21st CENTURY COLLEGE HOUSES Final Report of the Working Group
Last spring, we published "Choosing Community," a report that
proposed the establishment of residential communities in Penn's undergraduate
residences. The committee of faculty, students, and administrators that
made this recommendation was appointed by the Council of Undergraduate Deans
and chaired by Professor David Brownlee of the Department of Art History.
After the Council of Undergraduate Deans reviewed
and accepted the "Choosing Community" report, we created a technical
team to work on an implementation plan for the communities. The team has
produced a plan that is driven by the objectives articulated by faculty,
students, and staff throughout the three years of discussion of the "communities"
aspect of the 21st Century Project for the Undergraduate Experience.
The objective set forth by the 21st Century
Project was the creation of an intellectually dynamic, varied and rich living
experience for undergraduates. Faculty and students also consistently articulated
a desire for a greater sense of community, enhanced faculty-student interaction,
improved facilities, better staff support, and a high level of choice and
variety within the residential system.
With these objectives in mind, we asked the
team to recommend ways to create a tangible change in undergraduate residential
living by fall 1998. We asked them to preserve the successful models of
change created in the last two yearssuch as the computing support-in-residence
model and the library assistance modeland to keep the system simple, straightforward,
and flexible. Over the past few months, the team has looked carefully at
every residential building, analyzed the finances of the residential system,
and refined the original recommendations to fit the facilities we have in
The team has shown us how we can begin to transform
the residential experience of Penn undergraduates along the lines envisioned
in the original report of the Provost's Council on the Undergraduate Experience.
We are convinced that the implementation report that they have presented
to the Council and the administration will enable us to establish the new
system in fall 1998.
--Stanley Chodorow, Provost
--John Fry, Executive Vice President
Report of the Residential Communities
The Provost and Executive Vice President established
this Working Group in April 1997 and asked it to recommend a strategy for
implementing "Choosing Community," the report of the residential
planning committee (Almanac April 29, 1997), in September 1998. They
directed us to build on the strengths of established programs and make efficient
use of existing resources.
The group brought to its work the lessons gathered
from a long history of planning and intensive consultation with students,
faculty, and staff. We began with a four-day retreat at the Wharton Executive
Education Center late in April and continued to meet throughout the summer
and into the beginning of the fall semester.
The Working Group is convinced that we have
the capacity to create 12 residential "College Houses" (we adopt
Penn's well-established nomenclature for these communities), encompassing
all existing undergraduate residences, and that we can establish them by
September 1998. We believe that this can be accomplished in a manner that
will immediately and significantly enhance the undergraduate experience
of our students.
We are also certain that this work will successfully
inaugurate a campaign of even greater improvements which can be achieved
over the next decade, supported by the University's planned capital and
deferred maintenance programs, the outline of which has been shaped by the
Biddison Hier Report and a systematic architectural survey of residential
We agree with our predecessors that Penn's residential
system can be used more effectively to create the supportive academic community
that is essential to a great university. We have accordingly examined existing
facilities, personnel, and programming with the aim of maximizing their
use, while also identifying areas requiring additional resources. We recognize
that the diversity of existing conditions will impose a measure of variety
on the various Col-lege Houses. Most of these variations strengthen the
system, providing students with an attractive variety of residential options.
It must be noted, however, that a few significant deficiencies must be corrected
before September 1998, and there are other only slightly less unsatisfactory
conditions, notably in the un-renovated sections of the Quad, which await
remedy in the near future.
The central element of this report is a synoptic
table (placed at the end), showing how facilities and personnel can be deployed
in September 1998 to create 12 College Houses. This pattern of deployment
uses what we already have with efficiency and judiciously identifies a few
areas for immediate capital expenditure and increased personnel.
The written report may be considered an explanation
of the table and consists of three sections, devoted to program, residential
and dining facilities, and personnel, followed by a summary of financial
implications and a list of next steps.
Academic programs in residence have a significant
tradition at Penn, including a residential faculty program recognized nationally
for its strength and excellence. (Some 200 faculty have lived in residence
at Penn since the opening of the first College Houses 25 years ago). The
present proposal takes advantage of this legacy of innovation in co-curricular
programs, which have been designed collaboratively by students and faculty
in the residential setting, and makes the programs available to all undergraduates.
Each College House will, of course, develop its
own particular activities, as defined by the interests of its members. The
1998-99 residents of the College Houses will bear the responsibility for
developing their inaugural program plans. However, essential elements of
academic support and support for co-curricular activities will be uniformly
available throughout the system.
