Formal Group Housing Proposal
The Task Force recommends the adoption of a new system of group housing for larger groups of students who have a shared mission and organizational structure. This system would incorporate the fraternities, the co-op house, and any other clubs or organizations that may be interested in group housing. Under this plan, group housing would be allocated among student groups that can demonstrate that their shared group mission would be enhanced by group living and that their group possesses the needed organizational structure and willingness to be responsible for such housing. The Task Force believes that small group living units such as the co-op house and fraternities have the potential to facilitate the kind of interaction that "strengthen[s] the intellectual and social environment of the college, provide[s] role-models for individual development, and support[s] the establishment of meaningful relationships and long-lasting friendships." They can be ideal environments in which to "support and encourage student leadership, independence, self-governance, and accountability." Furthermore, the Task Force believes that by establishing clear expectations and criteria for group living, such units can play an important role in "nurtur[ing] an inclusive environment that promotes mature and responsible behavior, valu[ing] diversity and tolerance for differences, and encourag[ing] mutual respect and understanding." The Task Force has also heard anecdotally that the close relationships fostered by group living improves retention and connection to the college after graduation.
Consequently, the Task Force has established the goal of extending more broadly the opportunity for students to experience the benefits and rewards of small group living and of providing equitable access to any group willing to take on the added responsibilities enumerated in this proposal. The Task Force believes that expanding the opportunity for all students to experience the benefits of group living rather than reducing those opportunities for some groups provides the fairest solution to the problem of equity while also increasing the range of housing options available to all students. The Task Force expects that the following groups as they are currently organized might be eligible for formal housing: Sororities, Fraternities, Greek music organizations, the Co-op, and organizations currently occupying theme housing such as the Outdoor Recreation Club. In addition, the Task Force sees no reason why one house might not be shared by members of more than one group, if the groups agree on a house governance structure, shared mission, and use of common space.
Under the terms of this proposal, students will decide for themselves whether such housing is desirable. If student groups continue to find formal group housing an attractive option, such housing should be maintained in order to support and nurture the benefits outlined above. However, the provision of group housing should not be extended to groups that do not wish to take on the responsibilities that accompany the privileges of such housing.
The Task Force wishes to promote responsible use of residence units by organized groups and to support the longevity of such groups. Consequently, the Task Force recommends that formal groups be granted occupancy of university-owned housing units for periods of three years. Privileges of occupancy could be revoked if a group flagrantly violates the criteria on which the award was based or engages in egregious group violation of the Lawrence social code (as reflected in the disciplinary record of the group), pending review by the Formal Group Housing Review Board (see below). Defined terms of occupancy will ensure group accountability while at the same time fostering group continuity and stability. Formal group housing should be seen as a privilege and not as an assumed right.
During the course of their deliberations, members of the Task Force have been mindful of the fact that the Board explicitly charged them to avoid consideration of legal issues in addressing issues of equity. Nevertheless, in advancing this proposal for Formal Group Housing, the Task Force wishes to emphasize that its work has been predicated on the assumption that the Board will ensure that existing claims to residency in university-owned housing will be resolved equitably. The Task Force has developed a proposal that it believes will enable both existing and new formal groups to flourish and prosper at Lawrence. If the Trustees endorse this proposal, it is essential that formal groups be assured that their continued access to housing will not be subject to arbitrary rescission.
The Task Force recommends that a body known as the Formal Group Housing Review Board (FGHRB) be formed and charged with the allocation of formal group housing. The Board should be comprised of the following members:
• Nine students, three of whom should be currently housed in formal group housing (such students have a unique perspective on the type of commitment and organizational structure needed to use group housing most effectively). No student who belongs to a group currently applying for group housing may serve as a member of the FGHRB.
• One Faculty member
• Dean of Students or designate
• Assistant Dean of Students for Residence Life, ex officio (non-voting)
The Task Force further recommends that LUCC be charged with selecting members to serve on FGHRB and devising an open process for their selection.
In order to be considered for allocation of housing, a formal group must submit a proposal to the FGHRB which should address the following requirements:
- Previous viability--a demonstrated history of active membership and responsible leadership for a minimum of the previous two years. Formal group housing should be reserved for groups with long-term viability and a demonstrated history of responsible community membership. The mission and goals of the group, as well as student interest in joining the group, should have been tested through more than one generation of leadership prior to awarding housing. A period of two years allows freshmen to form a new group and have the opportunity to apply for formal group housing during their tenure at Lawrence. The application process should be the same for new and continuing groups with both types of groups summarizing their past activities as a group for a minimum of the previous two years. Groups that have had a longer history (with or without housing) may wish to refer to that history.
- A clearly articulated mission statement consistent with Lawrence’s educational mission which addresses how communal living arrangements and the privilege of having shared living spaces within the housing unit enhance the group’s activities. The mission should include a community service component that addresses either the Lawrence community or the broader Appleton/Fox Valley community. The group should be able to demonstrate fulfillment of their mission during the previous two years.
- Presence of an organizational and governance structure through which the responsibilities of maintaining the residence, coordinating outreach/service activities, and organizing and managing group activities can be fulfilled. Responsibility for the condition of the residence and setting of local rules must rest with identifiable individual students. A house/residence management committee should be part of the organizational structure and include a house manager and an RLA (see below). Included in this structure should be a plan for the recruitment of new members and leaders.
