Written by Abi Censky
“Where are you living next year?” This question has been buzzing around campus practically since October when upperclassmen began to find roommates and sign leases for housing next year, but the question has reached a fever pitch over the recent weeks as the on-campus housing deadlines begin to whoosh by.
This year the Living Learning Communities (LLCs), an option for students interested in a higher degree of engagement and close community, will be changing. On last year’s housing application there were four LLCs: Spiritual Practices, Arts for Social Change, Enclave, and Local Living, all located in Mathias Hall. This coming year, however, there will be seven.
The seven LLCs on the housing application this year are for both incoming and returning students, but primarily first-years and sophomores.
All of the changes are a result of the Office of Residential Life’s desire to better integrate student interest when designing communities, re-branding efforts by partner offices, and implementing LLC programs.
This year’s lineup of LLCs features Outdoor Education, which was formerly a special interest community in Slocum, Community in Action through Reflection and Engagement (CARE; formerly Arts for Social Change), Enclave, which is a continuation of a Butler Center residential program, Sense of Place, which was formerly Living Local, PRIDE, and Revitalizing Nations—which are both pilot programs.
To break things down, there are two name changes where the mission of the LLC remains the same, there is one LLC being temporarily eliminated, and two pilot LLCs. There will be four LLCs in Mathias and two in Slocum. When asked about the impending changes, Matt Edwards, Residential Life Coordinator of Mathias, said “They’re not [changing]…it’s just one that is.”
Edwards said that LLCs frequently change names as an effort to rebrand and entice more students to apply, citing this year’s change of Living Local to Sense of Place as prompting more returning students to apply for the housing.
According to the Residential Life and Campus Activities Coordinator Yolany Gonell, the LLCs are just changing to more directly fit the shifting priorities of the student body and the college “to really put inclusion into practice.” “They [LLCs] offer different pathways of personal engagement—but it’s not the only way,” said Gonell.
Gonell also spoke with pride about the pilot LLC programs in Slocum: PRIDE and Revitalizing Nations. Both were generated out of student interest and advocacy. The PRIDE LLC will be a safe space focusing on issues of gender, sexuality, and intersectionality.
The Revitalizing Nations LLC is “dedicated to the exploration and expression of the traditional and contemporary aspects of Native American and Indigenous intellectual, social, culture and spiritual life” for native students and their allies, according to the Residential Life website.
A significant change in the existing LLCs is the dissolution of Spiritual Practices. Both Edwards and Gonell are quick to note that this is not because of a lack of interest, but because the Chaplain’s office is taking a year-long sabbatical from hosting an LLC on campus, due to their “intentional focus on a big project,” said Gonell.
However, the Chaplains office has supported three faith and spirituality based LLCs over the past 12 years noting that their office “really had to be cognizant of their ability to work with us,” said Gonell. “We will be revisiting spiritual.” The flex space that Spiritual Practices was in will now house the much larger community of the new Outdoor Education LLC.
In response to the changes, junior Nia Abram, current RA of Arts for Social Change, said, “In my eyes that detracts from the purpose of the LLC… it replaces something that was diverse and different on campus.” Abram said that she felt some of the LLC changes were “really just an extension of the same thing we see all of the time.”
The changes and restructuring of these communities are ultimately part of an effort to increase accessibility and broaden the reach of the LLCs to affect a greater proportion of the student body.
“[LLCs] are an example of putting that sense of belonging into practice,” said Gonell.