At the Phoenix, we believe it is imperative that first-year housing continue to be mixed by class year.
Mixed housing is an integral part of the Swarthmore experience. Living with older students allows first years to meet people they would otherwise never meet; people from other departments, clubs and teams. As a first year, having these older students available as a resource is critical to adjusting to the rigor of the school. As first years, upperclassmen are available on our halls to advise us on everything from the confusion of registration in the first week to making decisions about a course of study at the end of the year. But more importantly, they guide us through the transition away from home and high school and into an (almost) grown-up world. Because of mixed housing, upperclassmen serve as critical mentors to younger students as they adjust to life at the college.
From a more practical standpoint, expecting RAs to take responsibility for as many as 30 (?) first-years on a hall without help from any other upperclassman leaders is an unfair challenge. An RA in this position would serve a completely different role from other RAs, taking on substantially more responsibility because of the large number of first-years relying on them for support academically and socially. Similarly, not having other upperclassmen on the hall would fundamentally change the dynamic between the RA and the residents. With a universal 3-4 year age gap between them, the RA becomes a figure of authority rather than a resource. As tThe sole upperclassman on a hall, this person functions more like a camp counselor than a true RA, potentially undermining the valuable relationship that the current situation fosters.
The other potential change to the housing plan is to offer substance-free housing to students; a choice that we fully support. The lack of substance-free housing is inconsiderate to those students who choose not to drink. Their study schedules and sleep patterns may be disrupted by their peers who participate in drinking and other substance use on campus. Furthermore, students who have experienced traumatic incidents that involved drinking may have disruptive responses to sharing a living space with students who choose to drink. Students in these situations have been forced off-campus in the past. Offering substance-free housing would give people with a range of experiences and desired living conditions a space on campus.