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ResLife ends Music Learning Community

By Kyle Constable
On February 27, 2014

The Music Learning Community has been an integral part of South Campus' Rosebrooks Hall since its opening in 1998, but an abrupt announcement made Monday will change that dramatically.
The Department of Residential Life (ResLife) plans to disband the Music Learning Community at the end of this semester as part of the phasing out of the old "cluster housing" system in South Residence Halls, according to an email sent to students living in the community on Monday.
The email, sent by Residential Life Interim Director Pamela Schipani and First Year Programs & Learning Communities Executive Director David Ouimette, said their two offices had agreed they "will no longer be offering (a) cluster living option." This spells the end of the music community in 2014 and a second cluster in 2015, which Schipani would not name because the students have not been informed yet.
"Although students have generally enjoyed living in these communities, including the one for music majors, they do not truly meet the definition of a Living Learning community," the email stated.
"There are not academic requirements or direct tie in with either the Residential Life professional staff or the professional staff in First Year Programs and Learning communities."
The decision has been met with confusion and frustration from some of the students living in the community.
"The students that I have talked to are upset for a couple of reasons, the first being the fact that ResLife did not give them very much notice," said former music community resident assistant Kelly White. "And the second (is) that ResLife is also not allowing current members of the community to stay in their rooms for next year."
Many of the students currently living in the music community were planning on staying there through the next academic year, according to White, and now have to make new housing arrangements.
White said the dissolution of the community comes at the expense of the music students living there, who directly benefit from proximity to each other.
"The students in the community interact often, going from room to room to visit or ask for help with homework," White said. "Often before large tests in music theory or music history, study groups can be found in common rooms and lounges."
White added that the benefits of the community extend beyond academics, even to handling issues of "life in general." Additionally, the music community's location in Rosebrooks Hall is also significant, as it keeps students close to the Fine Arts Complex, where many of their classes are held.
Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect, according to White, is Residential Life's decision not to allow the music community to make changes to their structure immediately so they can continue to exist.
"As far as the dissolution of the community goes," White said, "many members have expressed anger at not being given a chance to change the community to meet the (learning community) standards."
However, Residential Life has not closed the door on the music community completely.
"Residential Life works with First Year Programs and Learning Community staff to evaluate new (Living and Learning Community) proposals," Schipani said. "Should a proposal be put forward from the music department it will be evaluated."
Even temporarily losing this community could take a toll on the music program, though. The residences in the community have become something students look forward to once they reach their sophomore years, White said.
"Although some music students choose not to live in the community, many see it as an opportunity to grow closer to and better know their peers," White said. "Freshman music students who lived in dorm areas far away freshman year, such as Northwest and Towers, often look forward to the promise of the community, knowing that they will finally be around their friends and people who understand their hectic schedule."
White added she could think of five people who dropped the music major after deciding not to live in the community, suggesting that the proximity encourages the students in the major to remain in the major.
Learning communities on campus trace their roots to the 1980s, where a technology community in Northwest and a foreign language community in West were formed, according to Schipani.
When the South Residential Halls were opened in 1998, the university created "cluster housing" to allow people in the same major to live together, Schipani said. The Music Learning Community was one of those clusters.
According to White, the launch of the new learning community system in 2008 resulted in the Music Learning Community being "lumped" with the new learning communities - communities that included academic requirements for participation. Despite this, the Music Learning Community never incorporated academic requirements, as it was not required to, nor did it change its policy of only housing sophomores through seniors.

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