Photo by Matthew Claybrook
This fall, students will have the option to move into three new living-learning communities: the Sustainability Hall, the Afro-Affinity Hall and the Gender Inclusive Hall. Each of these living-learning communities has applications that have been sent out by the Office of Residential Life ahead of the general room reservation application.
“The existence of all three of the new living communities is student-driven,” wrote Rachel Boaz, assistant director for residential education, in an email interview. “They each offer something very distinct to our students — my hope for all of our communities is that they help students find a sense of belonging and feel at home at Trinity.”
There are not currently any limits on the capacity of any of the new halls, and the locations of these halls will be determined by how many people apply to live in them.
A group of four senior environmental studies majors originally proposed the idea for a sustainability hall as part of their capstone course in spring 2018. Gregory Hazleton, a professor of English, taught the course and found new students to continue working on the idea after the students who originated the plan graduated. Sophomore Julia Kiley ended up heading the student side of planning the hall, holding student forums to gauge interest and garner input on the constitution drafted by the original four students.
“One thing we did add was more of a focus on environmental volunteering,” Kiley said. “That was in the original constitution, but we brought it more to the forefront. Students are interested in getting out into the community and solving environmental issues whether it’s justice or pollution or litter. We came up with the idea of weekly challenges that weren’t in the original constitution. That focused more on ‘can we take this extreme sustainable practice’ and ‘how can we do that for just a week?’ ”
The experiential learning component of the hall will focus on education surrounding sustainability and the environment.
“There are ideas surrounding education in the hall, we would want to do it in a fun way either through documentaries that focus on certain sustainable aspects or potential speakers, that type of thing,” Kiley said. “The idea is that it won’t be inclusive just to people who live in the hall. The rest of campus would be invited to volunteer.”
Sustainability Hall is the only one of the three new halls that will be available to incoming first-years.
“The idea is that it will be a four-year hall and that you learn skills early on, and you’re able to carry those through your college career,” Kiley said. “It’s a skill that you can learn now in your life when you’re living in small quarters, and it’s a lot easier to be sustainable. That way once you graduate, you can take the things you learn and bring them to the rest of your life.”
According to Kiley, 12 current students have committed to living in Sustainability Hall next year so far.
Students proposed the Afro-Affinity Hall following Black Student Union’s (BSU) dinner with the dean last semester. After initial meetings with Residential Life, students in charge of planning the hall gathered input from other students interested in the Afro-Affinity Hall.
“After we got that input from students, we had a follow-up meeting with Alli Roman, Deb Tyson and Rachel Boaz,” said Khaniya Russell, senior and president of BSU. “We had that meeting, and that was more of like expanding their scope of everything we wanted to include in this hall and what we wanted to come of it and a little bit more of the timeline. Now where we are is we’ve already submitted to them all of our information and they are currently getting input from students who are interested in selecting it as their housing option for next year. They’ll get back to us based on the interest from that.”
The Afro-Affinity Hall will have an experiential learning component focused on community building and education about the African-American experience.
“There will be some sort of programming, some led by Alli [Roman], some led hopefully by professors and some led by outside community partners,” Russell said. “That’s how it differs from a regular hall in which the only programming you really get is through your [resident assistant].”
Jess Jennings, junior and member of BSU, has already spoken with professors who are interested in being a part of the experiential learning component of the Afro-Affinity Hall.
“Some ideas we’ve thrown up into the air are like having a lecture series where we have professors from different departments come in and talk about their subject in relation to the African diaspora,” Jennings said. “I’ve talked to Dr. [Lauren] Turek in the history department about doing some sort of women’s week programming that’s dedicated to discussing black women through the context of history, sociology, politics, things like that. The programming is meant to be community building but also informative without having an actual academic component as a class or something.”
The Afro-Affinity Hall is open to anyone who is interested in the African-American experience.
“I think it will be a program that people can get passionate about and engage with in order to build community, foster strong friendships and strengthen this sense of identity for black students on campus, but you don’t necessarily need to be black to participate in that,” Jennings said. “Allies are more than welcome and, in fact in many ways, expected. We expect to have a lot of people interested in the program who aren’t black students.”
PRIDE has been working with Residential Life since last spring to create a safe housing space for students in the LGBTQ+ community.
“One of the important distinctions that we want to make is that other halls, like Sustainability or Entrepreneurship, are really more about learning and having a shared interest,” said Avani Sastry, vice president of PRIDE. “Those can definitely be aspects of this hall, but what we really want to emphasize is just safety and being able to live without fear of any kind of retribution or discrimination.”
Details about the Gender-Inclusive Hall are still being finalized with Residential Life. Students also gave their input at a forum on Thursday, Feb. 21. There, questions were raised about specific aspects of how the hall would be run.
“There are some people who are not out-of-the-closet to their parents, and they’re wondering, ‘If we do decide to join this hall, how would we bring that up to our parents?’ ” said Briahn Hawkins, social media chair for PRIDE. “Also, who’s going to be the [resident assistant]?”
PRIDE officers want to make sure that the Gender-Inclusive Hall is differentiated from other living communities, many of which have experiential learning components.
“This really is just a hall for people to find a place to live in solidarity and not have to worry about living in places which are uncomfortable or potentially dangerous,” said Steven Murff, community liaison for PRIDE. “I don’t know what kind of learning aspect would be included in there. I don’t know if there necessarily needs to be one, but it can always help to educate anyone.”
Those interested in the Gender-Inclusive Hall can reach out to Residential Life.