The "Wheel" Project, sponsored by the
Residential Faculty Council in cooperation with departments and programs
in the undergraduate schools and the office of the VPUL, will be expanded
to serve all 12 College Houses. It currently provides residentially based
support in mathematics, information technology and computing, writing, and
library research; the planned enlargement of the program will include languages,
the arts, and other core academic areas. The "Wheel" system depends
on strong res-idential faculty, graduate students, and staffthe academic
infrastructure for each College House recommended by this plan. The residential
computing support project, currently serving the existing First Year Houses
and College Houses, has shown that such full-scale academic support can
be provided cost-effectively in fully staffed College Houses led by the
faculty, and is either not possible, or too costly, to attempt in residences
with no academic mission or staffing.
While the undergraduate schools will remain solely
responsible for curriculum, instruction, and academic advising, College
House Deans and other staff will now serve as local points of referral,
directing students to school-based programs and also to the services provided
through the office of the VPUL, including campus resource and service centers,
student affairs programs, and co-curricular activities. College Houses will
be able to develop collaborative re-lationships with the schools and the
office of the VPUL in support of programming initiatives.
The major costs of academic support and counseling
services will continue to be funded as at present, largely by the distribution
of existing central resources. These include school-based programs, realigned
for delivery through the residences (like the present Math and Writing Advising
programs); other "re-structured" central services (such as the
present Residential Computing Support Project); and the services provided
by the office of the VPUL, which can be to some degree decentralized (e.g.,
study skill development and tutoring).
The local cost of other College House programming
(including some work-study staffing, mini-courses, theater series, concerts,
and other social activities) is also to be supported as at present, through
a nominal house Program Fee that will continue to be augmented by monies
from the office of the VPUL.
Residential and Dining Facilities
The capacity and specific configuration of our
present residential and dining facilities exert a strong influence on the
proposed size and number of College Houses. We have striven throughout to
minimize immediate capital costs and avoid reducing the number of rentable
rooms. The proposed College Houses will include all the physical components
that were identified in the "Choosing Community" report, including
lounges, seminar rooms, office space, study centers, recreational facilities,
etc. Accommodation will also be provided in each College House for the recommended
minimum staffing level of a Master, Faculty Fellow, College House Dean,
and teams of Resident Advisors (RAs) and Graduate Associates (GAs). Recognizing
that each College House will have unique needs (as well as a unique environment),
the actual configuration of these facilities will vary.
In planning the residential buildings, a highly critical consideration has
been the most effective use of the large amount of existing common space.
The presence of one suite of common space in each of the three High Rises
has determined the number of College Houses that we propose for them. The
three resulting College Houses are larger than we consider ideal, but they
provide a satisfactory infrastructure within which we may implement tangible
change by next September. A similar analysis of the Quad has led us to propose
four College Houses there, centered on the four existing suites of common
facilities and sharing them out as equitably as possible. The badly needed
renovation of Butcher, Speakman, and Class of 1928 will offer opportunities
to make significant improvements in these arrangements.
Staff Apartments and Offices. Except in the High Rises, sufficient staff apartments
and offices already exist, although one of the apartments required by Ware
College House is located in the adjacent Goldberg House. In each High Rise,
three apartments and a simple office suite must be created. This is the
only immediate capital expenditure requirement in the residential buildings.
The Present College Houses. The present College Houses will be little changed. However,
in order to maximize the efficient use of administrative staff and common
facilities, we recommend nesting the Modern Languages Residential Program
in an enlarged Van Pelt College House (Van Pelt Manor and Class of 1925)
and redefining the boundaries of Ware College House and the First Year Houses
in the Quad as follows: Community (to include Thomas Penn, Cleeman, Magee,
Ashhurst, McIlhenny, Warwick, Ward, Chesnut, and Butcher), Ware (to include
Lip-pincott, Carruth, New York Alumni, Memorial Tower, Morgan, Wilson, Bodine,
Morris, Class of 1928, and Speakman), Spruce (to include E.F. Smith, Coxe,
Rodney, Bishop White, Birthday, Mask and Wig, Provost Tower, and Graduate)
and Goldberg (to include Brooks, Leidy, Franklin, Foerderer, McKeon, Baldwin,
Class of 1887, Craig, Baird, Fitler, Hopkinson, and Smith). This plan has
the advantage of providing renovated common spaces for the residents of
those residential sections of the Quad that will remain unrenovated in September
Accommodation for Graduate Associates and Resident
Advisors. The number of graduate students
holding staff appointments in the undergraduate residences will be increased
by about 50 percent, and the number of undergraduate RAs will remain about
the same. No modification of rooms will be required.
