Come fall semester, a new Small Living Unit (SLU) will emerge on the block.
The third SLUplex is going to be located at 110 Rowland Ave. between 94 and 118 Rowland, according to an email from Wendy Piper, assistant dean of student af- fairs and director of residential life at Ohio Wesleyan University.
Members of House of Spiritual Athletes and Tree House will reside in the new SLU-plex when it opens in fall 2017, said Dwayne Todd, vice president for student engagement and success.
“The SLUs are an important part of our campus, and with the continued decline of the condition of many previous SLU homes, it was time to relocate them to new facilities,” Todd said. “We plan to build four SLU buildings, each one housing two SLU communities, and are constructing them as funding becomes available.”
Todd said the funding for the third SLU-plex came from “a generous donor who will be named publicly soon.”
In Piper’s email to members residing in Inter-Faith House, Sexuality and Gender Equality House, Peace and Justice House and House of Linguistic Diversity, she said the new SLUplex will be similar in size and features to the current SLUplexes, but will have a slightly modified designed and a different color palette.
All the SLUs share similar features and will house 12 students, but each will have design aspects that are distinctive from the other SLUs, Todd said.
“Just as our SLU communities are all unique, we wanted to be sure to preserve some unique features to each SLU building that houses them,” he said.
The timing of the fourth SLU’s construction is yet to be determined.
Residential Life offers alternatives for groups of students who share similar interests and want to live together. There are theme houses, SLUs, fraternities and now, introducing, a sub-community.
The first of its kind, the proposed Mental Health Small Living Unit (SLU) seeks to provide students with a comfortable space to discuss mental health related topics.
“In college, there’s your three healths …physical health, spiritual health [and] mental health, [which] was the one area where something could be improved,” said freshman Dylan Hays. “Our retention rate was not good, and I think this is a reflection of that. So why not do something to try to improve that?”
Since all the current SLU houses are occupied, the Mental Health SLU was not approved to move into a house, said Wendy Piper, the assistant dean of student affairs and director of residential life.
Although there are counseling services for students to visit if they are having concerns about their mental health, the sub-community is striving to create a more accepting environment to have these conversations.
“We wanted to be a more casual way to discuss mental health,” said freshman Katy Tuggle, president of Active Minds and one of the creators of the sub-community. “For a lot of people, there’s a stigma for going to counseling services. You have to have a really, full, legitimate problem, so this is the middle ground between it.”
Unlike legitimate SLUs, the sub-community will not have a moderator nor a dedicated budget for planning activities, said Piper.
The sub-community plans to re-apply again next year to get into a house.
In the meantime, some members might be living near each other in the same residence hall. They also have the option to apply for funding through the Wesleyan Student Council on Affairs (WCSA) to plan future events.
“Instead of everything being theoretical, we will have actual experience to back [our plans] up,” said Tuggle.
The Panhellenic House, a new themed house for Panhellenic women has been approved and will be located in the old Sigma Chi house at 30 Williams Drive.
Available only to sorority women, the house will be listed on the 2017-2018 housing application, according to Dana Behum, assistant director of student involvement for fraternity and sorority life.
“Each chapter will have four members living in the space,” Behum said. “Additionally, the house will be staffed by an RA, who would preferably be a Panhellenic woman, and one additional spot will be available to a member of the Panhellenic Council.”
Behum added that as a theme house, the Panhellenic House will be an option based on what’s best for the campus.
“It can change from year to year based on the needs of the campus,” Behum said. “We hope that members of the Panhellenic community find this option to be attractive and support filling the space for years to come.”
Behum said she had the idea for the house years ago but did not outwardly move forward with it until last spring.
“When two facilities on Williams Drive became available, I knew it was the right time to start discussing the option of expanding the community members on the Hill with our Greek members,” Behum said.
Behum said the Panhellenic Council started discussing the opportunity in August 2016.
