When I'm at a meeting with residential life staff, and we're talking about ways to help our first year students adjust to living on campus, I try to be helpful. I share what I've learned after 25 years of teaching first year students. I enthusiastically endorse student programs on topics like diversity, stress, and alcohol use.
But often I think, quietly and to myself, that we aren't addressing the real issue. It's completely unnatural to take hundreds of eighteen-year-olds and put them all in a building by themselves. It's crazy, really. No amount of programming is going to make that an ideal situation.
I've often thought we could solve a whole bunch of problems in this community by ripping down a few walls and redesigning a few buildings. What would happen if we could combine daycare centers and senior citizen housing with college dorms?
College students would behave so much better if they had a bunch of pseudo grandparents living on their floor. They could benefit from the wisdom of their elders, while they infused the old age community with much-needed energy. College students would act responsible if they had little kids to play with, to be role models for. I think the elderly could benefit from having college students nearby to run errands for them or push their wheelchairs.
Heaven knows, when I'm old, I don't want to live with a bunch of old people. I'd much rather be near the energy of college students and little kids. Sure, the building would have to be carefully designed, with some community spaces and some private spaces, but how much healthy the situation would be for everyone.
When I was talking about this on the phone with LovesWolves, I said, "We'd have to rebuild some buildings, but in this country, we're always ripping buildings down and building new ones."
She laughed and said, "I think the walls you have to rip down are inside people's minds."
But that's always the way it is.