By Maggie Miller
When you arrive at Denison in the Fall of your first year, you are given a new title: Denisonian. Most first-year students have no idea what this term means, and the only context they have for it is Adam Weinberg’s or Laurel Kennedy’s speeches. However, in one’s time at Denison, you come to learn that being a Denisonian carries weight. It implies certain characteristics and responsibilities, so that by the time you graduate four years later you are sad to no longer be a current Denisonian. What characteristics and responsibilities come with being a Denisonian are up for interpretation, however, I believe that most would agree that being a Denisonian at least means that you care for other Denisonians – you care for the people around you.
Whether it is making sure no one touches an unaccompanied laptop in the library, helping someone find a classroom, or making sure everyone is safe to get home from the Sunnies on a Friday night, Denisonians care for one another and offer support when needed. In the past couple weeks Denison has become a remote college on the Hill, but our support for one another, even from miles away, has not waivered. In the short time between students leaving for spring break and the announcement that Denison would be remote for the rest of the semester, a google document popped up that offered support from students and faculty including everything from moving bins into storage, rides to the airport, and even temporary housing for those who did not have a firm plan yet on where to go. It is incredible the support Denisonians offer one another in times of high need, but what is even more incredible, in my opinion, is the support that exists on the hill in everyday life.
127’s most recent survey sent out in February 2020 asked a question regarding support. We’ve investigated this before, but it was high time for an update. The question specifically asked how many students one could identify (from 0 to 10) that they could lean on for different types of support. Those types included asking for a ride to the grocery store, borrowing twenty dollars, getting a set of notes when you miss a class, and talking about a breakup or being unhappy.
The figure below shows that at least 20% of respondents to the survey were able to think of 10+ people who could help them for each need. In “getting notes from a missed class” over 30% of survey respondents could identify at least 10 people. In comparing the different scenarios to one another, respondents could identify on average 4.83 people who would help to get to the grocery store, 4.63 people who they could borrow $20 from, and then it goes up a little to 5.04 people to talk about a breakup, and finally 6.43 people to get notes from a missed class. The averages for each type of support do not differ widely.
How else can we understand support networks? A big thing at Denison is campus involvement. One of the ways Denisonians are expected to illustrate support is through involvement in various activities and extracurriculars during your four years on the Hill. The Denison Administration implores new Denisonians to challenge what they know, and join a club or activity they have never even heard of, but also get involved on a deeper level and commit to something they are passionate about. The figure below shows that with each involvement added (e.g., varsity sport, religious, service), students report more people they can turn to for support (in every scenario except for borrowing $20). In the case of talking about a breakup, each involvement type provides about 0.5 more people that that individual can turn to. That is, involvement boosts social support. So maybe those plugs that the administration constantly gives about getting involved is more than just about something to fill the time after classes end for the day, but about building community.
Knowing the positive relationship between involvement and social support begs the question, how do different types of involvement measure up to one another in generating social support? The figure below shows how different campus involvements have different averages of social support. Those involved with Greek Life and Varsity Sports have the highest levels of social support, on average. On the other hand, Cross-Cultural involvements and Arts involvements have the lowest level of social support. With that said though, the average level of social support is all above 15 people and all waivers around 20 people (adding up all four dimensions of support). No matter what, those involved in campus life have a high level of social support from other Denisonians.
Denisonians support one another. As we come to the beginning of our fourth week of remote learning and who knows how many days away from each other and the Hill it is important to realize that there is a network to turn to. Regardless of where one is and what one is involved in, Denisonians are supportive because that’s what it means to be a Denisonian.
Maggie Miller is an almost Denison alumna who is experiencing quarantine in NYC while pondering what a post-pandemic job market looks like. She is looking forward to her Zoom University Class of 2020 graduation on May 16th.