Hall Government events and programs cater to the interests of the sections and their members. The sections themselves meet weekly, typically for one hour sessions in which members lead projects focused on their Special Interest. These section projects include discussions oriented around politics and cultural analysis, hands-on projects tapping into the creativity of the members, and presentations on topics pertaining to the section. All of the sections are student-run, as is the dormitory's Hall Government, allowing the students to mold and direct the sections as they choose.
Sometimes, underground sections may develop from different residents in the dormitory, often being conducted out of their own rooms inside the dormitory. If there is enough support for the recognition of the section, it may become official in the dormitory and be entitled to funding from the university.
Demarest originally housed only freshmen, but older students protested. Because of its proximity to what was Neilson Football Field (which is now Records Hall and the parking deck), Demarest became the football players' dorm until the mid-1960s. Two football andirons remain in the Main Lounge fireplaces to this day, though apparently two were stolen between 1986 and 2004, possibly within the past ten years.
In the mid-'60s, Demarest began housing Honors students. These students formed special interest sections as a way to learn from each other in informal discussion, as a relaxed, more in-depth alternative to the standard classroom lecture. Some sections were created in conjunction with academic departments, such as French, the first special interest section, created in 1966. Some early Demarest sections included Arts and Crafts, Women's Studies, Puerto Rican Studies, and Natural History.
In the late '70s, Demarest became an official special interest hall, with funding from the Office of the Dean of Students; this funding was later assumed by the Bishop House Office of Residence Life, which was founded in 1980. Students ran the sections autonomously until the first time Rutgers College overbooked itself into a housing shortage and decided to implement the lottery system. Demarites had, up until then, been able to freely return to their sections year after year, but now it seemed that living in Demarest the next year would depend solely on the best lottery numbers, rather than their desire to remain active in the Demarest community.
The residents of Demarest made a deal. They would accept limited supervision from the Office of Residence Life and implement certain requirements for living in the dorm, such as required individual projects, while still reserving the major decisions, such as the establishment of sections, for Demarest residents. In return, they would receive guaranteed housing in Demarest and the right to control section membership.
The autonomy did not last. In 1987, Res Life imposed an unprecedented degree of supervision and administrative procedures on the special interest structure. Among the changes were the enumeration of membership criteria, the reformulation of most sections along strong academic lines (Arts and Crafts, for example, became Visual Arts), and the appointment of a faculty advisor for each section. The sections were segregated, their members forced to live together in contiguous blocks of rooms. Sections were required to answer directly to Bishop House. Res Life never directly informed Demarites of the new rules; they had to find out about them by reading an ad in the The Daily Targum. Berni Calkins, the then-Assistant Coordinator of Res Life, who was primarily responsible for this low point in Demarest/Bishop House diplomacy, refused to cooperate with Demarest residents or even believe that some residents had rights under the Constitution, despite repeated invitations for her to attend a Hall Government meeting to discuss the issues.
In 1989, a new Demarest populace and a mostly-new Res Life staff, including the inimitable Anna-Marie Toto, began a less bitter relationship, including SIC, the Section Issues Committee. SIC was formed to give Demarest residents a better opportunity to tell Res Life their concerns about section-related issues. SIC was composed of the Residence Counselor, all the section leaders, and two additional representatives from each section who had lived in Demarest for at least a year. SIC was responsible for reviewing section program proposals, drawing up section budgets, reviewing section applications (for entire sections, new and continuing), and determining the criteria and procedures for section member applications. The sections were desegregated, wounds healed, and people actually started working together.
The cooperative spirit seemed to have evaporated with Anna-Marie Toto's departure from Bishop House: Res Life retained control over the sections, but did not fulfill its part of the original bargain. However, Dean Calkins left to be a full-time mother, and the Demarest has since undergone a renaissance -- including the appointment of an official Demarest Historian position in Hall Government.
An important tradition of Demarest is the re-affirmation of one's existence, which at Morning Brower (a tradition of the Hall again, where after staying up all night, you go to breakfast in a large pack) or another time in the dining hall, a person doubting their existence stands on a chair, declares themselves to exist, and usually dumps some sort of liquid over their head. It is a healthy and necessary moment, and usually happens en-masse at Midnight Brower.