When I was in high school, there always seemed to be a stigma my parents held about time I spent away from home. If I were to ever head out for more than just an errand or two, I would always hear “be smart,” or “stay safe.” I never felt that my parents did not trust me, but there were definitely outlets available for me to disregard their advice. So, what has changed since coming to Elizabethtown College? What is different about this dynamic now that most of my time is spent away from home?
I have yet to live on campus at Etown. After transferring from another university where I lived on campus, I decided to commit to commuting for the year, just to see another side of college life. I still get to see my friends from the other university who I have kept in contact with, and I find that nice. Unfortunately, there is also a lot you miss when you choose not to live close to school. Meeting people, hanging out outside of class, long nights on campus; this is where the stigma may come into play. People develop ideas as to what college students do when they aren’t in class: drinking, partying, the list goes on. But what if this whole “experience” were to be limited by cutting out the dangerous substances? Is it worth making the choice to be clean to get more out of one’s collegiate involvement?
Sophomore Nicholas Christie, one of the soon-to-be Resident Assistants within Etown’s substance-free housing program, is very positive about the project. “Residence Life has found that there are a lot of Etown students who would prefer to have a living space where they did not have to come home to residents drinking,” Christie said. “The Nest is a place where students who do not enjoy going out to parties can come back and know that they have a group of students who feel the same way.”
According to a New York Times article by Tamar Lewin from a few years ago, substance-free housing is not a new concept. Schools larger than Etown across the country have been quick to create an option for it, some of these decisions dating back to the early 1990s. When taken at face value, it seems to be a personal choice, yet there are other benefits to both resident and college alike. Students participating in the program have quieter, less prone-to-risk neighbors who all live in buildings that tend to smell better. Officials enjoy fewer problems with both their tenants and with vandalism. On top of this, schools that offer substance-free housing generally seem to find that they may receive more applications following the implementation of the program.
Kristen Vieldhouse, Etown’s assistant director of residence life revealed more of the school’s logic toward the idea. “Students will be given opportunities to participate in programs and learning opportunities such as camping, hiking, fitness, developing healthy eating habits, etc.,” Vieldhouse said. “There will also be alternative, late-night programs on the weekends specifically for students who want to have something fun to do but don’t want to participate in social events or situations where alcohol or other substances might be present.”
It seems as though The Nest will be more involved than the title “substance-free” would lead one to believe. The fact that they are pushing for a wide variety of activities and helping students live healthier lives is an honorable gesture. It shows that the school cares about its attendees, which is important to remember in the wake of other controversial issues such as the recent tuition rate increase.
It was difficult to find anyone to speak out against the usefulness of the program. There are students on campus who do not feel that the program is for them, but still think that it is right for someone else within the school’s population of residents. “I feel like the LLC is going to be a huge success,” Christie later said. “Housing on campus is constantly changing to adapt to what students need. I believe that if students voice their opinions to Residence Life, anything can happen as far as Living Learning Communities.”
After living on campus at a school where there were plenty of other residents who chose to partake heavily in some things that I was not personally drawn to, I completely understand why a student may choose to live within Etown’s substance-free housing. However, if I was given the opportunity to live on campus, I would probably decide to live within the standard housing system. I would be interested in attending the meetings that are being planned for wellness within The Nest, and I think that Residence Life should consider this option for other students who may feel the same.