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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

“Against Theme Halls” in Student Affairs Leader

— I was recently invited to write a brief essay arguing against the notion of “theme halls” or “theme dormitories” in higher education, and that essay has just appeared in this week’s issue of Student Affairs Leader. The full citation, along with a link to a print-friendly pdf version of the essay, is:

Themed housing has been a frequent target of criticism here on the Collegiate Way. Theme houses “emerged in part from the student-as-customer model of education,” I write in this essay. “If you ask (inexperienced and unreflective) students whether they want to live with other people like themselves, most will say yes. And if that’s what our customers want, then that’s what we should give them. But students are not customers, and what they want is not always what they should be given. In creating theme halls, we are teaching students the wrong lessons: we are teaching them that different branches of knowledge don’t connect, that liberal education is impossible, and that they should only associate with people like themselves.”

I hope that by putting the argument against theme halls in print before the wide readership of Student Affairs Leader, segregated housing of this kind will begin to receive something other than uncritical acceptance, and more people will come to appreciate the importance of genuine cross-sectional diversity.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021