Remembering Past Denison Social Culture to Understand Feelings Towards the Moonies

By Maggie Miller

In my past three and a half years at Denison, the social culture has changed dramatically from Sunnies parties to parking lot white tents and the creation of the Moonies. I think many would agree with me when I say that there is no longer a clear definition of what social culture is on Denison’s campus.

According to the Denison administration, as much as Sunnies parties worked for Denison for a time, there came a point where something had to change. Drunk Denisonians in the Sunnies meant damages to the apartments that were either too great to fix or threatened the structural integrity of the buildings themselves. Although the rumors about the Sunnies sliding down the hill are seemingly untrue, according to the administration if we kept “partying” the way we were, the Sunnies would be destroyed faster than they could fix them. Their solution: the tents.

I recall telling students at other schools that, no joke, my school bought big, white, wedding-like tents, put them in the parking lots of our school and said this is where you can “party”. As absurd as it was, it worked for a minute. It was an outdoor space, people could play music, and parties for a time moved out of the Sunnies. However, then it got cold and they put heaters in the tents, but to no avail. Denison students quickly lost interest and thus the Sunnies came back into play.

Then we get to the Fall of 2019 – the tents are gone but there is massive construction in what used to be the First-Year Student parking lot. Denison’s administration had come up with a more permanent solution in an effort to stop the use of Sunnies for parties altogether. Of course, it took a pretty long time to build these permanent social spaces – the Moonies – and until October of 2019 just where parties were allowed was in doubt. Campus Safety was cracking down on parties being thrown in the Sunnies but the Moonies were not ready.

It has been about six months since the Moonies have opened and, therefore, time to reflect on these new social spaces. What are Denison’s students feeling about the Moonies? Who attends parties there? Are other places on campus still being used for parties that are more appealing to Denison students? These are too many questions to answer at once, so maybe separating out the different topics regarding the Moonies is a good way to begin to get the feels of Denison’s student body on the state of our new social culture. The first topic to investigate is the feelings the student body has towards the Moonies.

Our March 2020 survey sent out to the Denison student body (n=500) asked a couple of different questions about social culture, party culture, and the Moonies. One asked students to rate their feelings on a 0 (cold) to 100 (warm) scale towards different things, one of them being the Moonies. Figure 1 below shows the overall campus feelings towards the Moonies. The average feeling is 35 out of 100 – a pretty negative outlook on the Moonies. The graph also illustrates a large pooling in the middle around the 50 marker, suggesting that there is a fair amount of Denisonians who feel not overwhelmingly negative but also not overwhelmingly positive towards the Moonies.

Figure 1: Feelings toward the Moonies are…Not High

But who feels what way? The first step was to look across class years, which Figure 2 illustrates. The results show that sophomores, surprisingly, have the most negative feelings towards the Moonies (lower than 30). Juniors and Seniors feel about the same – hovering around 35 for Juniors and a little lower 33 for Seniors. Freshmen have substantially more positive feelings towards the Moonies, scoring around 43 on the scale, though still not exactly warm.

Figure 2: Freshmen Have More Positive Feelings Pro-Moonies

These are interesting results, as I personally would not have thought Sophomores were the most disappointed, but maybe that suggests they were using the Moonies more than Juniors and Seniors? First-Years liking the Moonies more could be a result of appreciating any social culture, especially after the gap of the school-year beginning and the Moonies not opening till October (a post to investigate the consequences of this coming soon). First-Years also did not experience Denison’s social-culture in the past and so maybe Sophomores’ disappointment comes from comparing it to the former glory of Sunnies parties.

One final way to understand the feelings towards the Moonies was to look at which campus groups/organizations might like the Moonies more than others. Figure 3 below compares the feelings of the Moonies with what organizational types respondents identified in the survey. The results are incredibly interesting – the different organization’s feelings towards the Moonies are not distinguishable. When do we see Greeks and Varsity sports on opposite ends of a spectrum? And DCGA and Varsity sports right next to each other? Otherwise, campus groups are generally united in their dislike of the Moonies.

Figure 3: Campus Groups Show No Significant Difference in DisLiking the Moonies

I also looked at various factors such as Gender, Race, GPA, Masculinity, and Femininity, and even Social Class, but nothing shows the difference of feelings like class year does. The only other interesting difference was that Strong Republicans liked the Moonies approximately 10 points less than Strong Democrats. This result is a bit strange and potentially surprising that only partisanship had a significant relationship besides class year. Perhaps this is a result of their extreme minority status on campus, which we’ll explore soon.

With the exception of first year students, Denisonians do not feel very positive toward the Moonies. As social culture continues to change on Denison’s campus, Fall 2020 may bring a different light to the Moonies. However, before that happens there is still more to investigate and understand regarding Denison’s attempt at a more permanent basis for social culture.

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.

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