Senator Debuts Take Your Room Out Program
Issue   |   Wed, 04/09/2014 - 01:29

Current and former Williston residents will gather together next Friday for the pilot event in a planned series of “Take Your Room Out” dinners.

Association of Amherst Students senator Juan Gabriel Delgado Montes ’16 is spearheading the program, which aims to forge new connections between students by inviting them to share a meal with the other students who once occupied their first-year dorm room. For instance, first-year Michael Bessey, who lives in Williston 210, will have the chance to eat dinner at a table with his roommate and the six other current Amherst students who lived in Williston 210 during their first year.

“I think it’s a really interesting idea,” Bessey said. “I’d love to meet upperclassmen. I’d love to make some more friendships with people who have been here longer and who have a lot of valuable experiences to share.”

Take Your Room Out, or TYRO, draws the inspiration for its name from the popular Take Your Professor Out and Take Your Staff Out dinners. While TYPO and TYSO allow students to invite College faculty and staff to dinner at a restaurant in town, TYRO will take place entirely on campus.

All current and former Williston residents who attend will gather in Lewis-Sebring Commons next Friday, and tables will be assigned by room number. The attendees will share a meal in a casual atmosphere and listen to a speech by President Biddy Martin.

“The idea is to have Take Your Room out be a new campus tradition,” Delgado Montes said in an interview. “For first-years there’s a chance to meet upperclassmen with all kinds of different interests, so it’s kind of a mentoring experience. And for upperclassmen there’s a chance to reconnect with your old roommates or just to meet other people who you shared your room with.”

The Association of Amherst Students will fund the TYRO pilot event. If all goes well, Delgado Montes hopes to secure funding from the President’s Office for an entire series of TYRO dinners that would launch in the fall.

“Ideally it would be one weekend,” Delgado Montes said of the TYRO events he hopes to hold this fall. “It would be, let’s say, Charles Pratt, Stearns and Williston one Friday, and then the other dorms on Saturday.”

Although the pilot event is taking place in the spring, Delgado Montes said that it would be ideal for TYRO dinners to be held at the beginning of the academic year so that students can form new friendships at the start of the semester.

“I think it would be very helpful so that as you’re starting a new year, you get to reconnect with someone from last year — your roommate, if you’re a sophomore,” he said. “If you’re a first-year, you can start meeting people from across campus. And if you’re an upperclassman, you get to reconnect with all different people.”

For the events in the fall, Delgado Montes hopes to recruit professors and other speakers to give talks related to on topics such as friendship and community building. He said that the idea while he, Martin, and former Dean of Students Jim Larimore were brainstorming ways to fix the college’s “community deficit.”

“One of the things that we’ve been very good at at Amherst is bringing people here, diversity-wise,” Delgado Montes said. “But in terms of having an overall community feel, we’re lacking — at least that’s my understanding — in regards to our peer institutions.”

He said that he hopes the TYRO program will help to build a greater sense of community by encouraging students to have more meaningful interactions with one another and to feel more comfortable around other students whom they do not know very well.

Delgado Montes admitted that hosting dinners for such a large number of students will prove to be a logistical challenge.

Although smaller dorms such as Williston have close to 30 residents per year, Charles Pratt houses more than 100 residents. As a result, Delgado Montes said that holding events for some of the larger dorms will prove to be more difficult.

“The logistics of that are a bit beyond me right now,” he said.

If the pilot event goes well, Delgado Montes will continue working with Pat Allen, the College’s Director of Conferences and Special Events, to iron out the logistics and prepare for an official launch this fall.