It’s 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night in February, and the bass from the stereo booms off the walls, muffling the mass of conversations inside the Gallagher Student Center. Sean McMahon, a sophomore English major who lives on campus, is standing halfway through a long
line with a few of his friends, inching their, way toward two tall, orange coolers resting on a foldout table. He’s from Rhode Island, which at the moment is under four feet of snow. Over the music, he’s teasing his friends who think it’s cold outside at 27 degrees.
“When it’s their turn, they walk up to the coolers and fill their cups. Sean tosses his head back and downs his entire drink in one gulp. “It’s so weird to be in Gallagher when it’s this late,” he says. “Let’s get some more water and go downstairs. I think I heard that there was a blackjack table.”
As they walk downstairs, they filter past more students who are walking into the building in groups of three and five. As the doors close behind them, they’re greeted by Student Activities Council representatives who sit at a table just inside the main entrance. They hand out party schedules and a map to activities—first floor: blackjack and an inflatable obstacle course; second floor: food and live music; third floor: more food and magicians. An arc of balloons towers over the students, spelling out the party’s name: Muskies After Dark.
Muskies After Dark—better known as MAD—is a late-night party designed to offer students an alternative to high-risk weekend activities. Organized and run by the Office of Student Involvement, MAD events happen monthly during the school year. Taking over the entire Gallagher Student Center, the students set up Twister stations, inflate the inflatable obstacle courses, invite live bands to play and wait for the fun to ensue.
“Not everyone who goes to Xavier has money to go out on the weekends,” says Dustin Lewis, the associate director of student involvement. “And not everyone on campus drinks alchohol, either. That’s why it’s important for us to provide students with safe, free, fun on the weekends.”
Not only is the program great for students, it gives the resident assistants and hall janitors a break from the normal weekend duties. During MAD nights, the residence halls have less reported damage, injuries and incidents than normal weekend nights.
Lewis first heard of late-night, alternative programs during a conference in October 2010. When he returned to work, he proposed that Xavier create and organize a late-night program unique to the campus. The idea sounded great, but there was only one problem: funding. Because the pervading thought was that college students—whether of legal drinking age or not—will always choose a keg of beer over a cooler of water, it was difficult to get others on board with the idea.
But, with the conviction that late-night alternative programming is something every college should provide its students, Lewis
persisted and the first MAD trial run took place four months later. Nearly 200 students showed up, a promising number, so Lewis decided to continue the program.
Now the program is in its second year and the number of attendees averages around 500 per event.
“It’s great for us to be able to provide students an alternative to drinking,” says Lewis. “There’s a trend of good, clean weekend activities across college campuses, and it’s something that we’re proud to be part of.”