The Tiernan Project, which was established in 1974 as UR’s special interest housing for those interested in community service and is currently located on Burton 2, will not be a special interest housing group in 2015-16. It originally occupied all of Tiernan Hall with around 165 members before its relocation following the implementation of freshman housing in the building 2001-02.
Laurel Contomanolis, executive director of Residential Life and Housing Services, explained that Tiernan Project “was one of the main focal points for doing community service at the U of R” while it was housed in Tiernan. At that point in time, Contomanolis recalled, the Rochester Center for Community Leadership had not yet been formed and there were not many other community service programs.
Before freshmen were grouped into Gilbert, Tiernan, Lovejoy, Hoeing and Susan B. Anthony Halls, freshmen and upperclassmen shared residential halls and freshmen could apply to live in special interest housing.
Director of Housing Operations Karen Ely noted, “With the change to freshman housing, they couldn’t recruit out of the freshman class because all the freshmen were required to live together. That hurt the numbers of active members within Tiernan Project.”
In 2002-03, the Tiernan Project had 54 members on Crosby 2. In 2003-04, that dropped to 32 in and Tiernan Project moved to Burton 2, where it has stayed since. The number of members hovered around 35 for the next several years before dropping to 17 in 2011-12 and now, in 2014-15, to 10 members.
Declining interest “has been a pattern with the club,” Tiernan Project president and junior Sarah Pristash said. “We met with ResLife and expressed some concerns that […] our recruitment hadn’t gone well enough to fill the hall next year.”
Though Tiernan Project originally applied for special interest housing next year, it eventually concluded that it would close its doors.
Pristash said, “We’re finishing the year out strong. We’re not cutting back on anything that we were initially doing. We’re still having our big event of the semester, which is the spaghetti dinner for underprivileged children in Rochester; we’re going to keep doing service events and people are welcome to come and join.”
If Tiernan Project does not keep its SA recognition, Pristash said that applying as a club “could be difficult because there are a lot of community service groups on campus, and you need something to distinguish yourself for SA to grant you recognition. What has distinguished us for so many years has been that we live together.” Additionally, Tiernan Project does not focus on a particular type of community service and has an event each week.
As the prominence of community service programs has grown on campus, however, Ely observed that “there are just so many wonderful opportunities that emphasis on community service has been replaced by every other choice and option students have.” Also, involved students with an interest in community service may not necessarily want to live on a floor emphasizing it if they also want to be Freshman Fellows or prefer Riverview and Brooks Crossing.
“Years and years ago,” Contomanolis said, “we had an environmental living center that […] sort of faded out and finally, they decided they were gonna close their doors.” Eventually, Greenspace came with similar missions “but with an updated sustainability focus.”
Special interest housing groups with fluctuating interest, then, “can come back; they can morph into something new,” Contomanolis added. “Maybe sometimes it takes a little bit of time and some interest on the parts of students. We don’t discourage students from forming special interest housing groups—in fact, we think it really strengthens our community. But it’s got to be student-driven and there’s got to be a lot of students who want to step up to the plate.”
Lai is a member of
the class of 2018.