Northwestern alum calls on students, administrators to lead changes in campus culture


Daniel Tian/The Daily Northwestern

Patrick Day (SESP ’92) talks Wednesday about the importance of deliberate leadership in community. Day spoke at the sixth annual Gregg A. Kindle Distinguished Lecture on Community, which all resident assistants were required to attend.

Drew Gerber, Reporter

A Northwestern alumnus called on residential assistants and administrators Tuesday to lead changes in policy and engagement within the NU community to improve campus culture.

Patrick Day (SESP ’92), vice president for student life at University of the Pacific, spoke to about 170 RAs and Residential Services administrators about the importance of building cross-cultural and diverse communities. Day emphasized that community building requires deliberate leadership.

“This notion of community, this idea of community, is one that doesn’t just happen,” Day said.

Day, who is black, drew upon his own experience at NU, showing the audience a picture of himself with a group of mostly black students. He said at NU this type of experience — “defaulting into places” — can easily happen.

“We are a community that is not as deliberate about creating our desired community as we could be,” Day said.

Day spoke at the sixth annual Gregg A. Kindle Distinguished Lecture on Community, presented by Residential Services in honor of former Director of Residential Life and Assistant Dean of Students Gregg Kindle. During his tenure, Kindle focused on creating inclusive community programs on issues like LGBT and sexual assault awareness.

Day told the audience three things he considers central to improving campus culture at NU: looking for policies that don’t work, creating better community engagement and making organizational changes in areas like housing or the Greek system.

“If you have this ideal community, what it begins to communicate to people on the front-end is that there are shared values that are powerful and they are significant,” Day said. “Not only are we going to say them in the brochure, but at some point there is going to be a reinforcement of those values.”

Cassie Eskridge, senior assistant director of residential life, said this year’s lecture was different from past years because organizers wanted to hold a deeper discussion specifically focused on NU.

“When somebody brought up Mr. Patrick Day, who is a Northwestern alum, as somebody who could come and speak about his experience here and some of the things that haven’t really changed since he graduated in ‘92,” Eskridge said, “It is pretty powerful to hear from somebody who was here.”

Day emphasized that his community at NU did not lack any of the opportunities other communities had, academically or socially, but all communities at the University missed out on building cross-cultural connections. He said that failing to engage in these types of conversations, whether surrounding the gender spectrum or sexual assault, prevented progress for both the affected community and the NU community as a whole.

To initiate a conversation among the RAs, Day led the group through a brainstorming exercise to create NU-specific definitions for what communities are currently like and what they could ideally be. Day joked with and teased the students, creating a more intimate atmosphere, which he said is essential for starting these kinds of conversations.

Eskridge said a special component of the Kindle lecture is that it is held in two sessions, one for faculty and administrators and another for students.

“We have people at both the student level and in our administration who want to make NU a more inclusive place for all students,” she said.

First-year RA Yue Hu, who lives in 1835 Hinman, felt Day’s lecture provided a rare opportunity for discussion.

“As an RA, we are privileged to engage in these conversations,” the McCormick sophomore said. “Personally, I cherish this opportunity.”

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