Committee plans town hall meetings to hear student views on residential life


Daily file photo by Sherry Li

The outside of Allison Hall, which will come together with Shepard Hall and 1838 Chicago to form a “residential neighborhood” under a new University plan. The Undergraduate Residential Experience Committee will host a series of town hall meetings in October to gather student input for recommendations to improve students’ on-campus experiences.

Kelli Nguyen, Development and Recruitment Editor

A University committee will host seven town hall meetings in October to hear student opinions that will inform the committee’s recommendations to improve on-campus living.

“We’re trying to do the work thoroughly so that it’s grounded in research,” said Paul Riel, assistant vice president for residential and dining services and co-chair of the Undergraduate Residential Experience Committee.

All Northwestern students are invited to attend the meetings, which will be held in various locations across campus. The events will include an update from the committee on its work so far, a Q&A and an opportunity for students to discuss on-campus life, said Brad Zakarin, director of residential academic initiatives and a member of the committee.

“We want to hear about the things that students cherish about their time on campus. We want to hear about the things they feel have been constraining factors for their time on campus,” Zakarin said. “It’s really a way for us to ensure that we’re capturing the best of what we have.”

The committee was created last Winter Quarter to improve residence halls in preparation for the two-year live-in requirement, which will likely go into effect in the next academic year. Since its formation, the committee has been discussing students’ current residential experiences as well as researching peer colleges’ residential setups.

Riel said the committee’s goal is to take all of the information and use it to make recommendations for a new residential model.

“We’re not trying to take an idea from somewhere else and cram it into Northwestern,” Riel said. “We are trying to (create) something that’s uniquely Northwestern.”

Riel and Zakarin said they’re exploring a “residential neighborhood” model, which their office is piloting with three south campus dorms. Under this model, the recently-renovated Shepard Hall and 1838 Chicago comprise one residential community. Allison Hall is its own residential community, and both communities form one “residential neighborhood.”

Zakarin said each residential hall contributes something different to the neighborhood: Allison has a dining hall, 1838 Chicago has a fitness center and Shepard Hall includes an “engagement center,” a “flexible community space” that includes lounges, classrooms, study spaces, a demo kitchen and a meditation room.

Zakarin said the goal of the “residential neighborhood” is to create a more cohesive community and ease new students’ transition to NU.

“Everybody wins with this model, and we’re really eager to see how students use it,” Zakarin said.

Associated Student Government senator Ross Krasner, who serves on the committee, said he is looking forward to the results of the upcoming meetings.

“If you want to have a say in what the school is doing, or if you’re dissatisfied in any way about what Northwestern is doing, show up to these town halls and have your voice heard,” the Medill junior said.

Riel said student input and the committee’s research will help the University make informed decisions in its attempt to change residential culture on campus.

“We want to make sure that, if we’re going to do this, we’re doing it right,” Riel said.

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