I read with great interest the article “Popular programs disappoint” that appeared in the features section of the Feb. 16 issue of The Hatchet (p. 6). Unfortunately, the article had numerous inaccuracies and a skewed perspective.
I would like to correct some of the misstatements in the article. Approximately 600 first-year students are involved in the 19 living and learning programs on both campuses representing about 30 percent of the total first-year population. As the article referenced, there are two types of first-year communities: those linked to academic courses and those that are co-curricular.
Of the 19 programs, eight Foggy Bottom communities are co-curricular; one community in the Hall on Virginia Avenue and three in Lafayette Hall include academic credit-bearing classes; one is an Honors community and six are residential academic Elizabeth J. Somers Women’s Leadership Program communities on the Mount Vernon Campus. The living and learning communities exist in many forms.
The author is correct in stating, “programs become what participants make of them.” Experiences will vary in each community and for each participant. Of the eight communities not linked to a class, there were over 60 well-attended events last semester, some even covered by The Hatchet in articles mentioning the events’ success. These activities included a trip to the Shakespeare Theater, a reception with filmmaker John Waters, a visit from Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith, a gourmet dinner, a “Night of One Acts,” and a Mitchell Hall art exhibit.
Students in the communities also enhanced their experience through participation in service projects, diversity events, and discussions with faculty. Participation is voluntary; community members may choose not to attend these events. However, judging from the number of attendees, the vast majority of community members choose to participate in community events.
As to the effectiveness of the living and learning communities, out of those eight Foggy Bottom communities, participants had a lower percentage of judicial cases and higher grade point averages than students not involved in living and learning communities. A true testament to the success of the communities is that over half of the first-year communities have had students opt to remain together next year, without even knowing where their community will be housed.
I am surprised The Hatchet would include such derogatory and inaccurate statements. Talking with more people directly involved in living and learning communities would have shown that popular programs do not disappoint all.
-The writer is assistant director for the Community of Scholars in the Community Living and Learning Center.