Interview with incoming Dean of Students Daren Mooko
April 20, 2017
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Daren Mooko was recently selected to replace Chuck Cleveland as Whitman’s Dean of Students. While on campus, Mooko sat down with Wire reporter Nick Maahs to discuss residence life and transparency. What follows is a transcript of part of that conversation. Minor edits have been made for clarity and concision.
NM: I know residence life is a big part of what you’re looking to do here. What’s your vision for Whitman regarding just where the student body lives?
DM: My understanding is that maybe 60 percent of Whitman students live on-campus. One of my overall goals is to really learn the culture here first, and I probably will want to learn more about the housing dynamics—choices that students are making, what options they have available to them—and to find out why they are making their choices. So, if it’s the case that 40 percent aren’t living on campus because they find something objectionable, then that’s something to look at. If 40 percent are saying, “It almost doesn’t matter what you do to the residence halls or residence life, I just really want to live off-campus in an apartment,” I don’t know how much more you can do there. I think what might be related to that is to have a better understanding of how third and fourth year students still feel connected to the college. Again, it’s my understanding that residency is required for first and second year, and I want to learn more about what the experiences are for third and fourth year students, if there’s any relationship to the housing and to how they envision themselves connected to the college.
NM: How do you think that sort of change might impact affordability for the Whitman community?
DM: Again, I would want to know first if students actually want to live on campus. So, it’s one of these questions of which came first, is it the fact that we haven’t built new residence halls because no one wants to live on campus or is it the fact that people are moving off campus because there’s nowhere to live here. I think building this new hall is an interesting next step to see what that would look like. I think that would actually take some really intentional studying and research that would be pretty in-depth, because it wouldn’t just be a matter of asking juniors and seniors, “Would you?” it would also be a question of, “What would you want,” right? Because I think there’s a dramatic difference between your first year at Whitman and your fourth year at Whitman, and how that translates into housing needs. There are different models—and I’m sure students know this because they have friends that go to other schools—where there are apartment style residence halls and that could be something that would be of interest to students.
NM: How do you plan to improve relations between the student body and the administration?
DM: I don’t have anything specific in mind. I think my general approach working in higher education is to work towards consistent and regular communication with students. I think that when communication between administration and students becomes a routine of problem, request, resolution, problem, request, resolution, I don’t think that’s communication; I think that’s a transaction. So, I would love to have consistent, regular communication with a wide variety of students, whether that be organized through the student government or IFC or athletics, however it is. That’s what I’m interested in, I’m not interested in just responding to problems. That has to happen, I mean obviously, but I’m much more interested in the other: consistent communication.