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The Task Force's Modified College System Proposal:

There was broad support for many of the elements included in the Task Force proposal for a “College System.”  (To see the original College System proposal, click here.)  Many believed that moving to a College model would be a bold way to meet many of the objectives that the Task Force has set – a stronger sense of community, greater coherence and connectivity over the full four-year experience, better and more consistent advising, and a place to inject programming to enhance the intellectual life of the campus.  On the other hand, we heard many concerns about the residential aspect of this proposal.  It was constrained by the physical layout of the campus.  It restricted student choice in where to live and with whom to live.  It could cost too much money to implement correctly.  And some saw a problem in how the plan would bring community to the campus when it divided it into four sectors.

 

In response to community feedback, the Task Force has revised its vision for residential life, retaining some of its components, but refining the idea to address the important objections we have heard.  (We even briefly debated re-naming the proposal "the Hub System" to emphasize the differences of our model from popular pre-conceptions about what a "College System" is.)  The College System as we now envision it has five basic elements:

 

1)      The College Centers:  Each College would have a center located in a residence facility housing first year students.  In the original college proposal, all students would have been confined to one of four quadrants during their residential career at Tufts.  Under the new College plan, only entering students would live in the College center, and only those entering students who chose to live in an all first-year environment.  All students would be assigned to a College when they enroll at Tufts.  Four dormitories would be identified as the College centers.  These four buildings would accommodate about half of an incoming class.  The remaining entering students would live in mixed-class dorms but would be affiliated with a College and would participate in its activities, its advising structure, and its programming.  The affiliation with the College would continue across four years at the university, but residential choice would not be restricted.  Students would be free to choose where and with whom to live, subject to the constraints which now govern housing on campus.  Eliminating the residential restrictions imposed by the College System will allow students to pursue their friendships and affiliations to organizations in a way that will retain the overall sense of community on campus.

 

2)      Advising: Each College would have an Associate Dean of Advising associated with it who is responsible for all of the students affiliated with that college.  Each student in each College would then have one Associate Dean of Advising for his or her entire four years at the University.  As in the Task Force's previous proposal, this would replace the Class Dean system and assure greater continuity and coherence in advising.  As in our earlier proposal, engineering students would be divided among the four colleges to continue the long-standing practice of integrating A&S and Engineering students.  The Associate Dean of Advising for Engineering (a fifth dean) would be affiliated with each of the four colleges.  This system will ensure that each student gets a comprehensive advising experience and reaps the benefits of being known by an advising team throughout the process of navigating the intellectual and personal milestones at Tufts.  It will also ease the burden on pre-major advisors to have answers to the variety of questions that entering students will present and will make it less critical for students to be matched with an advisor in a discipline in which they are interested.

 

3)      Integration of Intellectual and Social Life:  Each College would have a faculty director who would take on a residential appointment in the College, living in an apartment somewhere in or near the College.  Other faculty and staff also would be affiliated with the College, hopefully establishing relationships with many students and visiting with them over meals.  We also envision College liaisons to Alumni Relations, Career Services, Health Services, Athletics, UCCPS, and the culture centers, to facilitate programming and broad-based appeal.  When the College System is organized, students will be involved in designing and implementing the governance structure of the College.  These changes would bring faculty, staff and visiting scholars back into residential life on campus, without returning to the days when the university positioned surrogate parents in its residences.  

 

4)      Facilities Each College would have facilities that would continue to serve students across their four years.  Advising and tutoring offices would bring students together, both those serving as advisors and tutors, and those seeking help.  Other facilities – an exercise room, a multi-function space, a snack center, a laundry center, and an enhanced drop-in lounge with comfortable chairs, good lighting, high-speed internet access, and food and beverages – could be built into the Colleges to provide places for cross-class engagement.  The Colleges would be a "home away from home" for students living off-campus.

 

5)       Programming:  Each College would be the center for programming for the students who are part of that College, but also open to all.  Better residence-based programming will improve the intellectual spirit on campus.  Departments often offer programs, but too few students participate in them.  Here is an opportunity to bring social and intellectual programming together in a natural setting.  Basing the College system in the dorms will increase residential programming, which is a way to involve students who might not otherwise make the effort to attend campus events and will help students see intellectual engagement as an integral part of their residential experience.   Better programming (which is more difficult to do campus-wide) will also encourage a stronger connection to Tufts as a whole.  Experiences are the foundation for the relationship students have with the institution The College system offers an opportunity to improve the intellectual and social experiences students have on campus.  The Colleges also would be the basis for campus competitions (debate or writing competitions; intramurals) that can provide points of engagement between Colleges.  Traditions would hopefully emerge from events sponsored by each College that would bring the whole campus together and bring students back to campus.  One College might host an annual talent show, for example, and another an annual spoof on campus life.  These events would involve more students and faculty than those that could be executed by a single residence hall.  And these events would provide another reason for upper-classmen to continue to engage in the affairs of the College.  Certainly, this programming would be less critical  for juniors and seniors, who establish a connection to a departmental community in their last two years on campus.  But the hope would be that upper-class students would retain affection for and a relationship to their College, one that would extend to the institution as a whole.

 

We would note that this plan does not require as great an infusion of money as did the original college plan, though some elements of it (faculty apartments, offices, common areas, programming) will require funding.  Because the residential component of the College plan only involves first-year students, the campus layout is no longer an impediment to implementation.  We should note, however, that most of our residential facilities are in need of upgrading.  Common areas, study space, and recreational equipment need improvement in order to pull together students and faculty.  Some of these expenditures are necessary whether we forge ahead with the College plan or not.  In addition to improving residence hall space, creating a culture of community engagement requires more strategic programming in all residence halls.

 

We offer this plan with the expectation that it will be refined further by the appropriate parties.  What we present here comprises only the general contours of the plan.  The Task Force does not have the expertise to work out the fine details, and we recognize that further development of the idea must be done with significant input from Residential Life and Learning, Physical Plant, the Committee on Student Life, and various community constituencies.  The Colleges would provide access to campus systems and faculty more effectively, thus giving students a better overall experience.  But it is more than this.  The College plan offers a vehicle for creating coherence across the four years at Tufts, enhancing community, and injecting more intellectual vibrancy into the campus– in short, for meeting all of the general goals set by the Task Force.  It would be a bold change in the way students are integrated into campus life.

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