Rice University Plans for a New Residential College
3 March 2006 (collegiateway.org) — Rice University in Texas was the third American university to establish a residential college system. Following the lead of Harvard and Yale, which created their residential colleges in the 1930s, Rice adopted a collegiate model of organization in the 1950s, and since that time the Rice colleges have gone from strength to strength.
In today’s issue of the Rice Thresher, the campus student newspaper, undergraduate Monica Huang reports on the university’s plans for an expansion of its collegiate system:
Plans for adding one or more residential colleges and renovating existing ones to accommodate upcoming enrollment increases are progressing. This week, design consultants began touring the colleges and meeting with groups to gather information about housing at Rice.
The consultants will produce a report by the end of the semester that will include recommendations for housing plans, which will be sent to the Board of Trustees for approval.
At its December meeting, the board approved President David Leebron’s Vision for the Second Century, including a 30-percent increase in the number of undergraduates. The first expanded class will matriculate in Fall 2009, and the undergraduate population will eventually grow by about 900 students. A document accompanying the vision statement calls for the percentage of undergraduates housed on campus to increase from 71 to 80 percent.
Assistant to the Dean of Undergraduates Matthew Taylor (Ph.D. ’92) said outside consultants will work with the housing steering committee, which consists of Rice administrators, to formulate a plan for increasing the availability of on-campus housing.
“We will definitely need at least one new college, but we don’t know if we will need more than one or if we should expand existing colleges or whether we should put the new college north or south,” Taylor said.
Consultants from design firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co. met with college coordinators, RAs, college presidents and masters, as well as an advisory committee, this week. The firm has previously worked at Baylor University, Rhodes College and the University of Central Florida.
Taylor said advisory committee members identified providing space in the colleges for academic programs and guest speakers as a priority.
Taylor said concerns were also raised about differences in the quality of rooms and dining facilities in the colleges. Taylor said one option is to renovate the new wings at Baker, Hanszen and Will Rice colleges, which were built in the 1950s.
Lovett College President Evan Ross, a junior who is on the advisory committee, said he and other advisory committee members do not want new colleges to be much larger than they are now.
“We don’t want them to turn into the giant dorms that are common in other places,” Ross said. “We want to preserve that collegiate feel.”
Ross said he and others on the advisory committee think the familial nature of the colleges is important to preserve.
“It’s more than just a dorm with some sort of systematic feel,” Ross said. “There are real benefits to having this tight-knit community, from academic support to social support, and we want to make sure that’s not lost.”