by Carolyn Arnold
Brotip #3163: Anything that doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you.
Brotip #3135: How much you put in is how much you get out.
These tips — geared towards men and found on the “Brotips” website (www.brotips.com) — feature pearls of wisdom that are sometimes light-hearted and sometimes serious, but all expressing an ages-old desire among men to better define, share, and discuss what it means to really be a man. That desire is the basis for Man2Man, a Living and Learning Community (LLC) at the University for male students interested in being part of a community of brotherhood, with a forum where they can tackle the stereotypes that cling to the college male. A mentoring program has also been developed for older students to pass on what they have learned.
Housed in Regis Hall, Man2Man was formed in 2010 and is one of four living and learning communities for first-year students. LLCs are focused living arrangements that help students integrate what they learn in the classroom with how they interact with one another on campus, and engage in the world at large. A variety of LLCs are available for all first-year students, and include Healthy Living, Leadership Through Service, and Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Over the summer, some of Man2Man’s movers and shakers shared what makes Fairfield’s newest LLC special.
Joshua Robichaud ’13 and Spencer Colpitts ’14 have been involved in the LLC since the beginning. Robichaud helped form Man2Man and served as a Resident Assistant (RA) for the program for three years; Colpitts was a student in the inaugural group and is starting his third year as an RA for the LLC this fall. Other Fairfield community members involved include the Rev. Paul Holland, S.J., rector of the Jesuit Community at Fairfield; Todd Pelazza, director of the Public Safety Department; and Michael Moore, area coordinator for the Office of Residential Life.
When Robichaud, a political science major in the College of Arts and Sciences, became an RA, the Office of Residence Life wanted to create a living experience that would support men. Although men are not a minority worldwide, female students at Fairfield currently outnumber male students at about 60 percent of the student body. “Residence Life was gracious enough to send me to a men and masculinity conference at Roger Williams College,” Robichaud explained. “That gave me some insight into why guys tend to underperform, move towards risky behavior, or not live up to their potential in college.”
As a community, Man2Man has organized events like whiffle ball tournaments, movie nights, trips to hockey and baseball games, and even a poker night. (It is rumored that Fr. Holland cleaned house.)
But there’s much more to this LLC than hanging out. “I wanted members to come and enjoy it, but make it meaningful,” Robichaud said.
The LLC holds discussions throughout the year where members discuss male culture and the stereotypes — often negative — of males on campus.
“A lot of people come into college, particularly males, with the Animal House, male frat mentality,” Colpitts said. The assumptions underlying that mentality are addressed by the group, as well as others about peer and sexual relationships.
In addition, men attending college for the first time are often assumed to always be strong and “okay,” and to not require support, when in fact many find the transition to college difficult, and experience homesickness. “When I first started talking about this LLC,” said Robichaud, “many didn’t understand the background behind it. They’d say, ‘They’re guys; they have so much going for them and they don’t need help.’”
At the beginning of the year, all students in Man2Man are asked to define what it is to be a man — a definition that develops and becomes richer as the year progresses.
“The students become more adult, more mature, more masculine, in the deepest sense,” Fr. Holland said of the process. “They’re more generous, reflective and self-aware, and therefore capable of recognizing what the culture has been doing to them so that they can make different choices.”
“Getting drunk and hooking up is not a mark of your adulthood,” he added. “Giving your word and being able to keep it — that makes you an adult.”
Colpitts said that being a man means “being loyal, sticking up for those who can’t defend themselves, and treating women with the utmost respect. I think through these programs we’re taking people from the ‘frat guy mentality’ to being men for others.”
The RAs in Man2Man also have assigned reading to help them frame the discussion. Books included Guyland by Michael Kimmel, which Moore said was critical to the foundation of the LLC. Chivalry Now: The Code of Male Ethics by Joseph Jacques was also discussed.
In the halls of Regis, a “Brotocol” hangs on many of the walls. Adapted from Chivalry Now and Brotips.com, it lists “12 Truths” that the residents live up to, which include developing themselves for the greater good, keeping their word, defending those who can’t defend themselves, and living their life with courtesy and honor.
Mentoring has been one aspect of the program that has really taken off.
Fr. Holland, who also works with Fairfield Preparatory High School, suggested that students in the LLC talk to the high school seniors about their transition to college.
The Man2Man group, which now has close to 40 members a year, will continue to look for ways to grow and have an impact on the whole culture of Fairfield and colleges nationwide.
“There’s a hunger for this in higher education,” Moore noted.
Pelazza noted that he sat in on a conference call about male-oriented residence halls at other universities and noted that Fairfield appears to be ahead of the curve. “I was amazed by how advanced we were compared to larger schools,” he said.
Fr. Holland said that he’s excited to see the students in Man2Man continually challenge the stereotypes of males at college and develop the LLC. “We’ve all seen this as something integral to the larger mission at Fairfield. We can’t let that stereotypical culture become something that’s normalized. If we do, we’re not true to our mission to our students and ourselves.”
Robichaud, who now works at Skystream Markets in Stamford, Conn., as an analyst, plans to stay involved with the community while Colpitts, who has begun his final year as an RA for Man2Man, will keep the energy going with the mentor program and other events to develop positive masculinity on campus.