- Identification of a house member who would serve as an RLA, be considered a member of the residence life staff and receive training and support from residence life. The appointment of an RLA, nominated from eligible individuals who will live in the housing unit, should be made in collaboration with the office of residence life. RLA duties might be included with previously designated leadership positions in the group.
- A commitment to welcome the rest of the Lawrence community into the living space at least once per term, perhaps by sponsoring a meal, a speaker, a study break or a party. This requirement is intended to mitigate feelings that these buildings belong only to members of the formal group who reside there. No residential space on campus should be so much the domain of a group that other students do not feel they can enter that space. Funds should be made available to help support student efforts to build campus community through open house events each year.
- A plan for providing food services to the group living in the residence. In keeping with the recommendations pertaining to food services elsewhere in this report (see III. Food Services), members of formal groups will be expected to participate in a minimum campus meal plan equivalent to five meals per week. The Task Force envisions, however, that all formal group housing units should include working kitchens. Formal groups should outline a plan describing how additional food services will be provided to their members. Food services might include use of the residence kitchen by members on a co-op basis, hiring of a cook for designated meals, or additional use of university food services in or out of the residence, subject to the capacity of the facilities.
Formal groups should select a standard meal plan from Food Services. In addition to the minimum provision of five meals per week by Food Services, groups should select from the following:
- Provision of additional meals by Food Services
- Hiring of a cook to prepare additional meals within the residential facility. The Task Force suggests that the feasibility of contracting with Food Services to provide group-specific meals either via a cook who also works at Food Services or by providing meals through a catering arrangement be investigated.
- Provision of additional meals through co-operative cooking.
Groups may elect to have a portion of their board plan money (non-fixed costs only) refunded to the group. The Task Force recommends that the college collect board money only for the board plan chosen by the group and for overhead costs associated with the maintenance of cooking and eating facilities in the formal group housing units. Board dollars in excess of the meals to be provided by Food Services (minimum of five per week) could be transferred back to the group and used for provision of the number of additional meals paid for by members. Additional funds for the provision of meals could be collected by the group from residents or group members. Groups planning to hire a cook, provide meals through co-operative cooking, etc. should include a clear plan for preparing and managing the budget.
- Ability to fill the facility at 90% occupancy on average for all 3 terms. The majority of residents must be group members; any non-group members living in the residence must agree to support the group’s mission and to abide by its residence-related policies. Preference for housing will be given to groups with full resident group membership.
- A list of proposed residents which includes a mix of class years in order to foster the recruitment of knowledgeable leaders for future years. Ideally residents should include sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The group may be single sex or mixed sex. The Task Force has identified mixed class years within residence halls as a strength of our current housing and wishes to ensure that this pattern is replicated in formal group houses. Additionally, the inclusion of sophomores in the group residences will assist in the recruitment of knowledgeable leaders for future years.
- Identification of a faculty or staff advisor. Strong campus support and alumni interest is also desirable.
Following evaluation of applications, the FGHRB would allocate available formal group housing taking into consideration continuity and previous occupancy. Within the overall housing lottery, formal group housing should be allocated first. Groups whose proposals call for extensive use of residential kitchens should have priority for those houses with commercial kitchens. During each group’s subsequent three year tenure, members would be required to provide a brief annual progress report for review by the FGHRB. LUCC should be charged to devise the annual review process for formal group housing occupants. The Task Force recommends that annual progress reports, less detailed than initial applications, be used by the FGHRB in reviewing each group’s adherence to its mission, comportment of members with the social code, and occupancy rate.
In order to expand the opportunities for group living, the Task Force recommends an increase in the total number of spaces dedicated to group living. The number of housing units dedicated to formal group housing should be flexible within the recommended total percentage of housing stock allocated for group living in order to accommodate varying levels of demand (see Part IV: Housing). The Task Force anticipates that the percentage of beds dedicated to group living will be kept roughly constant (about 25% of beds), but the distribution within this category may change as needs change. The Task Force proposes as an initial goal that 9-10 units with usable kitchens be established. The buildings could include the six Quad buildings and three other houses or other facilities with working kitchens (e.g. a group of suites/apartments, a residence hall floor). The non-Quad buildings/facilities should provide smaller spaces to accommodate groups of approximately 10-14 students. After the first cycle of allocation the number and size of housing units dedicated to formal group housing should be re-assessed based on student interest. Maintaining flexibility in the allocation of group living spaces should be a priority in order to allay fears of severe competition for formal group housing. Implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations to increase the overall quantity, variety and quality of housing options (see IV. Housing) will likely impact student interest and demand for formal group housing. Every effort should be made to allow formal groups to maintain their residence if all criteria for awarding formal housing are met. However, groups may be moved to a smaller facility if occupancy drops significantly and other, larger groups meet the criteria for group housing.
It is essential that this proposal be seen in the context of all of the Task Force's recommendations. Group living did not rate as highly as other types of living on the student survey. Some students thrive in a close group environment, while others prefer different living arrangements. Therefore, this proposal calls for only a modest increase in the number of formal group housing units. The task force is cognizant of the fact that we are advocating the continued use of economically less efficient housing units (smaller houses and quad buildings). In addition, the continued ability of students to choose to control the use of a portion of their board money as they see fit is likely to make food service generally more costly. Lastly, allowing groups of like-minded students to live together can promote a disruptive group mentality. However, the Task Force believes that establishing such housing as a privilege rather than as an expected right and implementing a system of review and accountability will address the latter concern.