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By Michael Kelley ‘14
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Photo courtesy of Grace Reynolds
A new initiative promises to enhance students’ personal experience, tying academic and residential life. It is Lafayette 360. “All the research shows that the happiest students, and the ones that perform the best academically, get connected early, especially to those that share similar interests,” said Dean of the College HannahStewart-Gambino, the chair of the executive committee. The program is designed to help students find their niche early on.
“We can certainly build more identity in the student’s class and college affinity,” said Deanof Students Paul McLoughlin, another member of the executive committee. “Everyone that comes here should have found a sense of community. It cannot be that only some members find it.”
“Students should emerge at graduation having a deep love for the college,” he added. McLoughlin used examples of Greek Life and athletics, and how they can help students develop a love for the college, but also mentioned that not every student has that opportunity. The three sub-committees— Academic Advising and Success, Residential Communities, and Co- and Extra-Curricular Learning— meet every two weeks and are expected, by semester’s end, to develop a set of recommendations and strategies for enhancing opportunities in their respective categories.
The project began with the Board of Trustees, who wanted the committees to think about “what it would look like if we thought deliberately about the fact that we’re a residential college,” Stewart-Gambino said.
She added that in the past six years, much of the college’s focus has revolved solely around academic life: a new common course of study, an updated international affairs program, and a faculty that is projected to grow by 20 percent.
Now, according to Stewart- Gambino, it is time to think about the residential experience. The project officially kicked off January 23 at a daylong workshop with approximately 75 students,staff, and faculty members discussing “Lafayette’s ideals and values as they exist today and as we aspire to for the future,” Professor of Psychology Jamila Bookwalasaid.
At semester’s end, a presentation will be made to the Board of Trustees. If they approve, Lafayette 360 will begin, at the earliest, with the class of 2018. Stewart-Gambino said that the completion of this project could take six to eight years, mentioning the need to retrofit buildings that do not have facilities like seminar rooms. Spaces like the first floor of the oldKDR House would be ideal, she said.
One theory behind the reason for the initiative involved alumni donations, but McLoughlin quickly shot this down. “We would be working really hard for a student to find a sense of community for four years so that they could perhaps give back later,” McLoughlin said. “That’s not the driver of this initiative. If they do give back, it’s sort of an unintended consequence.”
While the program seems well intentioned to most, some are hesitant.
In an email to The Lafayette, John Rehm ‘73 said the project “is a butchery of due process and fair play and is an intellectual disaster.”
“The President and Board of Trustees have reduced access to Greek living in one move and the matter was not discussed with the alumni at large,” Rehm said.
Stewart-Gambino was quick to respond to such criticism. “What’s true about this email is that there is a worry that [Lafayette 360] is somehow really a code for something about Greeks, and it’s not,” she said.