1. Students will be part of one of five commons for all four years of their time at Middlebury;

2. Students will have the same Dean and Head, unless there are personnel changes in a commons or exceptional circumstances (e.g, personality differences between dean and student);

3. Students will share a common academic experience during their first year through the writing intensive First-Year seminar program, which will become fully Commons-based (3/4 of September seminars are commons-based today);

4. Students will live in their commons for the first two years; beds will be designated for each commons to accommodate first-years and sophomores (including Febs; some sophomores may also live in academic interest houses and social houses);

5. A sophomore year “common program” will be developed by the Head of each commons, the goal of which is to provide a special sophomore experience for students, engage the sophomore members of the commons, and provide opportunities for the Heads and other faculty to get to know students better, and become potential mentors and advisers to a greater number of students;

6. The sophomore program will be overseen by the Heads with support/participation from faculty and staff affiliates to each commons;

7. A small number of beds will be reserved in each commons in close proximity to first-years and sophomores in the commons and to Deans’/Heads’ offices so those juniors and seniors who are in leadership positions in their commons can be proximate, if they so choose (and these rooms should be singles);

8. Academic Interest Houses and Social Houses will not be affiliated with a commons, as each resident will retain ties to his or her commons;

9. About 1,000 beds (the specific rooms to be determined by a student committee), unaffiliated with any of the commons, will be designated for rising seniors’ and juniors’ room draw;

10. Programming space in the residence halls will be affiliated with and administered by individual commons, as each commons shall have at least one large meeting space;

11. Senior and Junior draw will be conducted via lottery based on seniority;

12. Juniors, while abroad, will retain the same Heads and Deans, as if they were on campus;

13. Juniors (who are not abroad) and seniors will be encouraged to remain active and engaged in the life of their commons, no matter where they live;

14. Commons Councils will provide leadership opportunities on campus; student input on how best to help make this a reality is crucial;

15. Commons Councils will work collaboratively and with other student organizations to offer a rich array of social life options for students;

16. Campus-wide events/competitions (e.g., problem-solving contests as part of the project on creativity and innovation in the liberal arts) may be commons based;

17. Each commons will have a well defined faculty and staff affiliate program, developed by the Heads and supported by the College Administration;

18. Each commons will have programming exclusively for its faculty and staff affiliates, intended to build a community of affiliates, which will, over time, lead to more student-faculty/staff engagement and better support for students in each commons; and

19. Other suggestions?

— Ron Liebowitz, September 2007

4 Responses to “The 4/2 Commons: Outline (Draft)”

  1. 1 Christopher Byers October 2, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    After 24 years, I am still very close with those friends I made from my hall in Allen in my freshman year. Does this plan mean that halls will be a mixture of freshmen and sophomores, or that freshman will continue to be in totally-freshman halls?

  2. 2 Magdalena Widjaja October 7, 2007 at 3:33 am

    I’m a recent alumna who just graduated in May 2007. From my observation, one of the students’ main concern about the Commons system is it limits their options when they want to live with friends who belong to other commons. Will not the two-year residency requirement worsen that problem? Also, I doubt the effectiveness of the Commons system in providing a support system. In my own experience, my commons head and dean were not very effective in providing that support when I needed their help. In addition, I have heard that the college is postponing the plan to build separate dining halls for each commons. At that time I thought that the college administration has realized that the commons system is not working as effectively as it was envisioned to be a decade ago. I feel that the Middlebury student body is small enough without having to be further divided into smaller groups through rigid commons system.

    I have also heard that the recent changes in the CRA system has caused a great outcry from the commons community that led to the resignation of some key administrative officers. If there is much objection from the commons administrative and the students, I hope the Office of the President would pay close attention to what the others have to say like what they have wisely done when they launched the new logo a few months back.

  3. 3 ronl October 12, 2007 at 9:16 am

    In response to Christopher’s post: we plan to keep first-years living with first-years as they have been doing for several decades. If, however, we move Wonnacott first-years out of Battell so that it becomes a residency hall solely for Cook (right now, Battell is the first-year residence hall for both commons), we might add Cook sophomores to Battell, but make the double rooms singles for the sophs. We would probably separate the first-years from the sophs by floor(s), but this is one of the many issues Dean Spears and I want to engage with students when we have our open meetings about the Commons and our moving forward. The first of those meetings will be:

    Thursday, October 18 at 12:00 p.m. in McCullough Social Space: lunch will be available

    Wednesday, October 31 at 4:30 p.m. in McCullough Social Space: with refreshments

    There are many logistical issues to be discovered and resolved before we move ahead with changing the Commons system, and we look forward to hearing student ideas and opinions in the coming months.

  4. 4 Keith Williams October 17, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    I’m glad the commons system is starting to loosen up a bit. The current system puts far too much emphasis on a quasi-random first-year room selection process. This is amplified in the later years as students are forced to decide whether they would like to live with friends from other commons, or live in “premium” housing, if it’s even available in their particular commons. (I lived in Cook, so housing was a sore subject.)

    After reading the post and the subsequent comments, I have a few questions:

    Will junior and senior housing still “belong” to a single commons? A big building like either of the Atwater Halls will likely have people affiliated with all of the commons. Which dean(s) would be responsible for housing problems, such as roommate issues, cleanliness, or fines? I would hope there would only be a single supervisor for each building, but this does not seem obvious from the bullet point list.

    By converting the Wonnacott halls of Battell to sophomore, single-occupancy rooms, it seems that the College would be losing somewhere between 120 and 150 beds. With a housing crunch already and no plans for additional dorms, where would you make up the difference?

    A good feature of the commons is that they allow more opportunities for students to get involved (such as through commons council). It is when they place restrictions on students’ perceived freedom and happiness that they become problematic. I’m glad to see some of those restrictions coming to an end.

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