Southeast upgrades residence to Agriculture learning community, displacing environmental students
The Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Themed Community at Southeast is transitioning to a learning community designed specifically for students pursuing degrees in agriculture, leaving environmental sciences majors to find alternative housing.
Kendra Skinner, director of Residence Life, said her office was approached by Indi Braydon from the Department of Agriculture about creating the community a few years ago.
“This has been a dream that took a little while to be realized,” Skinner said.
The change will mean the “Themed Community” of the Environmental and Agriculture students will be changed to a “Residential Learning Community,” she said.
She said sometimes communities will be loosely connected based on their common studies; often, they will connect faculty with these groups who specialize in their department.
While many themed communities are successful, Skinner said there is a better approach to the issue.
“We know that a better tie is as a true learning community, and that’s where the course connections come in,” she said. “Students benefit in such a community thanks to their sharing in the same work and classes.”
According to an email sent by the Office of Residence Life to all members of the community, “approximately half of the spaces will be reserved for new students due to other changes in the program.”
However, not everyone is on board with the changes.
Agriculture communication and political science major Reagan Tibbs has been raising the issue before Student Government Association, where he serves as a representative.
Tibbs said since the changes have been “in the pipeline” for years, and students in the location deserved to be notified sooner.
“I think definitely within [a] two to three-year timeline, there was more than enough time to reach out to students and have an open and honest discussion with them,” Tibbs said.
Tibbs said he’s also brought the issue before Faculty Senate.
“The reason I’m going after this and why I’m so passionate about it is that I’ve lived on the floor for three years,” he said. “To me, I feel a responsibility above my duties as a senator — but also just as a resident of that community to get answers for people.”
Skinner said the department felt comfortable making the change because now an integrated science community has been developed in which environmental science students potentially could live.
Additionally, students can apply to move into Honors housing if they are eligible for the Jane Stephens Honors Program, and there is also an entrepreneurship community, Skinner said. If students would like to find a similar structure, she suggested Merrick Hall.
The change goes into effect at the start of the Fall 2020 semester.