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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.

Residential College Advocacy By and For Alumni

— Institutions that are developing or considering residential college systems inevitably have to address questions of how new colleges will fit in with the old pattern of institutional life. Two new pages have been added to the Collegiate Way website that approach this topic from opposite directions and from a separation of seventy years, and yet arrive at nearly the same conclusions.

When Yale University established its system of residential colleges in the 1930s it issued a special illustrated number of the Yale Alumni Weekly to introduce the new system to the old graduates. Yale’s provost at the time, Charles Seymour, wrote an essay for that publication and it is now available here in full as the “History of the College Plan.” With foresight, Seymour not only commended the collegiate system for the beneficial effects it had on the students, but also because it kept the central purpose of the university more directly before the eyes of the faculty:

The Faculty itself was threatened with a loss of its sense of responsibility for the student. There was danger lest the Yale Faculty come to regard its function as merely the increase of knowledge in some special field rather than the education of Yale undergraduates.

Almost seventy years after Seymour, Messiah College alumnus Derek Woodard-Lehman wrote an essay for the student newspaper of his Pennsylvania alma mater recommending a decentralized house system for Messiah College. Woodard-Lehman’s fine essay is also now available here as “Boyer (in the) House: A Proposal to Restructure Community at Messiah.” Expressing some of the very same concerns that Seymour had expressed, Woodard-Lehman asked:

How can nearly 3000 students housed in transient cohorts and no longer sharing a prescribed core curriculum meaningfully experience community and common learning?

The answer he proposed—the one that Yale had adopted—was a decentralized collegiate system. If your institution is engaged in collegiate planning, or if you are an alumnus and would like to nudge your alma mater in a collegiate direction, these two essays may be of good service to your work.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021