Faculty get involved in student housing

For many students, sustained interaction with faculty can be very difficult to overcome. An apparent dearth of substantial relationships with the faculty sometimes makes Carnegie Mellon feel like a larger institution than it actually is. To combat this, Student Affairs is pushing for first-year living communities with more faculty involvement.

For students in certain first-year residences, Student Affairs developed the Big Questions program last semester, which allowed faculty to go directly into the lounges to discuss controversial topics with first-year students. The program was a mixed success; while some groups didn’t get off of the ground, others continued to meet after the program ended.

However, seeing that faculty participation in Global Studies House has proved fruitful, plans to introduce Tepper faculty into the housing community have the potential to revitalize the concept.
While such initiatives haven’t met with unqualified success, Student Affairs is still moving first-year housing in the right direction, and we encourage them to look at a model well-entrenched at various other universities: At University of Chicago, for example, many residence halls have live-in faculty that function similarly to Carnegie Mellon’s housefellows.

Chicago’s is a model worth emulating for the strong relationships that develop between students and faculty. Such a community is not foreign to Carnegie Mellon. Before it burned down, the stone mansion at Amberson and Fifth Avenues used to house a successful living community of students and faculty for many years.

Regardless of whether faculty live with students or not, we hope that Student Affairs will continue to adopt more programs in the vein of Big Questions, which affect more students throughout the school than individual professors becoming involved with specialized communities.

While specialized academic or theme-based living communities are effective, they already tend to be more insular than average first-year communities, and the addition of faculty into the mix might make them even more so. Having faculty work deeply with specific communities may have the adverse effect of making other first-years feel like they are locked out of exclusive groups and are not entitled to metacurricular bonds with the faculty. This is exactly the mentality faculty involvement aims to erode. Thus, although faculty involvement in theme-based communities should help some first-years feel at home, it is only one, not the, solution to the problem.