I could write an exhaustive list detailing all the egregious things that Larry Moneta has done to the students at Duke during his time here. One offense, however, stands above the rest. Last week, Larry Moneta verbally confirmed what I already knew: as the vice president for student affairs, he does not care about the students or what they have to say.
Since I am sure that Larry Moneta would never lay eyes on the opinion section of a student newspaper, I decided to attend last week’s House Model Forum, wishfully thinking that my voice would be heard. I was initially shocked at just how little thought had been put into a system that will be implemented next year. For example, the house model will employ a quota system for all houses under which 50 percent of a house is to made up sophomores, with the other half being juniors and seniors. Joe Gonzalez, associate dean for residence life, at one point said the goal is to have 20 percent of seniors live on campus. That would seem to contrast with the “right of return” policy that was harped on endlessly.
I was already amazed at the ineptitude portrayed by the administrators when one of my friends asked this question: “For a system that affects every student at Duke, why were the students not given the opportunity to vote on any aspect of the house model?” Up to this point, Joe Gonzalez and Esosa Osa, DSG vice president of residential life and dining, had fielded all the questions. This time, though, Larry Moneta decided to pipe up. He said “In a university setting, some decisions are consumer driven, and some are not. Just as the curriculum for a major is not decided by the students, neither is the housing model we choose to implement. It is an administrative decision.” At that moment, I immediately questioned Moneta’s understanding of basic economics. A university is a business just like any other. It thrives on high demand, and must offer high consumer value relative to other “products” in the marketplace. As corporate managers of Duke University, Larry Moneta and his colleagues should understand that everything in a business is, at least to some degree, “consumer driven.” Without consumers, there is no company and Larry Moneta would be out of a job.
The House Model Forum ended in apropos fashion. A student bluntly asked “What would it take, in terms of number of people or amount of money, to make the house model die.” Larry Moneta quickly responded saying that there was nothing the students could do to prevent the implementation of the house model, further driving home his point that no amount of student protest could influence his beliefs about what the students want.
If Laurie Patton, the dean of arts and sciences, were to say that she didn’t care about what the students thought, that would be one thing. After all, students are not the best possible judges of which courses need to be mandatory within a major. They are, however, the best judges of their own residential experience and their input is invaluable. Certainly, executive decisions have to be made somewhere along the line, but for the vice president for student affairs to be so blatant about his lack of regard for student input is appalling. It is almost as unacceptable as his stance on transparency. Regarding the recently embattled accountability policy, Larry Moneta was quoted in The Chronicle as saying that “It has always been our prerogative to extend accountability to anyone we thought was accountable—we’ve just never been transparent about it.” If the discontent student body has told the administration anything, it is that they want more transparency and more input in the decision process. Larry Moneta leads the office that is most suited to address these concerns, but he is without a doubt the administrator who cares about them the least.
Here’s how I see it: We need a VP of student affairs who will put the student back in student affairs. Larry Moneta is not that person.
Scott Briggs is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Wednesday.