“They, with the support of the collegiate affiliated women, and the national offices of their organizations, submitted an application to residential life in October of 2016,” Behum said.
Senior Lydia Hall, former vice president of the OWU Panhellenic Council, officially submitted the application on behalf of the council members.
“There was a narrative in the application [to get the house approved] that asked questions about how the house would be beneficial to the entire OWU community,” Hall said.
Hall said there was a financial section and letters of support section as well.
“We had to have letters of support which five members, one from each chapter, had to write about how the house would benefit them personally and how it would benefit their chapter,” Hall said.
“I worked closely with Dana and the rest of the council and they gave me their input,” Hall said. “It took a lot of emails and a lot of support.”
Behum added that they faced some challenges during the process of gaining approval.
“[The challenges] were related to concerns with risk and liability and responsibility for the physical facility,” Behum said. “The national organizations of each of our chapters needed confirmation that this house was not the responsibility of any one specific chapter.”
“Once each organization received information explaining that the facility was property of OWU and responsible facility the process was fully supported,” Behum said.
Behum said the house was officially approved in January 2017.
At this point in the process of establishing the house, Behum said the Panhellenic community has been discussing what members will live in the house, such as only seniors, officers or new members.
As of now, the community has chosen to give first preference to officers as they begin to submit their housing applications, Hall added.
It’s official. Gender inclusive housing is coming to Ohio Wesleyan starting this fall, but the new policy does not apply to everyone.
Gender inclusive housing is a form of housing that allows students to live together in rooms and suites regardless of their gender identities.
Wendy Piper, director of Residential Life, said gender inclusive housing “aims to create an environment that acknowledges, appreciates and respects the diverse nature of the OWU student body, and supports the various needs of students who feel that they would be more compatible with a roommate of a different biological sex or gender identity.”
Piper said the ResLife staff has been talking with students about creating a gender inclusive housing policy since the fall of 2012 when some students came to them with “a vision for gender inclusive housing.”
The first proposed policy was drafted in February 2013. However, inquiries from students reach as far back as 2004. Piper said those inquiries went undeveloped mostly because the interested students graduated.
According to Piper, ResLife did not feel a gender inclusive housing policy should be developed with a “top-down administrative approach.”
“It did not make sense to impose it upon students who were not requesting it,” she said. “As OWU students recognized an increasing need for gender inclusive housing options, we invited them to contribute to the introduction of a policy that would apply specifically to their needs.”
Junior Lissette Gonzalez, Sexuality and Gender Equality House (SAGE) moderator, said she understood this reasoning, but wished a gender inclusive housing policy existed before students became vocal about their discomfort with the current policy, instead of after.
Piper said the new housing policy does not apply everywhere on campus.
Hayes will remain women-only housing in order to accommodate female students who do not want to participate in a gender inclusive housing environment.
The policy also will not impact students living in fraternity houses because those fraternities are men-only organizations.
Bashford Hall, Thomson Hall and 4 Williams will also not be gender inclusive because they have common bathrooms on each floor.
Unlike other students, first-year and transfer students will have to specifically request to be included in the new policy, and requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis, said Piper.
“I think that’s a little bit hard and isolating just because there are a lot of first-year students who actually would benefit from this,” Gonzalez said. “But I guess it’s just to see how next year is going to go.”
Piper said she does not anticipate many complications.
“The only change that we have made to our online housing application is to ask students if they prefer a gender inclusive housing environment,” she said. “Residential Life will make gender inclusive housing assignments prior to the various housing selection events at which students come and select their room.”
Julie Duhigg, Spectrum Resource Center co-adviser, said this policy change means OWU is joining the 21st century.
“This means a healthy shift toward greater inclusivity for our students, and particularly for students that have historically been marginalized and not recognized,” she said.
Gonzalez said without gender inclusive housing, the transgender and non-binary students in SAGE can live in a single, but if they want to be with a roommate, they won’t necessarily be allowed.
