Living and Learning Not Meeting Expectations
Freshman year was ending and housing for the coming year began to approach. Daryll Fay ’13, was “looking forward to finally being able to choose my roommate and be rid of the communal bathrooms.” Fay was headed for the “suite” life.
Fairfield University had other plans for her. With the implementation of three new residential colleges and two that were already established, Fay felt that her only chance for good housing would be if she chose one of the sophomore residential colleges.
“The whole process worked out for me in the end, but I know other people aren’t as happy,” said Fay, who lives in the Environmental Residential College in Kostka. “Many of my friends are unhappy with the dorm or program they were placed in, but stayed in it so that they wouldn’t end up not knowing where they were living until August.”
The sophomore living plan was launched, in part, due to the nine years of success of the Ignatian Residential College, located in Loyola Hall. Joe DeFeo, director of living and learning, began working with other members of Fairfield University faculty to create other residential college programs.
“Fairfield wanted to provide a way to help students better engage in what type of person they want to be when they leave Fairfield and beyond,” DeFeo said. “It is not just supplying an education to get a job.”
The three new residential colleges were to be the Creative Life Residential College, the Environmental Residential College and the Leadership in the Ignatian Tradition Residential College. Two previously established programs include the Ignatian Residential College as well as the Service for Justice Residential College.
DeFeo said that each residential college shares the overarching goal and question of vocation from its particular lens. Each would provide a mentoring community, dinner series, community nights, retreats and a course with other residents; students would also partake in other activities to foster the idea of community and look at the three questions pertaining to their residential college.
“What started nine years ago [with the Ignatian Residential College] is now still continuing,” DeFeo said. “Sophomores are asking the big question of the meaning of life and what kind of life they want to lead.”
But many students, including Deidre Forrest ‘13, and a resident in the Service for Justice Residential College, said she did not feel this residential college plan was a successful idea.
“It is not amazing that 700 students in the class of 2013 applied to residential colleges,” said Forrest, who lives in the Service for Justice Residential College in Jogues. “It’s amazing that a large percentage of 2013 students are living in dorms they don’t want to live in, in programs they are not interested in.”
Many students did not apply to a specific program for what it stood for but rather applied to where they wanted to live, she said.
“There are Fairfield students who are genuinely interested in the programs they are involved in, but there are students who really don’t care,” Forrest said. “For a college that requires students to live on campus, there has got to be a line drawn on what is going to be forced on the students.”
Forrest’s fellow resident, Julia Sill, member of the class of 2013, is also a resident in the Service for Justice Residential College. She said that she does not like that she is a part of a community she is not passionate about.
Sill applied for the Leadership in the Ignatian Tradition as her first choice, Environmental as her second, Creative Life as her third. The result: she was placed in her last choice in the Service for Justice Residential College.
“I was interested in all three of the residential colleges, but I found nothing appealing about Service for Justice,” Sill said.
After a recent retreat, Sill’s community was told how money was wasted on the retreat as 40 out of the 150 residents did not attend.
“They wondered why other residential colleges attended but not Jogues,” Sill said. “Well, for Kostka and Bellarmine, if they didn’t attend their retreat, then consequently they would be moved to Jogues.”
Sill said her friends in other residential colleges felt manipulated into joining.
Faculty members associated with the new residential colleges said it is hard to generate programming because they don’t know how many students are actually committed to the ideals and will be active.
Given the first-year problems typical to any new program, DeFeo said that so far the programs have been going well. The Ignatian Residential College has been established for nine years now, and DeFeo said the new communities would have growing pains. But the Ignatian Residential College serves as a stepping point and example to follow.
“It won’t take them eight years to establish as the Ignatian Residential College did,” DeFeo said. “We don’t have to recreate the wheel.”
Aspects of the new residential colleges will have to be adjusted and modified, he said. Student feedback will be listened to and modifications to communities could be made.
“It is no set number of residential colleges,” DeFeo said. “It is how well we can serve the interest of the students.”
Some students, such as Fay, were able to find residential colleges they enjoyed. Others, like Forrest, say that the residential colleges need to reorganize their missions.
“There should be an option to a certain degree,” she said of the sophomore living plan. “But dominating all dorms has been an absolute failure.”