Students on campus proposed a new living learning community, the African-American Student Affinity Hall, that would serve as a residential space intended for black students on campus. The students involved in planning the hall have met with the Office of Residential Life for feedback and hope that the hall will be introduced next fall.
Jess Jennings, junior, explained that the idea for the hall was discussed at the Black Student Union’s (BSU) dinner with the dean earlier this semester.
“Basically the conversation has really been centered around creating a community for black students on campus to feel like they have as a default,” Jennings said. “We talked a lot about how in a campus where you are very much a minority, like three percent of the student population has the same identification as you, it can be nice to have a place to retreat.”
On Oct. 15, Jennings and others who are involved in planning the hall had an initial meeting with Residential Life.
“We had our initial meeting with people from the office of Residential Life, the director included, and they responded really positively,” said Khaniya Russell, senior and president of BSU. “They gave us the task to go back and think of the philosophy behind it, what we are hoping to gain from this experience. And when we can articulate to them what we want, we’re going to go back to the director of Residential Life and she’s going to start to operationalize and get the logistics and everything down and see how plausible it is to get this started fall of next year. That’s our hope right now.”
The hall will function as a living learning community, which means that there will be some sort of educational component attached to it.
“Usually there’s some kind of theme related to the living learning community, and it could be based on students’ identities or it could be based on a specific topic,” said Alli Roman, director for Diversity and Inclusion. “I think a lot of our living-learning communities here on campus are related to specific topics or a specific lifestyle, like the substance-free housing. That’s the living part, but the learning part is having some kind of one-credit class or a seminar or something that really ties in.”
The details of the learning component of the hall have not yet been solidified, but could include events like guest lectures and dialogues around films that relate to the African-American student experience.
The African-American Student Affinity Hall will be Trinity’s first living learning community that is based on an identity, but there are similar halls at other universities.
“From my understanding, a lot of other institutions, usually larger institutions, they have living learning communities that are based around identity or even social justice,” Roman said. “But there’s definitely models at other institutions that have various housing opportunities for students who want to depend their understanding of their own identity and the identity of others.”
Although the hall will be based on an identity, students who are not black will also be able to live in the hall.
“It’s not a segregated hall for black students only, it’s just an opportunity for black students to have that community,” Russell said. “Anybody else who’s not African-American is also welcome to join, just with the understanding that it’s going to be predominantly African-American students.”
The size of the hall and whether it will be first-years-only will depend on student interest.
“I personally would love for it to be opened up because I think that there could be a lot for both upper division students and also first-year students to live amongst each other,” Jennings said. “We’d love to have questions. We’d love to hear comments or things that people might want to input into the hall as we get the ball rolling on it.”
Students who are interested in the hall can contact Jennings, Russell or Roman via email.