Learning communities and theme floors play a major role in SU’s New Opportunities in Student Living Proposal, due to be implemented in 2001. At that point, entering first-year students will have the options of living in a learning community or on a theme floor—or accepting a random residence hall assignment. Traditionally, SU freshmen have requested specific residence halls.
      The proposal, endorsed by the University Senate, aims to enhance diversity within residence halls and strengthen the link between the academic and residential aspects of student life. It was initiated by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Office of Residence Life in response to suggestions made by the Chancellor’s Commission on Pluralism, the institutional self-study done for the recent Middle States accreditation review, and the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Diversity. The proposal notes that “although the University recruits a diverse population of students, it does little to ensure diversity in daily living. New students tend to self-segregate, choosing a residence hall with which they’re familiar or where their friends will be.
      “The unintended result,” the proposal concludes, “is a residence hall that is perceived to be predominantly African American and Latino—or one that is all white. Although it is natural that students might find support in an environment with ‘like’ students, it also serves to perpetuate students’ feelings of discomfort with ‘unlike’ students.”
      The new plan still allows students to self-segregate—but “with choices that let students find ‘like’ students based on factors more truly inclusive than ethnicity, color, or socioeconomic background.”
      Wells is confident the initiative will improve the campus culture. “If we value diversity on this campus, as we say we do, we have to challenge the ‘isms’ in our society,” he says.

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