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Campus News

The good Shepard: Residents protest new wellness housing agreement

Sam Guzzardi, staff writer

Shepard residents are faced with a hard decision: to sign a Wellness contract or find a new place to live in the fall. Should the students choose to remain in Shepard next semester, it may mean adopting new lifestyle practices –  both in and outside of the dorm.

The contract was written by Wellness Residence Director Bethan Kannapell in collaboration with several other residents. This redrafting was the result of the original contract being misplaced and residents feeling a need to have a document reflecting community standards.

Despite the fact that Shepard has been a designated Wellness dorm for a year now, no official contract has ever been in place. The decision to finally implement an official Wellness contract in Shepard arose out of a need to make room for new, returning and transfer students requesting residency in a Wellness space.

“Last year we set aside Shepard, which has 16 spaces, and Wellness, with 41 spaces, [for students requesting wellness residence]” said Dean of Students Cathy Kramer, “and they were filled, with 20 spaces held for new students. We ended up with 36 people who requested Wellness housing but did not get it, and had to be put on a wait list.”

By the end of March the Student Life Committee had formulated several plans to address the problem, which were brought to Student Caucus for final discussion. Ultimately, the plan which was chosen is to: 1) formalize Shepard’s Wellness status through the implementation of an official contract, and 2) to create specific freshman wellness housing on central campus by making the Vining A second floor a Wellness residence with no formal contract.

“Some of the options were more viable than others. One idea was to convert ANTC and Sutton into wellness, which really wasn’t a feasible possibility for next year. The solution that was decided upon will ultimately displace the least number of people,” said Student Life Committee member Clancy Harris.

“[It has been suggested] that some of the residents of…Shepard and Wellness are just interested in having rooms in those buildings and not [...] in a wellness lifestyle,” explained Harris. “The reason for the contract is to try to weed out people who just want to live in those dorms, and to try to provide space for people who actually want wellness housing.”

Lacking any say in the initial drafting, Shepard residents were initially caught off guard by the contract, responding with petitions and fliers posted throughout the dorm.

The contract was the main point of discussion in a Shepard dorm meeting on April 6 in which residents were given their first opportunity to read it over. Most of the students, even those who live entirely “well,” were uneasy at first. Ideas and criticisms were shared, with a general theme of emphasizing community accountability, as opposed to punitive measures—such as being asked to leave the dorm—by the administration. Overall, students seemed to agree that what they wanted was a “safe space contract.”

“The controversy was the greatest on the night of the [first] dorm meeting… [We met again] the next night, and most of the high emotions had died down” said Shepard RD Noah Wilson.

“I think students needed to talk about [the contract]. [It seems that] most people can see that the rules underlying it are pretty solid and basic,” said Wilson, “substance free is substance free…and you can’t change that. But most of the other rules leave room for the community to define them. I think a lot of them are really positive rules.”

While attempts to revise the contract by the Shepard community did not see success, students did take down their fliers of protest and seem, for the most part, to be in better spirits about the situation.

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Official “Wellness Community Agreement”

As a resident of [a given] Wellness Residence Hall, I agree to live by the following standards:
* To keep drugs and alcohol out of the building.
* To maintain a healthy lifestyle.
* To foster safety and respect.
* To maintain a clean living environment.
* To make responsible choices outside the residence hall and, for those 21 and older, if this includes partaking in substances, not to be present in the dorm under the influence.
* To uphold a commitment to quit smoking, if applicable, and to be conscious of how cigarette smoking affects other residents.
* To smoke 50 feet or further from the dorm.
* To ensure that my short-term and overnight guests, whether members of the Warren Wilson community or not, abide by these standards and to take responsibility for their behavior.
* To acknowledge that multiple violations of this agreement may result in a new housing arrangement.
Golden Rule: To respect myself, others, and our living space.

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