The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: James Hall and Substance-Free Housing

The subject of James Hall becoming substance-free next year has generated an extraordinary amount of conversation over the past academic year – as evident most recently by a front-page article in last week’s Scarlet & Black, as well as an editorial calling for an immediate re-evaluation of substance-free housing. We were pleased with the balanced approach Sarah Black ‘10 took when addressing this issue in her article. We also applaud the editors in raising this topic, once again, in their staff editorial. However, we feel it is important to address some of the misinformation included in the editorial in hopes that it will create a more informed and accurate discussion regarding substance-free residence halls.

First, it is important to note that James Hall is no more likely to become a first-year residence hall than it is this year. There are currently 32 first-year students living in James Hall and there will be 32 incoming first-year students housed in James Hall next year. The editorial cites only eight returning students drawing into James Hall this year, whereas, in reality, 13 returning students drew into James, along with four student staff members. Since the room draw process ended, we have had an additional five returning students request to live in James – leaving six remaining upper-class spaces (i.e., 3 doubles) that will be filled by students who either: a.) did not participate in room draw; b.) are returning from a leave of absence; or c.) are transferring into Grinnell. Any fears of James becoming a first-year residence hall are unfounded and unnecessary. Second, we remind everyone that Smith and Kershaw have typically had some students who did not initially go through the substance-free room draw process but then later decided to reside in a sub-free dorm. We trust that these few students honor the nature of and commitment to living in a substance-free community. And while it is tempting to sensationalize this year’s room draw process as a “housing crisis” that extended beyond James Hall, it would not be accurate. Because of the record-breaking size of the Class of 2012, we needed to “open-up” 10 double rooms – and not 32 as the editorial suggested – that were originally assigned for first-year students. It is not uncommon for first-year room designations to change from year to year. This is necessary to accommodate the fluctuating size of each entering class of students. And, finally, while the editors are quick to remind us of the informal P-Web survey that indicated Norris was preferable to any residence hall on South Campus becoming substance-free, they did not take into account the separate survey findings of current substance-free residents (in sub-free halls and sub-free clusters) who overwhelmingly rejected the idea of designating Norris as sub-free.

The room draw and first-year roommate assignment processes are both an art and a science. We do everything possible to collect as much feedback so that we can create environments that are safe, respectful, and meet the needs of the community. Increased substance-free housing is a direct result of student demand – from incoming and returning students alike. At the end of the day, we made a decision that attempted to provide substance-free living options for students on all three residential parts of campus. We fully agree with Adam Wert ’10 and his assertion that substance-free housing and South Campus can co-exist. And if not, then we will re-evaluate and plan accordingly.

Travis Greene
Dean of Students

Kim Hinds-Brush
Assistant Director of Residence Life/Residence Life Coordinator

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