The Preston House was initiated in the fall of 2008 as an alternative housing opportunity. It was developed by and for students desiring to be active participants in an experiential learning environment through the collective living situation of a housing cooperative on campus. Though the potential for Preston to be utilized as a student residence arose from an issue of over enrollment and its correlate—a shortage of dormitory housing—it was nevertheless actualized as a long-term intentional community committed to direct participation in the mission, vision, and
core values of the college.
The founding students undertook an involved and rigorous process, practically assessing how a cooperative house could function within the campus community, and researching co-op housing options at other liberal arts colleges, such as Berea. This process culminated in a list of core values that all present and future members of the house agree to embody. Connected by these common values, they created a viable housing alternative to typical residence hall life that fosters teamwork, support, and happy living and a space where students can explore interests, build
skills, and connect with others.
Since its founding, this house—which was originally built by students—has been home to many students who have actualized these intentions through the creation of an edible landscapes and garden beds, building an herb spiral, running a food co-op out of the house, making household alternatives to paper products, building shelves and cutting boards for the kitchen, a variety of art projects and aesthetic improvements around the house, and starting a house-focused community immunity project, and a neighborhood park. These projects have been perpetuated through the
exchange of knowledge and resources between past, current and future members of the house. On March 31, Joyce Millings and Deb Myers informed members of the Preston House that as of the end of this semester the cooperative housing option would no longer be available as a student-housing alternative to dormitory living.
The President Advisory Committee made this decision behind closed doors without any discussion between the administration and the community, including FMTS, Student Life Committee, Staff Forum, Student Caucus, and Preston House. Deb Myers explained the reasoning behind this decision was two fold; the need for faculty offices due to Carson’s closure along with a low projected enrollment for next semester. Although these needs must be addressed, the methods through which these decisions were made did not include nor respected the community at large.
The lack of transparency in the decision making process undermines the core values of the college. This decision also underestimates the importance of shared convergence, administrative transparency, and student initiated cooperative housing alternatives, within the greater Warren Wilson community. We would like to open this discussion among the administration, FMTS, student life committee, and the faculty and students, particularly those currently displaced and
those facing displacement, in order for a variety of different perspectives to be heard. We understand that there exists a real economic and physical space problem that must be addressed by the administration, however the response to this decision from the campus body, including faculty, FMTS crew bosses, and students, demonstrates the dissatisfaction of the administrations decision-making process. Furthermore, we recognize that this specific issue reflects the fundamental problem of closed-door decision-making, which results in student staff, and faculty dissatisfaction.
Taking into consideration the importance of retention and enrollment, it is our belief that shared convergence, administrative transparency, and student initiated cooperative housing alternatives—such as Preston House—play a vital roll in keeping students at this school as well as the potential to attract new students. In a broader scope, keeping students, staff, and faculty satisfied with their experience here through open and honest dialogue is the most vital strategy in keeping our community interested and motivated at Warren Wilson College.
The Preston House: