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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff ed: Sub-free South campus

The recent addition of James hall to sub-free housing, beginning in the 2009-2010 academic year, ensures that there is one dorm with substance-free housing on each residential campus.

While the administration and the Residence Life Committee asserts that this is a good idea, many students have voiced concern and displeasure.

The reasons given to students for the inclusion of James in substance-free housing included data from an informal p-web poll—data which was later ignored—and a sudden pressing need for what the administration has termed “parity” on campus.
While we recognize that increasing demand for substance-free housing calls for increased availability of that housing option, the administration’s blatant disregard for student opinion is troubling.

In an interview with the S&B, Dean of Students Travis Greene cited that this decision was made partially based off of an informal Pioneer Web poll, conducted last semester. The results of this poll favored Norris residence hall to be changed to substance free over the alternative option, Cleveland/Main.

According to Greene, even after this poll, students currently residing in Norris were upset about changing Norris into substance-free housing. Greene also said that South Campus students were similarly unwelcoming. However, in stating this, Greene groups students into two separate entities: Norris or South Campus. Norris is one dorm of students on North Campus, with (x) students, whereas South Campus is a collection of six dorms, housing (x) students.

Not only is making these two groupings arbitrary, but if the administration seeks to make a decision based off of empirical data, in numbers alone the amount of students unwilling to see a change to substance-free in their community is greater on South Campus.
More important than this is the fact that the administration used an informal Pioneer Web poll to make an important decision. If the administration wanted to base their decision simply off of a poll, there should have been a greater effort made to effectively gather empirical data, or data that was more accurately representative of the wants of students.

Additionally, the informal Pioneer Web poll didn’t even offer James residence hall as an option. Basically, the Pioneer Web poll didn’t prove that there was a demand for sub-free dorms on south campus. Regardless, the administration placed it there and made no effort to gauge student response.

This want for sub-free housing on South Campus stems from the administration’s desire for “parity” on campus, which Greene mentioned in an all-campus e-mail.

Obviously there is a demand for more substance-free housing, as indicated by overflow and resulting creation of informal substance free clusters on different floors around campus. If students want to live in a substance-free environment, they should be allowed that opportunity.

However, by offering parity as the main reason for this decision, the administration fails to recognize that parity inherently does not and cannot exist on this campus. For example, if the administration was actually concerned about parity on all parts of campus, every dorm would be air conditioned, not just East Campus and Norris. This is a ridiculous suggestion; and so is the suggestion that parity exists.

Even beyond these concerns, we also wonder whether current sub-free students will draw into James. If few students do, this will result in a dorm that consists mainly of first-years, which will inhibit their initial integration into the larger Grinnell community. As it stands currently, one student has signed up for substance free housing with the preference of living in James.

In the end, with the administration choosing James as the new sub-free dorm, everyone’s voices got ignored. The administration cited a poorly administered poll, that they actually ignored anyway, and flawed arguments of parity to justify the situation. Where were the open forums? Where is the campus wide discussion? Students should directly be involved in a decision so vital to student life.

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