The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff ed: James shouldn’t be a sub-free dorm

It was no surprise to us when only eight Grinnell students drew into James Hall, the newest and most controversial addition to substance-free housing on campus. We were even less surprised to learn that of the eight students, not all of them self-identify as substance-free. With only eight upperclassmen living in a residence hall that houses 60 students, the administration has effectively created a first-year dorm.

This is disconcerting on a number of levels. Not only will these first-years be responsible for navigating the drug and alcohol culture of south campus alone, but in their isolation they will not be privy to the multi-class camaraderie of most floors.
On a broader scale, the “housing crisis” extends beyond the situation in James. Student Affairs was forced to make 32 substance-neutral rooms previously designated for incoming first-years available during regular room draw. Since substance-free rooms in James were not among those reallocated, the natural dissemination of upperclassmen throughout residence halls was significantly impeded as substance neutral second, third, and fourth year students were less likely to draw into the south campus dorm.

Despite the efforts of administrators to solicit widespread student input, their efforts ultimately fell short. While we believe those in Student Affairs made a sincere attempt to give all students, regardless of their position on substance use, a place to live on North, East, as well as South Campus, student interest in a Southside sub-free dorm was obviously not enough to warrant James’ new sub-free distinction. This response was expected given the data gathered in an informal online poll in which the student body overwhelmingly suggested Norris as the new substance-free location.

We urge the administration to take immediate steps to reevaluate substance-free housing on Grinnell College campus by taking steps to resolve this unfortunate situation. While James clearly isn’t the optimal residence hall to house substance-free students, perhaps other halls would adequately fill the purported need for additional sub-free housing.

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