Staff Editorial: Theme dorms are a good idea with some bad fine print

Residence Life's plans to implement "residential college houses" next semester are, at best, a mixed bag.

The plans currently call for a "Dante House" that will house international, Honors Program and service-oriented students, and a writer's house in Seneca Hall that will be open to students interested in all forms of writing.

There's no doubt that the plans are well intentioned, and that the movement to bridge the gap between residence life and academia is a progressive step. House events, guest speakers and faculty involvement in the houses are nothing but positive, and have the potential to greatly enhance the college experience for those that choose to participate.

It is in the area of choice, however, where the problem lies. One of the recent changes to the Honors Program (which are controversial themselves) is the mandate that all incoming honors-program freshmen will be required to live in the Dante House - a move opposed by many currently enrolled in the program. Members say that freshmen program members will be cut off from the rest of the college community, and that a perception will develop among the general student population that there is a distinct difference between them and Honors Program students that puts regular students at an inferior level. These arguments are valid, and have been developed based on these Honors Program students' participation in the program. Many, in fact, have said they would not have enrolled in the program as freshmen had the requirement been in place.

Given the number of programs and classes that Honors Program students already participate in and take together, the move to house all incoming freshmen together is unnecessary and actually detrimental to the program's aims. Students will not be afforded the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of general-population students (outside of the classroom), and will ultimately not have the opportunity to participate in and affect the college community as they would if they were spread out among all residence halls.

Honors Program students often complain that their voices have not been considered when formulating decisions regarding the program, and the Dante House is a prime example of this. Students who have participated in the program are best entitled to provide meaningful feedback, which Residence Life has been unwilling to consider. Residential college houses are a good idea, but the college should not mandate to anyone that he or she must live in them to be a part of the honors program.