Editorial: Housing plan looks to future

Finding solutions to housing at Northwestern is not an easy task.

Creating the first NU residential community by joining Elder Hall and Hinman-Lincoln Hall is part of the University’s response to a comprehensive study that analyzed ways to improve housing. By basing this decision on student surveys, interviews and the examination of peer institutions’ housing systems, NU has shown us it values our opinions and isn’t just looking for another project.

It’s the first move in a plan to develop a new residential community each year over the next five years, said Ron Braeutigam, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education. The idea is to form a living space that’s neither a traditional dorm nor a residential college, bringing together a new type of community for students.

The changes for the new freshman community include new student lounges, kitchens and seminar rooms. Improving amenities like these is a step forward for students and will improve the quality of life in the new residential communities. The comfort of another place to socialize or study within your residence is the type of change the school should always look to implement. Offering outlets for offices like study abroad and career services will also add convenience for students and give them access to valuable programs they may otherwise ignore.

Additionally NU is encouraging students and faculty to interact more by placing a live-in faculty member in each of these new communities. Close contact with professors may sound too in-your-face for some people, but the University will be able to assess whether this idea detracts from or enhances student life.

The residential communities will provide a useful new option for students when choosing where to live. We can already pick to go north or south, big or small, dorm or residential college. The more choices we have, the better the odds are we can find the right fit for us.With each freshman class larger than the last, we should make sure expanding and improving housing are always priorities. The administration plans to measure the success of these new communities and use that information to find the way to give students the experience that’s best for them.

Realistically residential communities probably will not bring about drastic changes in the way NU students socialize and make friends. New students will still gravitate toward peers who live on their floor, share similar interests or are part of the same school within NU.

We can’t predict whether the residential communities can achieve the idealistic goals of creating a “common freshman experience” or fostering a single “Wildcat identity,” but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a step in the right direction. Despite student feedback indicating we need a better sense of community, we might not all come to NU looking to share the same experiences.

The residential communities won’t address everything that divides us as a campus, but they will offer a significant improvement to on-campus housing choices.