This week, UR Residential Life finalized its selection process for the Academic Living Centers (ALCs) housed on the Fraternity Quadrangle. The ALC program was started in 2002 to, as Dean Feldman wrote, “provide unique facilities for groups to create integrated educational experiences in a residence-based community.” For the last three years, Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep), Drama House and Douglass Leadership House (DLH) have resided within the houses allocated for the program. Each group typically receives three-year assignments before the next renewal presentation, with evaluations every April to determine whether early termination is warranted.
The renewal process requires the fulfillment of a detailed application provided by the committee, appointed by Feldman, that decides on the final three groups. The application selection criteria states that, “Emphasis will be placed on proposals that provide new and creative approaches to programming in a living and learning environment. In addition, groups must be able to recruit members and fill the number of beds within a house in order to be considered for the space.”
Furthermore, every organization must supply a cover sheet; a description of the academic living group’s mission; a review and honest assessment of the group’s accomplishments over the past three years if applicable; a detailed, educationally focused program plan focused toward the University community for next year (include program ideas and timetables); a more general three year plan for the group’s time as an ALC; a detailed plan for faculty involvement; an explanation of why it is necessary for the group to live together; a tentative list of names and signatures of students committed to living in the house and the names and signatures of alternate participants and a number of other materials. Then, the various groups give a presentation in front of the selection committee, featuring a question-and-answer session directed toward the group applying.
Five groups applied this year to live in the ALCs: Phi Kappa Tau, Delta Upsilon and the three groups already living in the centers. Although only five groups applied, Director of Housing Operations Karen Ely noted that any group can apply to the program: “Whether the group has zero or 40 years of history, we look at everyone.” The committee then discusses what makes their group and potential programming academic, along with how they facilitate in-and-out of classroom learning.
Of the five groups to apply, all the groups who were assigned to the houses for the 2012-2015 period were renewed. DLH received a three-year continuation while Sig Ep and Drama House were granted one-year renewals with their next review in April.
“Our new mission is to foster student engagement by promoting leadership development pursuant to our cardinal principles of virtue, diligence and brotherly ove,” Sig Ep Vice President of ALC Operations Ted Burke noted. “We really believe we can work with this and hold events in the spirit of these three principles that will bring people together and give them opportunities to lead and make a difference on campus.”
On the topic of the one-year stipulation, Burke said, “To be honest, we were a bit surprised at first to hear about the stipulation that we are initially only receiving the house for one year, but we understand the decision. Because it takes a while to get used to having a house on campus and running it effectively, we were much more successful as an ALC in the second half of our term than the first… and with our mission changing slightly, it makes sense that the administration wants to see that we can continue our success before granting us two more years.”
DLH President Sade Richardson noted the value of the ALC initiative. “ALCs serve an important purpose. I’m excited that the school sees the value of not just the academic aspects, but the leadership potential of the students.” She notes that after successfully hosting or co-sponsoring 53 different events in its first two years, DLH is excited to continue expanding their programming and working with groups as diverse as the Music Interest Floor to the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth.
On Wednesday, Feldman sent an email to the student body regarding ALCs and addressing some misconceptions about the program. He explained that “the process places emphasis on proposals that provide creative approaches to programming in a residential learning environment,” adding, “I appreciate the strong level of interest in ALC space this year and look forward to the contributions the groups in these facilities make to the campus community.”
Altabet is a member of the class of 2017.