By Casey S. Elliott
For a discussion about the past and future at Ohio University, the best setting is a residence hall, and the meal of choice is lasagna.
President Roderick J. McDavis, Deborah McDavis, Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith and about 20 undergraduates gathered Monday night in Gamertsfelder Hall to chat over dinner about a wide range of topics.
The McDavises were invited by Callie Sauter, a sophomore resident assistant in Gamertsfelder Hall, which has a history of inviting administrators and faculty to talk with students during a meal.
McDavis, who attended Ohio University as an undergraduate, started off the evening asking students to express their concerns, and freshman Monique Williamson broke the ice: She jokingly asked for a raise -- she works as a student aide in the Office of the President.
He chuckled, and took the next question.
As he spoke about his time as a student at Ohio University in the late '60s, McDavis remembered a time of turmoil on campus, when the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement and women's rights were top of mind. He also told students that his graduating class, the class of 1970, has been the only class at Ohio University not to have a commencement ceremony because of the riots at Kent State University.
McDavis did, however, make up for that missed opportunity by marching in the June 2005 commencement ceremonies, which provided a good deal of satisfaction, he said.
Students asked him what other things he thinks have changed about the student experience.
"One thing -- and I would like to see us go back to that -- I think students are missing something of the college experience," he said, noting that when he sees groups of student walking together today, they're most likely either listening to iPods or talking on mobile phones. "We didn't have those when I went to school. We talked face to face and socialized around those connections we made."
Sophomore Carina Turner asked for McDavis' thoughts on the last presidential election, and how that compared with the elections of his youth.
"I thought the election was very similar (to that of John F. Kennedy)," he said. "(Barack Obama) brought a lot of excitement to the election. And I am pleased so many of our students got involved. The future belongs to your generation. Your level of involvement has an impact on that."
Junior Christopher Sparrow asked McDavis how he deals with negative criticism on the job. McDavis said he expects it, and accepts the criticism. The hardest part, however, is when it gets personal, he said.
"I accept and praise criticism. It's OK if done in a civil way," he said.
McDavis finished with a bit of advice for students as they continue their college years.
"Enjoy the moment," he said. "Do all you can academically, have fun and make friends -- they will last you a lifetime."