“I think it’s important because there are a lot of different gender identities, and people should really be allowed to live in a space where they feel safe and live with people they feel safe with.”
Coming back to a college campus after a long break is usually exciting for students.
After spending a significant period of time at home, many students are happy to be back on campus, with the freedoms that comes along with being in college.
But for students coming back from being abroad for a semester, the adjustment to coming back onto campus can be more difficult for them.
Juniors Kelsey Gallaher, Lauren Moore and Lidia Mowad all participated in the University College Cork, Ireland program this past fall.
Mowad said she picked this specific program because she spent a summer in Ireland four years ago to learn about the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Junior Jordan Bernstein also spent the fall semester away from campus, but she had a different experience than other students who were abroad.
Bernstein participated in the Wesleyan in Washington program in Washington D.C., where she had an internship with Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC.)
“My focus is on American government and I wanted to be in the heart of what I have been learning about and what I love,” she said.
Bernstein’s roommate, junior Eilee Foley spent her fall semester abroad at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia and junior Hannah Snapp participated in the Salamanca, Spain program.
Foley said she decided to study abroad in Australia because JCU offered her fulfilling psychology courses and she also got the opportunity to live in a small town on a beach.
Each student that was abroad has said that adjusting to life back on campus after being gone for a semester has been hard.
“It is difficult for everyone that comes back from taking some time abroad because there is a definite disconnect between yourself and the campus,” Snapp said.
“I’m still struggling with some aspects but I have incredible friends that are making the transition much better. I also have great friends who were also abroad and with whom I can talk.”
Mowad said she is feeling reverse culture shock upon her return to the United States.
“For the first month, it’s going to be like you are just going through the motions; trying to get back into society,” she said.
Gallaher said her biggest adjustment to being back at Ohio Wesleyan is the time change; and the time difference was also a big struggle for her while she was in Ireland.
Bernstein, Foley and Moore all said that adjusting back to the pace of college life and OWU has been challenging, but they are excited to be back in the community with their friends.
One of the biggest frustrations that some of the students faced prior to returning to OWU was not knowing where they were living once they came back to campus.
“My abroad friends and I kept calling and emailing them [Residential Life], and finally I heard on the Wednesday before classes started,” Moore said.
“It was unnerving to not know who my roommates would be, how to pack and where I’d be placed until then.”
Andrew Peterson, assistant director of Residential Life, said three things go into the planning of rooming assignments: where spots are open on campus, seniority or priority number and preferences of residence halls.
“The biggest challenge is assigning people to the building/room/roommates that they want to live with or with whom they are compatible,” Peterson said.
“The difficulty is compounded as we don’t know where those spaces may be until very late in the semester when we hear about students going abroad in the spring, leaving the university or graduating.”
Additionally, Peterson said that ResLife cannot please every student all the time, and that the lack of off-campus options has nothing to do with the struggle of finding rooms for students coming back after a semester away.
Snapp said she is not pleased with her living situation and she is currently looking to move residential halls.
However, some of the other students said that they are happy with their living situation.
“Luckily, I ended up rooming with my four best friends who were all abroad too,” Foley said. “ResLife came through in the end and provided us with a lovely dorm in Smith Hall.”
Every person who participated in a study abroad program said it changed their outlook on life, and may have impacted potential career goals.
Mowad said she feels more cultured and has learned to become more observant of the world.
Bernstein said her opportunity to work in government in D.C. has helped her to figure out her area of focus.
According to Snapp, she learned more about herself during her time aboard and developed a deeper appreciation for travel.
Most students coming back to campus said that they were most excited to be back within the OWU community.
Foley said she missed the simple things, like the long lunch lines in the food court and seeing friendly faces around campus.
“I’m definitely putting my all into everything I do on campus, and I’ve been open to trying new things and not letting an opportune moment slip by,” Moore said.
“Those four months went by way too fast, and I’m going to use every day here to appreciate everything here, because college has an expiration date!”