College House Dining.
We believe that communal dining is an essential feature of successful residential
programming, and while we recognize that the specific nature of food service
is likely to evolve to meet changing tastes, we judge that none of the suggested
changes obviates the need for each College House to have its own dining
space. The assigned dining room of each College House will also be available
for House activities outside the dining hours.
King's Court/English, Stouffer, and Hill College
Houses. These will continue to dine in
their integral dining rooms.
The Quad. The
shape of the four College Houses in the Quad has been adjusted insofar
as possible to match the existing dining rooms in Stouffer Commons and
provide at least 60 seats for every 100 residents. One of the larger Stouffer
Commons dining rooms will be divided into two spaces to meet these needs.
The Super Block.
The configuration of most of the Super Block College Houses is similarly
shaped by 1920 Commons, where Du Bois, Van Pelt, Harnwell, and Hamilton
(HRN) will be assigned dining rooms, with separate eating areas also provided
for the several language tables of the Modern Language Residential Program.
In adopting this plan, we judge that fewer than 60 dining seats per 100
beds is acceptable because many of those dining in Class of 1920 Commons
will live in apartments with individual kitchens. However, even with this
concession, Harrison College House cannot be accommodated, and we recommend
that its Rathskeller be refurbished to create the largest possible dining
room. This is the only significant immediate capital expenditure for dining.
Housing and Meal Contracts. We believe that it will not be necessary to require meal
contracts or establish a residence requirement in order to insure either
the development of community feeling or the financial viability of the program.
holding capital costs to a minimum, we recommend that a new and comprehensive
signage system be instituted for the College Houses, with a uniform iconography
adopted in other media (print, the Web).
Effective staffing is essential to the success
of the College Houses, and a full complement of Master, Faculty Fellow,
Dean, GAs, and RAs must be assigned to each. In order to deal with the special
circumstances of several of the College Houses, we have slightly adjusted
the "Choosing Community" report's staffing recommendations: (1)
the High Rise College Houses should be assigned sufficient RAs and GAs to
place a staff member on every residential floor; (2) successful staffing
patterns should be maintained in Stouffer, Van Pelt, Du Bois, and Hill, where
additional Faculty Fellows and/or GAs eliminate the necessity for RAs. (In
Van Pelt and Du Bois, the staff serves special program needs, and in Hill
the current system of GA staffing is literally "built" into the
Most of the needed personnel can be found by reassigning
existing VPUL staff lines, although there are some attendant additional
. One additional Master and three new Faculty Fellows will be needed.
This will increase the annual budget for dining and parking, and moving
expenses and the master's leave/research fund will have to be amortized
over three years.
College House Deans.
The reassignment of VPUL personnel lines will pay for nine of the 12 Deans.
GAs. Room and
board support packages must be provided for 35 additional Graduate Associates.
We believe that this cost can be mitigated by integrating this form of support
with the fellowships awarded by the various schools, thereby both increasing
the schools' fellowship resources and integrating the College House system
with the interests of graduate education. The several schools will define
for themselves the mechanisms through which their students participate.
First-year capital costs associated with this project
will be $700,000. This can be funded through the capital reserves of the
housing system, and there are also development opportunities. Reallocation
of existing resources effectively reduces additional personnel and program
expenses from over $1 million a year to $680,000.
By extending the present $70 program fee across
the residences, costs are further reduced to $525,000. (A majority of undergraduates
in University housing already pay this fee, which supports programming.)
The University will pay this remaining expense for the next three years.
Implementation planning will involve existing house
councils and student and faculty residential leaders. Masters and Councils
must also be appointed for the new College Houses so that they may join
in this work, which includes inte-grating the 21st Century "Wheel"
Project with the new plan. A full complement of 12 College House Deans should
be in place by July 1, 1998. First-year capital projects must be initiated
immediately, and the support of the University's development office should
be enlisted. The University should begin to chart the implications of the
new College House system for its large deferred maintenance program for
David B. Brownlee, SAS (chair)
Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, VPUL
Christopher Dennis, VPUL
Al Filreis, SAS, RFC
Larry Moneta, Campus Services
Steven Murray, Business Services
Twelve College Houses in September 1998
|* preserves present staffing level|
Return to: Almanac, University of Pennsylvania, October
14, 1997, Volume 44, Number 8