RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITIES Two Reports
To the University Community
We are pleased to release two reports that will help guide the University in improving the residential system for undergraduates. The commissioning of these reports was part of the continuing work of the 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience, a major initiative of the Agenda for Excellence. One of the principal goals of the Project is to integrate residential living into the intellectual and cultural life of the University and especially to link residential programming, where appropriate, with the academic activities of the schools. These reports will help us further these aims.
The first report was produced by a committee chaired by Professor David Brownlee (Art History, SAS). The committee was charged by the Council of Undergraduate Deans, chaired by the Provost, to design the Programmatic aspects of a residential system that would achieve the goals of the 21st Century Project. The Council also was concerned that Penn undergraduates be given greater choice in their living arrangements and that the fraternities and sororities be included in the conception of a new system.
The second report was commissioned by the Executive Vice President and the Provost to assess the physical and financial condition of Penn residences, including the graduate residences. The residential facilities assessment was carried out by the firm of Biddison Hier in close coordination with VPUL Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum and Vice President for Business Services Steve Murray. The Biddison Hier preliminary report provides a summary project update that will help inform the renovation and expansion of Penn's residential facilities.
Between now and September, the partnership of the VPUL and Business Services--representing the Provost and Executive Vice President --will create detailed implementation plans for a residential system based on the Brownlee committee recommendations as well as those from Biddison Hier. We look forward to discussing these plans with the community in the Fall.
-- Stanley Chodorow, Provost, and John Fry, Executive Vice President
Report of the Residential Planning Committee of the 21st Century Project
April 15, 1997
Academic work and academic life are a seamless whole, and the University's residential system should foster communities that serve our students' overlapping academic, co-curricular, social, and personal needs. Real human community and face-to-face contact remain vitally important to intellectual life even--and perhaps especially--in this age of virtual realities and electronic communication. This report adopts as its foundation the powerful arguments which have been employed in the past to support the making of such communities. It also makes concrete recommendations for the fulfillment of this long held vision, although it does not include consideration of funding or management.
Our central recommendation is that undergraduate housing at the University of Pennsylvania should be organized as multi-year "Residential Communities," which include faculty and graduate students. The communities must attract and accommodate undergraduates throughout their years of study and further the central academic mission of the University. To accomplish this, the housing system must be broad and flexible, and means must be found to sustain the Community affiliation of those students who live off-campus or in fraternities and sororities. The Residential Communities must offer a variety of housing options to meet the different preferences of students at different times in their academic careers, and they must support academic and co-curricular programming whose variety and varying intensity matches the range of student needs and interests.
Penn's Residential Communities must support the variety of activities for which the residences are the most effective location and out of which the collocation of residents of different ages, interests, and experiences will naturally arise. Students in every Residential Community (and, insofar as possible, off-campus residents as well) should be guaranteed access to core services that are essential to their education. Some of the Residential Communities will support additional programming.
Core Functions (to be provided in all Communities)
- Residential Advising -- The Residential Communities are excellent platforms for advising, although the primary responsibility for academic advising shall remain with the four schools. Each Community should have a Residence Dean who is responsible for coordinating in
-residence advising and for providing first-response advice--both personal/social counseling and the kind of academic advising common to the four schools. The Residence Dean should also be an ombudsman responsible for referring students elsewhere for help (the school advising offices, Counseling and Psychological Services, etc.) and coordinating the use of those services. Those schools that use undergraduate "peer advisors" should be encouraged to realign those existing positions with the Residential Communities. Those schools that wish to associate their professional and/or faculty advisors with the Residential Communities should be enabled to do so.
- Academic Support -- The Residential Communities must provide appropriate conditions for academic work, including access to electronic communication and space for quiet study. Making use of both electronic communication and on-site personnel, the Communities must supply all students with computing support and support in such areas as writing, calculus, and foreign language (to mention only those subjects in which implementation or planning is now underway).
- Curriculum -- The Residential Communities should all be capable of accommodating both seminar courses sponsored by the schools and informal and non-credit academic programming offered by resident faculty and graduate students. Some Communities will probably gener
ate for-credit academic courses, in cooperation with the schools.
- Other Core Functions -- In addition to these generally academic functions, the Residential Communities must provide support for fitness activities (a recent and perhaps temporary service demand), social events, and communal dining.
Additional Functions (to be provided in some Communities)
Some of the Residential Communities should support more intensive programming, including programming that serves thematic curricular and extra-curricular interests. Some of the Communities may be entirely devoted to thematic activities (like the present thematic College Houses), while smaller groups of students interested in thematic activity can be accommodated within the unspecialized Residential Communities (like the present Living-Learning programs). The residential system must possess sufficient flexibility so that such special-interest programs can form, grow, shrink, and even pass out of existence.
The more intensively programmed Communities will provide additional, specialized advising where appropriate and additional academic support to meet the needs and interests of their residents. They may, in cooperation with the schools, mount credit-bearing courses. These Communities will also support special extra- and co-curricular interests, in such areas as art and theater.
The University's Residential Communities will need a variety of facilities--many of which are already in place--to serve the functions outlined above. Many core functions must be served by facilities located in each Community, while the plethora of possible additional functions will depend on specialized facilities scattered throughout the residential system and in program "Hubs." Some functions--both core and other--can be served most efficiently by shared facilities. We expect that specific architectural solutions will vary widely among the Residential Communities.
Facilities Located in All Communities
- Office suite: To include reception (with copier, fax, files, storage for some signed-out equipment) plus offices for Master, Residence Dean, Maintenance Supervisor (in some commu
nities), and 2 others.
- Mail boxes: to serve all residents.
- Study center: To accommodate a 20-person seminar class (with computer hook-up), group study for 2-20 persons, quiet individual study (with computer hook-up), group and individual computer work.
- Common room(s) or lounge(s): To be distinct from the study center, equipped with television and kitchenette; each Community needs one gracious lobby space.
- Spare room: To meet changing needs; at present, exercise equipment.
- Bedrooms/apartments: To include two 3-bedroom faculty apartments and one 2-bedroom staff apartment in each Community, plus a mixture of accommodation types, including higher-end facilities for upperclass students, additional faculty, and graduate students. Private bathrooms and private bedrooms are important for higher-end units; private kitchens should be available in some Communities for upperclass students, but they need not be provided in all Commu
nities. The creation of such improved accommodations will require a reduced capacity in many of the residences.
Facilities Located in Some Communities
- music rehearsal rooms
- dance/theater rehearsal room
- woodwork shop
- advanced science/engineering computer lab
- small theater
- art studio
- offices for student organizations
Centrally Located, Shared Facilities
- Assembly/dining commons, with a dining room for each Residential Community that is available for use outside dining hours for movies, dances, etc.; also 20-person "private" dining rooms, 24-hour cafe, commissary.
- Headquarters for "Hub" functions: e.g., writing, research, fine arts, community service, health, international. (Some of these might be located in Residential Communities.)
- Recreational sports facilities.
- Larger theatrical facilities.