Giving first-years a choice in housing

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Come August, first-year students arriving at UVM will arguably have a much different experience than what any of the current students reading this remember themselves having.

We all remember the awkward and nerve-wracking experience of orientation, the first-year reading we skimmed while on the beach and maybe even taking a TAP class in the College of Arts and Sciences. These are all things receiving a major facelift in the next couple of years.

Undergraduate orientation, the first-year reading, convocation, Welcome Week and a new advising program in the Davis Center are all aspects of the “first-year experience” that will soon be revamped.

A new course for first-years will focus on teaching study skills, time management, using Blackboard, healthy relationships, diversity, goal setting and course registration, according to a January memo from Provost David Rosowsky.

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Perhaps most surprising is the fact that the administration wants to have 100 percent of first-year students in programmed or themed housing by 2018. This programmed housing will incorporate faculty advising and peer mentoring to foster “growth and discovery” in the residential halls, according to Rosowsky.

Programmed housing is without a doubt an extremely valuable and positive aspect of residential life at UVM. As it stands, it gives students the unique opportunity to live in a community of students who share common interests. It also gives them a core group of peers at the beginning of an often times unsure and intimidating part of the college experience.

However, if all first-year students are required to live in programmed housing, and live in a community in which they don’t feel a particularly strong connection, then the originally positive traits of the system could be diminished. Expanding programmed housing can indeed be positive, but students should be given the choice of whether or not they participate in it.

For some students, a more traditional residential hall living experience may be a better fit. Some first-year students may not feel the need or want for programmed housing. The choice of which housing option to choose should continue to be left up to students.

All of these changes are being made with the goal of giving first-years an overall better and more enhanced experience as well as get them on the right track to graduate in four years with academic success.

The proposed new “first- year experience” has incredibly positive intentions, and we commend the administration for putting in the effort to make sure all first-year students coming to our University have the best experience possible. Giving students the option of what type of living situation they desire, however, should be considered; for in reality, the University as a whole is their new home.