Special-interest housing offered to residents

By Joe Holden
February 1, 2001

Joe Holden
editor in chief

Beginning next semester, the college will offer special-interest housing to students wanting to create a true living-learning environment. If selected for this special form of living, students will be able to bypass the housing-selection process and be assured of a spot on campus.

The college sees now as an opportune time to offer this form of living, which has been successful at other colleges.

The new residence hall, which is set to open for the fall semester, has been set up to accommodate this living style.

Special-interest housing allows students, between 14 and 18 of them, to live in suites or clusters. The purpose of this arranged living is to help the students to serve the community through service projects. Students living in this arrangement will be expected to sponsor three programs of service to the community a semester.

Students are required to submit a variety of applications explaining their mission and goals associated with their special interests. The students are also asked to cite specific reasons why the college should allow them to live in a special-interest cluster.

“The college isn’t going to tell the students what interests they should have,” Dr. Laura Valente, vice president for student development, said. “We want the students to develop a mission to fit their interests.”

“Not as many schools have as golden an opportunity to set up special interest-housing as we do with the new hall,” Valente said. Valente wants to see the new hall’s special-interest housing “bubble up from the students’ interests.”

To qualify for special-interest housing, students must find a little more then a dozen students willing to live in this cooperative manner.

Students must also find a faculty adviser. Faculty are required to fill out a form asking why they would be interested in helping the students with this theme living. “Faculty are very interested in this. The residence life office ran out of interest forms for faculty,” Valente said. “There is already a Spanish-culture house interested. We have received definites from them at this point. Dr. Cindy Halpern will be serving as adviser to the Spanish-culture group.”

Valente explained that since this is new to the school, anything is possible. “What makes this easy is that students don’t have to go and find 40 other students with a similar interest, which would’ve been needed to fill a floor in Woodcrest or one of the houses. They’ll only have to find between 14 and 18 students with the same interest.”

The new dorm is specifically designed to allow for this type of housing. The facilities found in each suite will enable them to be co-ed. Each has two bathrooms and its own lounge. There are a total of 11 social lounges and three study lounges in the new hall in addition to a main lounge on the first floor.

The new hall will be a dry, non-smoking building, and also subject to all of the other campus policies listed in the college handbook.

Six resident assistants will be assigned to the new hall. Valente thought that one for every suite would have been “overkill.” The students living in the special-interest suites won’t be treated any differently from the rest of the resident students. “The rules will remain consistent throughout,” Valente said.

One of the primary goals during the search for vice president of student development was to bridge academic affairs with student development.

Special-interest housing will be viewed as a major accomplishment in achieving this goal if it succeeds.

Valente reported that there was interest in forming an environmental-friendly group and a fine-arts group, though she said the fine arts group wanted a new piano and she was not sure if that is possible.

“Each special-interest group that’s formed must give back to the community. Clubs that already exist can form into these groups,” Valente said. However, she does not want to see this as an opportunity for cliques to live together. “We want to see new and fresh ideas since Cabrini hasn’t done this before.” She further explained that at some other schools, this form of housing was not managed well and it only allowed for student isolation. Rob Eshelman, a first-year student does not think that the students will mind the community-service aspect of special-interest housing. “This will give Cabrini a good reputation. It will teach students about responsibility,” Eshelman, a marketing major, said. “It’s part of the agreement.”

Valente’s optimism about special-interest housing did not impress Todd Munro. “There are a lot of athletes on campus that find themselves busy enough without having to do more community service.”

Munro, a junior graphic design major and lacrosse player, think this style of living might be viewed as simply more work for busy students. “If students can’t do the community service, is the college going to come down hard on students if they don’t do it?”

Cindy Cimino, a junior studio art/graphic design major, echoed similar views. “I thought the whole point of having a new dorm was only to house the people that didn’t fit on campus, not to have added work.”

Cimino, a commuter, does not find the special interest housing enticing and would not be interested in moving on to campus.

Munro suggests that only one-half of the new hall be devoted to special-interest housing.

Valente countered this point by saying that its success is up to the students. “If we don’t have a lot, that’s fine.”

Valente also pointed out that the sky’s the limit. Her goal is to meet the students’ needs, but warns that interested students must move quickly.

The application deadline for special-interest housing is Feb. 28. “The rest of the students can’t be left hanging.”

Valente wants students to know that they have to relax about the housing-selection process.

Regardless of what form of campus living is chosen, students must submit $350 by March 1 to qualify for campus housing.

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