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Students contemplate effect of housing policy on diversity

A week after upperclass students began moving back into dormitories, many are observing the impact of the new policy that places all sophomores on West Campus.

The requirement, part of the University's changes to upperclass residential life, was instituted in part to increase class unity and interaction across races. Most sophomores say they appreciate the effort, although so far many doubt that the new living arrangements will make their friendships more diverse.

On the surface, the policy does result in a more racially diverse campus by replicating the diversity found on the all-freshman East Campus to West.

"[The administration] did a good job of racially diversifying dorms on East. You had to [live with people of different races] freshman year, and now you have to do it sophomore year," said senior Richard Rivera, co-president of Mi Gente, a Latino student group.

Rivera said the new residential policies, which also move selective living groups off Main West Quadrangle and allow sophomores to live with freshman dorm mates, will be a positive change in the long run.

"It is a big change for West Campus," Rivera said. "It isn't dominated by stereotypically white greeks or selective living groups, so hopefully [the policy] will increase open-mindedness." He added, however, that permanent improvement to campus diversity would partly depend on whether students would remain on West after their sophomore year.

Other students said the new West Campus only provides a diverse cultural climate for residential life, not social life. While the residential arrangement guarantees the presence of more ethnicities on West Campus, many students note that it may not increase the interaction or integration necessary for racial diversity in friendships.

"[The policy] would have worked if there were more interracial friendships to begin with," said sophomore Haley Burchfield. "I don't think it promotes interaction [with those of other races] just because people are there."

Black Student Alliance President Abena Antwi, a senior, said the policy will successfully diversify West Campus. "There is more of a likelihood of making friendships with different people if you are living with them," she said. "[With the policy], there are so many more opportunities to form relationships."

Administrators had hoped having all sophomores on West would allow them to live where they wanted, instead of being influenced by the racial and social environment, which in the past has been characterized by a predominantly white West Campus and a disproportionate number of black students on Central Campus.

Some, however, believe the pressure still remains, especially for minority students.

"Some sophomores I know see [the requirement to live on West] as an obstacle to where they want to be--Central Campus," senior Christopher Johnson said.

Some students say the movement of the social scene off West will limit opportunities for people of different ethnicities to meet and form friendships, since the more remote locations of many parties may shrink attendance. "People are going to take the social scene to where their friends are, so socially, the campus is not going to be more diverse," sophomore Alice Williamson said.

The linking feature of the new policy--in which residents of freshman dorms have reserved spaces in West Campus quadrangles--is another limit to diversity, many students said.

Sophomore Liz Reaves, whose freshman dorm was linked to Edens Quadrangle, said her new living environment is not very racially diverse. "Maybe if we were linked to a better dorm we would see more diversity," she said.

Other students said, however, that the new system may eventually foster more interaction, if residents are willing to seize the opportunity.

Statistics on the relative diversity of quads will not be available until October.


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