The task force began its work
with a consideration of the educational mission of residential life. We produced
a working draft which we reconsidered as
we moved on with the topics of the subcommittees. The Mission Subcommittee
(Maureen Mahoney, dean of the college, chair; William Gipson, trustee;
Soda M. Lo ’05; Victoria Murden McClure ’85, trustee; and Elizabeth
Spelman, professor, Philosophy) held focus group discussions with first-year
students, juniors, house presidents, and Talbot House. We also discussed
the mission at two open forums, March 27 and April 9.
The subcommittee reached
an early consensus that residential life plays an important role in supporting
the educational mission of the college.
liberal education comes under increasing criticism for its historical elitism,
relevance, and cost, it is important to reiterate the unique educational
possibilities at a small residential college.
Like peer institutions,
we devote substantial resources to make it possible for a wide range of students
to attend Smith: over 60% of our student body
receives need-based financial aid. We are also committed to racial, ethnic,
religious and other kinds of diversity. The majority of today's college
students, however, come from segregated high schools (Guarasci, 1997).
For many, Smith
will be the most diverse environment they have encountered in their lives.
Referring to the responsibility of residential liberal arts colleges
to teach "the
arts of democracy," Richard Guarasci, in Democratic Education in
an Age of Difference (1997), notes that:
In a world where more than three-quarters
of the students representative
of distinct races and ethnic groups are educated in virtually segregated
schools, the formal curriculum will not likely replace the overarching
need for common living experiences as a means of allowing students
to engage fully
with voices and histories distinct from their own. If ever undergraduate
education needed a pedagogical model that recombined learning and life
inside and outside
the classroom, it is at this juncture in college history. (p.13)
details of life experience also vary dramatically among our students. Many
from relatively privileged backgrounds have enjoyed a private
bedroom at home
as they grew up. However, family meals at dinner are often not the
norm. The challenges of arriving at a diverse residential college,
a double room with a roommate, and living in a house that is student-governed
represents a profound transition and an educational opportunity.
Achieving respectful, lively, enjoyable interaction in the houses is perhaps
more a challenge now than it has ever been.
however, must be balanced with the recognition that students also need to
be private and reflective. Similarly,
be able to
engage with housemates in critical debate and conflict resolution,
but also to experience their houses as locations of safety and
students' experiences in their houses should reflect a variety
of options, including ways of being alone and ways of being a member
of the community,
as well as sensitivity to the fact that college students need to
become increasingly independent.
- Residential life supports students' growth and
flourishing as scholars, citizens, co-workers and friends.
- Residential life
broadens students' experiences and challenges their ideas and beliefs
by exposing them to individual, racial,
cultural, religious, and political differences.
life affords opportunities to be actively involved in the Smith community
and beyond, while supporting the need
- Because conflict is bound to occur in residential
life, it must provide students with opportunities to learn how
as how to live with disagreement and ambiguity when
no resolution to disagreement
- Residential life fosters a dynamic connection
between life inside and outside the classroom.
- Residential life recognizes
both the need for independence and the fact that members of our community
to one another.
These principles inform the analyses
and recommendations that follow.
Theme Based Living