Healthy living’s move downhill draws opposition
Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 08:02
The Office of Residential Life and Learning's (ResLife) decision to next year relocate the Healthy Living Program for upperclassmen to Lewis Hall has, according to students, led many to drop out of the program.
Data provided by ResLife showed that this year, 122 students applied and were accepted into the program before knowing about the change, an increase from 83 last year. Only 26 of these students, however, ultimately participated in the Feb. 12 healthy living lottery, a decrease from 64 last year.
ResLife defended the change as an attempt to accommodate all students interested in the program.
Healthy living is intended to be a residential experience in which students practice a lifestyle promoting physical and mental wellbeing and abide by a zero-tolerance substance policy.
The 12-year-old program was this academic year situated on the first floors of Carmichael and Hodgdon Halls, 45 Sawyer Ave. and most of the all-freshman dorm Hill Hall, according to Associate Director of ResLife Doreen Long.
Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman explained that the relocation is an effort to ensure there is enough space in healthy living housing to meet student demand, since ResLife has in the past been forced to turn people away.
"It's unfortunate that we couldn't meet student requests [in years past]," Reitman said. "So there was a push this year to try to accommodate all the requests for healthy living."
Reports from students, however, suggest that the strategy may have backfired. Despite the record-high number of interested students, many changed their minds and dropped out from the program after ResLife announced the change.
A large proportion of the students who withdrew from the healthy living program expressed disappointment in its relocation to Lewis Hall, which has generally been one of the last dorms to be chosen by students in the housing lottery.
"I just find it ironic that the dorm with the worst facilities was chosen for Healthy Living," freshman Tiffany Tu, one of the 96 students who changed their minds, said.
Current Hill resident freshman Amy Demicco felt that Lewis would not be conducive to the creation of a close-knit, like-minded community like the one present in Hill's healthy living floors, citing the likelihood that substances and raucous behavior would likely be pervasive.
"We were to be in a dorm where we would be exposed to the things we were trying to avoid," Demicco said.
Long, however, said that Lewis was chosen because of its design. "In Lewis the setup is really convenient, the configuration is easier," she said. "It's blocked off into wings, so if we filled up certain portions and not others, we could still keep healthy living only in certain areas."
Long explained that Lewis stood out from the other residence halls considered for the program because it was large enough to accommodate all members in one location, as opposed to dispersing them among at least three dorms as has happened in the past. She noted that Hill will continue to house freshman healthy Living residents.
Students reacted strongly to the change, calling it detrimental to the Healthy Living Program.
"Lewis killed healthy living," Demicco said.
Freshman Xiaochong Yao echoed these sentiments. "I question the motive behind ResLife's decision … because of what Lewis Hall is like," she said. "ResLife seems to discourage students [from choosing] a healthy living lifestyle."
Sophomore Michelle Hayes said she has enjoyed her two-year experience in healthy living but decided to look for alternative housing options because of Lewis' questionable reputation.
"Lewis is just such a gross dorm," she said. "The fact that this year healthy living is in Carmichael makes Lewis seem even worse. It doesn't make sense to put healthy living kids, who would treat the dorm facilities well, in a building that's not that great."
Still, freshman Adam Cohen, a current Hill resident who chose to continue with healthy living next year, believes that Lewis is not much worse of a facility than other older dorms on campus.
"I'm not quite sure what the whole deal is with people backing out," Cohen said. "The people make the place. With the proper group, Lewis could be a lot nicer than it is."
Reitman shares Cohen's view on Lewis' potential to foster a strong healthy living environment.
"It's not just about location or amenities," he said. "It's the program, the mix of single and double rooms. Hopefully the value and worth of the program outweighs the discontent over location."
Freshman Karen Adler explained that she decided to stick with the healthy living program despite her dissatisfaction with the location because of her poor lottery number.
Reitman acknowledged that students with low lottery numbers often opt for healthy living to avoid an unfavorable housing arrangement. He discouraged such actions.
"I hope that the requests were to be part of a particular program and not just a means of getting in to a particular residence," he said.
ResLife remains unconcerned about those who withdrew from healthy living due to locations concerns.
"We were hoping that people would want to be in the program and if they choose not to be part of the program, that is completely up to them," Long said.