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This fall, students will have the chance to turn their academic passions into fully fledged residential programs.

Beginning Friday, College Houses and Academic Services is offering students the opportunity to submit ideas for residential programs that they wish to participate in. If their proposal is chosen, students will create and implement their own residential program within a college house.

With the centralization of the college house system in 1998, CHAS created various residential programs as a way to enhance student-faculty interactions. These “top-down” decisions, however, often led to a lack of student interest in the programs, Leslie Delauter, director of College House Academic Programs, said.

“There wasn’t a sense that the whole community cared about them,” she added.

The Student Committee on Undergraduate Education’s white paper published two years ago also pinpointed this issue and recommended that CHAS eliminate outdated programs and create new ones that would garner more student involvement.

Last year, SCUE partnered with the Residential Advisory Board to write a joint document focused on residential programs.

“We just wanted to give students another outlet to enhance their academic experience and build an intellectual community,” said SCUE Chairwoman and College senior Joyce Greenbaum.

“Students in general need to be given ownership of much of the academic life that is supposed to occur in the college houses,” agreed SCUE Member and Wharton senior Charles Gray, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist.

COLUMN: Charles Gray: Making residential programs work

SCUE and RAB joined forces with CHAS last year to put together an initiative that will allow students to propose programs revolving around academic ideas that they are passionate about. An information session will be held next Wednesday in Rodin College House to outline the proposal process.

College House faculty and SCUE and RAB members will later form a committee to evaluate applications and assess the value of existing programs.

Following the Nov. 7 application deadline, the committee will discuss the proposals and make a final decision by Nov. 28.

Students who wish to propose programs, which will be composed of approximately 12-25 upperclassmen, should recruit interested peers and faculty members and consider programming and event expenses for the coming year. Students may be interviewed to discuss their ideas.

Gray hopes that this new initiative will prevent students from applying to programs simply to get into a certain college house.

“I’m very positive that this change will allow students to feel more connected to the residential programs,” he said.

However, Delauter is concerned that students might use the proposal system to obtain coveted housing, such as the high rises.

“I’m really nervous about that part of it,” she said. Though Delauter added that while students can suggest a college house for their program, there is no guarantee that it will be selected.

The committee is planning to conduct surveys and focus groups for students living in residential programs over the next year. However, they have already decided to terminate the Healthy Living program in Fisher Hassenfeld College House.

“The people who started it aren’t there anymore. It just doesn’t have the life in it,” Delauter said.

CHAS, SCUE and RAB share a sense of optimism regarding this new policy.

“We’ll be very eager to see how it works out,” said RAB Chairman and College senior John Gee. He mentioned, however, that RAB would continue to push for other changes, such as “getting a solid review process in place.”

College sophomore Anna Tsiotsias participated in the Law and Society residential program in Fisher Hassenfeld last year to get “better housing.” She said she did not feel the program added significantly to her freshman experience.

“I didn’t really know any of the other kids in the program besides the ones who lived on my hall. My experience probably would have been the same in a normal hall with a normal RA,” she added.

While College sophomore Sophie Kim also admitted that her incentive for applying to a residential program was getting a room in a high rise, she said her current residential program, Musical Engagement in Rodin, has “exceeded [her] expectations.”

Though she participated in the Women in Leadership program in Ware College House last year, Kim feels she shares a stronger connection with her hallmates this year because of their common passion for music.

However, she still doubts whether the new initiative will be successful.

“I think there is a very good chance that students will take advantage of it,” she said.

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