By Adrian Reid
As part of the Master of Arts Heritage Studies programme at the UWI Mona, Department of History and Archaeology, students are required to complete a month’s internship at a heritage/cultural institution. My chosen institution was the UWI Museum. Working on a cataloguing project has allowed me the privilege of reading early editions of the The Pelican, which is a series of UWI Campus magazines dating back to the 1950s. Stories from The Pelican feature early life on campus especially as it relates to events reflecting hall spirit and the creation of unique hall cultures.
Starting during orientation, students are introduced and immersed in hall culture, where many of them unlock hidden skills. These early editions showcased personalities excelling in sports, drama, dance, among other talents whilst highlighting the friendly rivalry that existed between the halls. This Collection of historic texts has allowed me to reflect on my own experience while living on hall, and compare it to that of my predecessors.
My first impressions of the campus and the centrality of hall life to the undergraduate were formed during a high school visit to Research Day on the Mona Campus. Since then, I believe that the residential experience adds tremendous value to student’s university tenure, and offers many options for their holistic development, and exposure to global cultures.
Historical events such as personality pageants, sporting activities, poetry and plays have evolved into cultural showcases such as Culturama, Club Fusion, Inter-Hall Sports and other hall activities that highlight students’ skills, and also the different countries represented at the UWI. The Pelican (April 1955, Vol II, No. 7) spoke to one of the major showcases of hall cultural exploration, the hall dinner, where a historic dinner was held for the opening of Chancellor Hall, attended by our very first Chancellor, Princess Alice, after whom the hall was named. While there have been a few changes (see article “Dining on Hall”), the tradition of hall dinners has continued to this day, and is a grand event themed to highlight the culture of persons who attend the UWI, showcasing the hall’s achievements for the year, followed by a culinary spectacle.
Due to the significant increase in student population, increasing costs and the limited availability of on-campus housing, many students commute and as a consequence miss out on fully experiencing the enriching campus culture. Although all students are attached to a hall of residence, and commuting students are allowed to participate in hall activities and gain some level of hall experience, it is not the same as living on hall.
Getting involved in campus activities at the UWI, and living on hall for at least a semester, opens up a world of possibilities for students’ holistic development and can help them to better understand people of diverse cultures.