Town Halls

The Committee Town Halls were events that gave students a chance to hear about the work of the Committee, to ask questions of Committee members, and to give their input on the future of Northwestern’s residential experience. All students were welcome to attend the Town Halls, and over 120 attendees came to the seven meetings throughout October.

Each Town Hall began with a short presentation (pdf) to give students some background to the work of the Committee, followed by discussion. Below you can find a list of some of the highlights and most commonly asked questions, along with the Committee’s responses. If you have additional questions or comments or would like more information on the Committee’s work, you can contact us here.

Common Questions

Won’t creating a single campus-wide model homogenize Northwestern’s residential experience?

A single residential model will give every student the same opportunities, not the same experience. Currently, there are major qualitative differences in students’ residential experiences depending on where they live. We want every student to have access to the same kinds of facilities and the same opportunities for residential engagement, regardless of the size and location of their building. Students will still have the freedom and agency to create their own unique experience.

Some students just want a room with a bed in a residence hall, and prefer to be left alone to find communities in their own way.

Nobody will be required to engaged with the community in their residence hall or neighborhood. Students who simply want a room with a bed and nothing more can have that, but we want to provide an organizational structure and the facilities to ensure that they have the option to make more of their two years living on campus.

Why don’t we just improve the models that exist instead of starting from scratch?

We aren't starting from scratch, but we are working to remove current constraints and design a system that can evolve over time. The new model will allow for new facilities and new ways of delivering programs and support, but we are keen on maintaining existing features that seem to enhance the residential experience.

Won’t the neighborhoods exacerbate the north-south campus divide?

Neighborhood boundaries will be permeable; students will be able to meet new people from other neighborhoods and engage with them as much as they want. Neighborhoods will provide an area in which students can make connections in a network that is larger than the intimate community within their building, but smaller than the whole campus. Inter-neighborhood projects and activities will help connect students on different parts of campus in new ways, helping us break down divides across campus.

What type of equipment will the new neighborhood facilities offer?

Neighborhood facilities will complement and supplement campus facilities without creating redundancies. They will offer residents spaces and amenities that anybody can feel comfortable using. For example, Henry Crown has specialized workout machines for students who need them, while neighborhood fitness centers are designed for any student to feel comfortable using all the equipment. By organizing facilities at the neighborhood level for hundreds of students rather than at the building level for tens of students, we can provide residents with conveniently-located, top-quality equipment. The same logic applies to other special facilities, including the Jones Great Room.

Will the new neighborhood facilities be restricted only to residents of that neighborhood, or will anybody be able to use any neighborhood facilities?

Some facilities will definitely be open to anybody (e.g., dining halls), while others will probably have restricted access. We want residents of a neighborhood to be able to use the facilities intentionally provided nearby. We expect that norms will be established over time as more facilities open throughout the Housing Master Plan. Access may be restricted only at certain hours, but we want to wait and see how students use these spaces before making any decisions. If we find that some spaces are being inundated by students from other neighborhoods, we can recalibrate access, which will be controlled by Wildcard.

Won’t open access to neighborhood facilities lead to less security in residential buildings?

Open access to neighborhood facilities does not mean that every part of every building will have neighborhood-wide access. Student rooms, small buildings, and floor lounges will still be restricted to specific groups of residents linked to those spaces. Neighborhood facilities will be completely separate from students rooms. We will continue to have security protocols similar to those in place today.

If students in Greek houses will have access to neighborhood facilities, will students in residence halls have access to Greek facilities?

Like smaller residence halls, Greek houses do not have enough space to be renovated to include neighborhood-wide facilities, so they would remain restricted to building residents only.

Many students have great experiences in small communities like residential colleges. Will the new residential model encourage students to form tightly-knit communities?

We anticipate smaller subcommunities within neighborhoods to ensure that we have small, intimate communities where students can get to know each other well and connect via student-driven programming and shared spaces. One goal of the Town Halls and our subcommittees (especially Community, Affinity, & Identity and Student-Faculty Interaction & Instruction) was to find out what students like in the current models and what they would like to see in the future.

Will there be themed subcommunities in the neighborhoods?

We have heard from students that themes are valuable both for building community, and for providing structure for student-faculty interactions. We have also heard that the current menu of themes is not necessarily reflective of the range of student interests. We are discussing ways for themes to evolve organically in response to a changing world so participants in the residential experience have more latitude to sunset old themes and introduce new ones.

How will faculty be involved in the new residential experience? What about graduate students?

The Housing Master Plan has already accounted for additional apartments to expand the number of Faculty-in-Residence (currently four in existing residential communities). We are discussing how faculty can be involved in non-residential mentorship and advising roles akin to residential college Faculty Chairs. We would also like to find new roles in which graduate students can simultaneously enrich the undergraduate residential experience and advance their professional development.

How will Greek houses be incorporated into the neighborhoods?

Greek houses will be part of a neighborhood just like every other residential building, and Greek-house residents will have access to the same neighborhood facilities and programs as students living in residence halls. Greek houses will continue to manage their own internal affairs as they currently do.

Will living in a Greek house on campus count towards the two-year residency requirement?

Yes.

Will there be gender-specific and gender-neutral housing in the new residential model?

Yes. Right now, Hobart House, home to Women’s Residential College, is the only building with gender-specific housing. Within the neighborhoods, we will be able to organize buildings to meet various needs such as gender-specific and gender-neutral housing.

Will there be any way for students living off-campus to participate in the new residential model?

We would like to create a persistent four-year neighborhood identity that will enable students to continue interacting with their on-campus neighborhoods and subcommunities even after moving off-campus.