The impact of the North Campus Residential Initiative on Program Houses has been met with mixed opinions.
Throughout the planning stages of the North Campus Residential Initiative (NCRI), the implementation, and plans for the future, Program Houses (PH) have been kept in mind.
In their Final Report (Sept. 29, 1997), the Residential Communities Implementation Plan Steering Committee addressed “the controversial topic of freshmen in program houses.”
In this report, the Committee stated that, “while only a small portion of the freshmen class choose this option, many who do indicate that the program houses have a significant impact on their success as new students.”
The Committee therefore recommends to “maintain the option of freshmen choice for program houses and extend the preference granted new students to included lifestyle choices [such as sleeping habits and study patterns] thus mitigating the impact of choice of a specific residential complex.”
Jean Reese, Residential Initiative (RI) project leader, said that from about 1999 to 2001, “LeNorman Strong chaired a committee focused on the RI and Program Houses. All program houses had staff, students, and faculty representatives on the committee. The committee resulted in recommendations for strengthening the program houses, improving marketing strategies, devising program enhancements and program outreach efforts, etc.”
From these committees, as well as the RI North Campus Program Committee and President Hunter R. Rawlings III’s report on Residential Housing, the following recommendations were made in relation to the RI and PH; expand outreach by holding open houses early in the fall semester, include PH as co-sponsors of Orientation (to help increase awareness of the PH option), move PH to North Campus if they wish to have freshmen residents — in which case, all PH on North Campus must have between 25 and 50 percent of its residents be freshmen — and lastly, maintain freshmen choice for PH living.
One of the results of these recommendations is that some freshmen were placed in PH, without requesting to live there.
“There was a strong desire by first-year students to live in the new dorms and therefore [students] didn’t request other [living options, like PH],” said Donald H. King, director of Community Development/associative director for Campus Life.
King mentioned that a contributing factor to the unrequested placement of freshmen in a PH is bed count needs for North Campus. King, however, also said that when deciding who should be placed in a PH, “our purpose is to identify students who want to be there, not to place them there.”
Unfortunately, not all unrequested freshmen placements were met with smiles. Ian McKinley ’05, was placed in Risley for the 2001-02 school year, and felt he was “thrown in without any thought.”
Brian Y. Pan ’05 did apply to live in Risley, but agrees that arbitrary placement is not a good idea.
“Each Program House is so specific, if you place someone in it that doesn’t want to be there, they’ll have a terrible time.”
On a similar note, Melanie Errico ’04, another Risley resident, said that freshmen placed in Risley tend to be “socially involved, but not program involved.”
A repercussion that Adam Savin ’04, a Just About Music (JAM) resident, pointed out is that, “There were a lot of people who wanted to live in JAM but couldn’t because they weren’t freshmen, and [they] were replaced by people, who didn’t want to live in JAM, because they were freshmen.”
This was due to the freshmen percentage requirements for PH on North Campus.
Victoria R. Lopez, Residence Hall Director for the Latin Living Center, supported this concern.
“There are more students than there are spots for …. It’s very hard. Not only for me as an RHD, but also for all the students involved …. What I do see is the freshmen in Program Houses have a better mentorship, like on classes and professors, and I think that’s what they’ve benefited most from,” Lopez stated.
The final question is whether or not the North Campus community really involves the PH, and whether or not that is a good thing.
According to Errico, “We don’t consider ourselves North [Campus residents]. We’re not really involved in that area of the community, we’re kind of a satellite.”
However, both McKinley and Pan felt they were able to be a part of the freshman community, so long as they gave it some effort.
Savin said that living on North Campus this year has made him feel like a freshman, which has affected his decision to not live in JAM next year.
Both staff and students have expressed different opinions on how the NCRI has affected PH.
“The Program Houses (PH) on North are doing well,” said C. Anthony (Tony) McClean, RHD of the Holland International Living Center.
King agreed, saying, “The Program Houses are experiencing a positive year on North Campus.”
Jessica Gregush ’04, a two-year resident of the Ecology House said, “It’s hard to say everyone usually finds their niche.”
Errico expressed disappointment, especially since there are people being placed, for example, in Risley.
“I’m paying extra to live with people who are artsy. I wanted to live with people who are artistic and can inspire me, the select few are inspiring the masses who aren’t creative,” Errico said.
“I would have rather been placed just with normal freshmen in other dorms. Getting placed in a Program House against your own will is not the best situation,” McKinley said.
For the future, King stated there are plans for additional emphasis and publicity about the PH opportunities. He also noted that there is a “strong desire from current students in Program Houses and others in traditional residence halls to live in a Program house during the 2002-03 academic year,” and the caps have been raised for upperclassmen spots in PHs. Hopefully, because of this, there will be fewer instances of unrequested freshmen placement in PH in the future.
For the future, Hubbell hopes, “to see [PH] thrive on North Campus …. The idea is to try and find specific things we want to do to improve North Campus Find out what we should do to make it a better community.”
Archived article by Rachel Brenner