College announces details of "Moving Dartmouth Forward" residential communities

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 11/2/15 1:08pm

Six new residential communities based in current residence halls will begin housing students next fall, the College announced in a press release on Monday. Students graduating later than June 2016 will be randomly assigned into one of the communities in February and will have the chance to request up to five students they would like to be in their house next month. Members of the Class of 2020 will be assigned houses next July when they are given room assignments.

The creation of residential communities was announced as part of College President Phil Hanlon’s “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy initiative on Jan. 29 of this year. A student advisory committee was formed after the announcement and three working groups of students, staff and house professors were created this fall to contribute to certain aspects of the residential community plan.

Dean of the College Rebecca Biron, who has been overseeing the plans for residential communities, saidthat all students will be assigned a community though they may live in alternate housing options, such as LLCs, off campus options, affinity houses and Greek houses.Where a studentlives any given term is not the same as theirhouse membership, Biron said.

While former interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer told The Dartmouth in January that the system would begin with the Class of 2019 and current '16s,'17s and'18s could be given the choice to opt-in to a community if they would like, Biron said she was unaware of any announcements that the community system would not include all students on campus next year.

Students will not be able to change which house community they are in after random assignments, Biron said.

"Everybody's membership is permanent, it's lifelong, and we hope that people will build those ties and keep them post-graduation," she said.

Engineering professor Jane Hill, comparative literature professor Dennis Washburn, biology professor Ryan Calsbeek, mathematics professor Craig Sutton, sociology professor Kathryn Lively and physics and astronomy professor Ryan Hickox were selected for four-year terms as house professors in May. Mathematics professor Sergi Elizalde, though not announced in May, will also serve a four-year term as house professor. The professors’ terms began July 1.

Each house professor will be assigned a home near campus “within a short walk of their house community,” according to the press release.

The six houses will have up to 700 members each. Gile, Streeter and Lord Halls will make up Allen House, led by Hill. Ripley, Woodward and Smith Halls will become North Park House, with Calsbeek as house professor. School House will be comprised of Massachusetts Row and Hitchcock Hall under house professor Sutton. Topliff Hall, New Hampshire Hall and the Lodge will make up South House with house professor Lively. Fahey, McLane, Butterfield and Russell Sage Halls will become West House, and Hickox will serve as house professor. The current East Wheelock cluster will become East Wheelock House, led by Elizalde.

Comparative literature professor Dennis Washburn has been chosen as faculty director of McLaughlin Cluster, which will house living learning communities when the house system is implemented. Students living in LLCs will also be given part of one of the six house communities. Washburn will also work with academic affinity communities that will not be housed in McLaughlin, such as the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean studies house and the Sustainable Living Center.

Five of the seven professors selected to oversee communities work in science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM —fields.Biron said while one goal of the house professor selection process was diversity of field, others included excellence in teaching, enthusiasm, energy levels and dedication to students. The house professors be usingtheir abilities as professional intellectuals in this role more than they will utilize knowledge specific to their disciplines.

Incoming students, beginning with the Class of 2020, will continue to live in designated first-year residence halls, which beginning next fall will include the Fayerweathers, Richardson Hall and Wheeler Hall, along with the River and Choates clusters. East Wheelock and McLaughlin will also house some first-year students.

As part of the house community plan, some residence hall social spaces will redone, and temporary structures will be constructed by next August as community areas for houses. One structure is planned to serve Allen and School Houses as a two-level building with a snack bar and outdoor area between Gile and Hitchcock. The other is planned to be build on the two tennis courts closest to Memorial Field, leaving three courts open. The second building is planned to be a “sprung structure,” which generally consists of a metal arch frame with an all-weather membrane over it, and to serve South House and North Park House.

The Allen and School House structure needs to be approved by Hanover’s planning board. A public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, according to the press release. Hanover’s planning board is meeting Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and the meeting agenda lists an application for site plan review by the College’s trustees for a structure that would last for five to ten years on North Main Street, according to the town’s website.

Houses will each have programming budgets as well, for events from field trips, social gatherings and performances to service, house dinners and athletics, according to the press release.

Biron said the exact budget for each house has not yet been determined, since which functions will be funded centrally or by each house community remains undecided. Overall, she said Hanlon has committed $1 million to residential life programming.

Biron said that students in house communities willhave input when deciding which types of events their houses will hold.

"The goal is to have a whole range of things from just hanging out in social space in your house community in student residence to just hanging out at the house professors' houses, all the way up to more formal events with world leaders in the arts and academia," she said.

Students will still be affiliated with their assigned housing communities even if they choose alternate housing options, such as off-campus housing, Greek houses or LLCs. Senior apartments will also be available as alternate housing.

House names may change if the College receives gifts to support the communities, according to the press release.