Dante House opens new doors for college housing

Despite the controversy raised last semester, the introduction of Geneseo's first college residential house, the Dante House, appears to be a success.

Dante House, located in Wayne Hall, is home to 93 freshman international students, honors students in the newly renamed Edgar Fellows program and other incoming freshmen who applied to live in the academically focused community.

According to Celia Easton, dean of residential living, the Dante House hopes to focus on addressing the needs of first year students while building community and leadership skills through projects, student-faculty interaction and local and global community awareness. Plans for the upcoming year include bi-weekly current events discussions, house dinners and the formation of a relationship with a university in Ghana.

According to Area Coordinator Nikki Lynn, the community is whatever the students want it to be. "If there's a cause that they want to get behind or they have an idea for something that they want to do in the building, then I'll be here to support them, as will my RAs, Residence Life and the faculty fellows," she said. "We're all working together to create this community in Dante House."

Edgar Fellows student Emma Rumley reports a positive experience in Dante House thus far. "I like that it's really small and I feel like I already know everyone," she said.

"Dante House is, as a first-year experience, an alternative," said Easton, adding that the studious environment advertised in the Dante House brochure may appeal to some students more than the highly social residence halls such as Jones or Onondaga.

Freshman Dan Rossi said he likes the small, close-knit community in the hall. He applied to live in Dante House because, "It sounded like a unique place to live and something different from the other halls."

Last semester, several honors students were concerned about the seemingly segregated atmosphere of the Dante House because Edgar Fellows and international freshmen were automatically placed in Dante House, apart from the rest of the incoming class.

Easton pointed out that only 60 percent of freshmen live in Jones and Onondaga Halls, leaving 40 percent of every freshmen class dispersed throughout other mixed residence halls.

Olympia Nicodemi, co-director of the Edgar Fellows program and faculty fellow of Dante House, said she believes that the students are enjoying a unique and rewarding experience.

"We're tearing down the boundary between the learning part of the college experience and the living part of the college experience," Nicodemi said. "They are a cohort, but not an isolated cohort, they still interact with the campus community."

Among dissenters of the Dante House, a concern has arisen about the effectiveness of "themed" housing. Easton replied to the opposition by saying that the creation of residential college houses will continue, but that Residence Life is ready for students to actively participate in their creation.

Easton also said that forums will be held in the near future for students to propose their ideas for residential college house affiliations.

"We're keeping the dialogue open to make sure we're not just setting up something that no one is going to be interested in," Easton said.

This spring, the writer's house in Seneca Hall will become the second residential college house on campus.

"If we listen to what the students are interested in doing, then I think that other houses will be very successful," Lynn said. "It's just difficult to be the first one."