student Government President and senior Joshua Jean-Baptiste agreed. "He's a swift mover.... He at first leaves the floor open for discussion, but once consensus is made, there's not a chance for rethinking it," he said.

Moneta has not simply been quick to pull the trigger. Administrators and students say he has also challenged traditional thinking at the University. Provost Peter Lange, for example, praised Moneta's ability to combine the goals of Student Affairs with those of academia.

"[He's brought] a willingness to ask, 'Why do we do it that way? Couldn't we think about doing it better by using another approach?' to some of the things we just do as a matter of habit, without thinking," President Nan Keohane wrote in an e-mail.

Moneta served this year on Keohane's senior officers council, a group usually reserved for the most veteran and highest-ranking administrators. Lange said Moneta's fresh voice demonstrated how student issues impact almost all campus-wide initiatives, and that in his first year on the council, Moneta earned his stripes.

Perhaps the most evident example of Moneta's innovative thinking was his restructuring of Student Affairs. The massive overhaul included the creation of an office for greek life, the dismantling of the Office of Student Development and the consolidation of all residential life and housing services.

"When I heard that OSD was going to be split in half, I thought, whoa, the people I thought I was going to be working with I'm not going to be working with anymore," said Assistant Dean of Students Andrea Caldwell, who like Moneta arrived at Duke just last year.

Despite the shake-up, colleagues have dubbed the system more efficient, more user-friendly and more responsive to student needs. They said the system has also fostered healthy, although sometimes opposing opinions on key issues.

"Whether it's with a student or another administrator, he can always agree to disagree," noted Todd Adams, assistant dean of students and director of greek life.

Beyond internal workings, Moneta also spent the year preparing the campus for the massive changes to the residential system planned for the upcoming year, including all sophomores on West, an independent corridor and of course, the new West-Edens Link.

For a system that he mostly inherited from his predecessor, Janet Dickerson, and that was handed down from above by the Board of Trustees, administrative colleagues said Moneta has prepared the campus well.

Students, however, have not held some of Moneta's decisions in such high regard. In creating the independent corridor, every selective group was allowed to give preferences for housing relocation. However, the rankings were barely considered and while 11 groups received their first choice, 11 others did not receive any of their top three choices, prompting DSG to pass a resolution rebuking the process.

"The reallocation of housing space to a certain degree was a mishap," Jean-Baptiste said. "It wasn't an all-out outcry, but I feel as if some people got marginalized."

Moneta countered the complaints by saying that the residential system is no longer "a game of real estate" and although selectives have a place on campus, he has challenged them to do some self-reflection about why they exist.

To compound matters, the new housing lottery system allowed rising sophomores to choose singles on West, upsetting many seniors who were closed out of the process and had to settle for a single in Trent Drive Hall or a double on West.

"It upset a lot of people, but that was not his fault personally," said Campus Council President and senior Andrew Nurkin. "I think it's a little bit of an example of the vision getting ahead of the specifics that it would entail."

Moneta has admitted that the move was a mistake, and said a policy next year will ensure that rising seniors who have never lived on West Campus will have that opportunity.

For other controversial decisions -- the ban of smoking in dorms, for example<Union President and senior Jesse Panuccio said students must take the initiative to voice their opinions on issues. "If you don't want a smoking ban, go talk to him about it; he'll be glad to discuss something with you," he said.

Indeed, students voted on a referendum in DSG's executive elections, and almost 58 percent voted to uphold a smoking ban<a ban supported by Campus Council but opposed by DSG. Nurkin said he thought the power struggle among student groups caught Moneta most off-guard.

"I don't think he expected that Duke student groups have not always been cooperative," Nurkin said. "He is a cooperative sort of guy and wants groups to have a shared vision."

Student organizations and the administration also could not agree on a restructuring of the funding system for student groups.

The funding restructuring is just one of many key initiatives now on tap for the upcoming year. At the top of his list is the implementation of the new residential quad system, but from there, Moneta hopes to focus his efforts on linking the Bryan Center, the West Union Building, the Flowers Building, Page Auditorium and several proposed new structures into a student village.

The student social scene, much of which shifted off-campus last year, is another key area of concern. Administrators and student leaders also point to other issues, including campus climate, social space and greek life. Moneta said he also wants to work on graduate student issues like child care and social space, as well as continuing to bring intellectual life out of the classroom.

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