Residence Life Task Force Charge August 2011

Introduction and Background
The Rector and the President of the University are appointing a Task Force to explore and propose the next stages in the University's approach to residential life. This is an outgrowth of the University's 2007 Strategic Plan, which, among other things, specified improvements and enhancements to first-year residential facilities and programs, and consideration of upper-class alternatives. In the intervening years, situations have brought to light additional questions and issues about the options available for upper-class students, on and off campus, and the University's role in ensuring affordable, high-quality housing for its students as a means of promoting a vibrant and supportive academic community.

We are asking the Task Force to begin its work as soon as possible and report to the Rector and the President by January 15, 2012.

Specific Tasks

  1. Clarify and refine the plan for first year residential life. In general terms, the Strategic Plan affirms the existing philosophy behind the first-year on-campus experience and outlines improvements and enhancements to Graham-Lees, the conversion of a renovated Gaines into a first-year facility, and redefining the area bracketed by those two facilities as a community surrounded by other facilities dedicated to athletics, the performing and visual arts, the student commons, and academic areas. The Task Force should analyze the current housing stock to determine the extent to which it supports the creation of a vibrant campus community, review and refine design concepts for facilities to support the development of first year students, determine optimal capacities (which should lead to conclusions about the future use of both Gilliam and Davis Halls), conduct a cost analysis, form a financing plan, and propose a timetable for implementation of the recommendations.
  2. Analyze current living patterns of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, including data on where students live; demand, supply and long-term sustainability for Greek housing as it is currently configured; off-campus housing of juniors and seniors; and an overview of market pricing in city and county properties. The snapshot of existing patterns should include qualitative assessments as well, such as conditions of off-campus rentals, and local governments' enforcement of existing codes and regulations. It should also include an analysis of whether shifts in residential patterns among juniors and seniors have coincided with shifts in the patterns of social life.
  3. Assess options for on-campus housing for upper-class students. An important component will be capacity, which might range from to maintaining current occupancy levels to adding additional beds to accommodate most, if not all, of the equivalent of the junior class. This will inevitably lead to careful consideration of broader policy questions. Any policy change would be contingent on financial resources as well as broader philosophical consideration of the educational strengths and weaknesses of current living patterns versus the proposed alternatives identified by the Task Force. Other considerations include the programmatic focus for any upper-class housing. The Task Force should also consider the location for new facilities, especially in light of plans for other new facilities, such as an indoor athletic complex.
  4. Submit recommendations to the Rector and the President for consideration by the Board of Trustees. These recommendations should take into account financial feasibility; existing stock (including efficient allocation of Greek housing and whether there are threshold numbers for houses remaining financially viable); and staffing, programming, and best practices for housing young adults in a collegiate and academic environment. The Task Force should be cognizant that young adults desire independence as well as affordable, quality housing. The recommendations should be market-sensitive in the broadest sense, and sensitive to the distinctive student culture patterns at Washington and Lee. The Task Force should take a long-term view, envisioning what residential patterns would be optimal and attractive to students and parents five, ten and even twenty years from now. Most important the Task Force should project a view of how student living patterns will support and enhance a vibrant academic community traditionally known for developing life-long friendships and preparing students for lives of independence and responsibility.

Committee Co-Chairs
Dallas Wilt, '90, Trustee and Chair of the Campus Life Committee
Sidney Evans, Vice-President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Committee Members:
Robert Sadler, ‘67, Trustee
Ben Gambill, ‘67, Trustee
Sally Lawrence, Trustee
David Leonard, Dean of Student Life
Elizabeth Knapp, ‘90, Associate Provost and Associate Professor of Geology
Debbie Dailey, Assistant Provost and Director of Institutional Effectiveness
Pam Luecke, Professor of Journalism and Department Chair
Joel Kuehner, Assistant Professor of Physics and Engineering

Student Advisory Committee:
Caitlin Edgar '12
Taylor Gilfillan '13
Kathryn Salvati '12
Jarrett Smith '12
John Wells '12