A Call To The Hall

Once again, at the weekly Hall Council meeting on Wednesday night, I was one of only a handful of seniors in attendance. Given that Hall Council’s very ...

Feb 22, 2014

Once again, at the weekly Hall Council meeting on Wednesday night, I was one of only a handful of seniors in attendance. Given that Hall Council’s very mission is to foster community and that seniors play a prominent role as informal leaders in that community, what’s with the lack of senior involvement in Hall Council?
The first and most obvious thing to note is that Hall Council was not started by NYU Abu Dhabi seniors or NYUAD students at all. Hall Council was brought to Sama Tower in Fall 2011 by two NYU New York students. Perhaps it was intended to shape and foster community in a fashion similar to the RealAD show — a top-down initiative meant to address the otherwise sparse and informal network of support so far developed. It wouldn’t be the first time that policies have been put in place by visiting students or administration. Accordingly, it would be justifiable to avoid Hall Council if it were seen as a reminder or reflection of this intuition being shaped by forces perceived to be outside our community and our control. This is especially true given the level of attachment or ownership of this college that the inaugural class may be somewhat justified in feeling.
However, this answer rings false. Despite being unique, many parts of NYUAD were inherited from NYU New York or from other institutions or organisations. Our Student Government constitution, though mostly an original composition, borrowed its format and structure from the very best examples of other prior student constitutions. Others often shape our academic curriculum in a fashion beyond our control, but we hardly see the same apathy in student-faculty mixers or discussions of core curricula. Whence the difference?
The next answer that occurred to me is that perhaps the seniors have their own notions about Hall Council and how it ought to be structured. I was once of this view. In fact, I believed very deeply that Hall Council ought to be run by an elected body of students accountable only to a student constitution and audience — in other words, a subsidiary of Student Government. But if this were so, then perhaps we would see higher attendance at the General Assembly meetings Student Government runs, if only to suggest alterations to Hall Council’s structure. Yet GA meetings, though better attended than Hall Council, also remain relatively small, with little to no conversation of Hall Council taking place. If the lack of attendance at Hall Council meetings stems from a legitimate desire for reform of the institution, it seems that it is the only manifestation of that desire.
The true answer, in my view, is that seniors still do not understand Hall Council. In theory, this lack of awareness is easy to fix; in a community of learners practiced at formulating and answering questions, one would think only the usual requirements of open dialogue and interaction would be necessary to foster some kind of understanding. However, in the case of Hall Council, there is an undercurrent of disbelief, of illegitimacy and possibly even of embarrassment that prevents seniors from making an effort to engage in this particular part of the community.
Indeed, there is something subtly uncomfortable to seniors that any effort at all needs to be made to understand this community. Why should we need to try to understand this community that we started? It would be embarrassing not to understand this community with which we are supposed to be intimately familiar. So we do not believe we have to try, or that we do not understand the community, even as we fail to engage with one of its most communally focused wings. We falsely believe we understand all that we need to in order to lead the community without putting active effort into embracing and understanding new parts of our institution. Perhaps we are afraid to learn more than we teach or be seen as supported more than supportive of others.
It took me a while to warm up to Hall Council, to witness its impact and understand its legitimacy. In part, I am writing this to the senior community because the organic realization for which I had high hopes is not materialising, and we are quickly running out of time. One of the most important ways through which student life on Saadiyat will be shaped is Hall Council and its policies and structures affecting student life — from Floor 9 and paintball to Halloween hijinks and lockout procedures. If we are going to lead this community effectively to Saadiyat and help this community take successful first steps even in our absence, seniors need to understand Hall Council in full, even if it means admitting we have to learn.
 Joshua Shirley is a contributing writer. Email him at
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