Profs taking up residence

Via The Collegiate Way, we have this AP story about professors in residence at universities. Here’s a snippet:

When most freshmen picture moving into their college dormitories and becoming acquainted with campus life, they probably aren’t counting on having their professors as neighbors. Maybe they should.

More professors have been moving into campuses at prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale.

“I wasn’t clear on how the students would react, but I wasn’t worried that they would feel like I was a policemen, said [American University’s John] Richardson, who teaches International Development. “I cook meals for students every other week; I have them over for coffee. Students do have their loud moments … I have have found them to be respectful, and grateful to have a faculty member living near them.” […]

“Teaching doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take place only in the classroom: it should be incorporated into daily life, around the clock,” [Robert O’Hara] says. “The best education is one that takes place all around you. On the more practical side, it’s convenient to live on campus, close to your office and other working needs; most campuses are pretty attractive places, and the resident faculty can often save a lot of money by living in university buildings rather than renting, or buying in what are often very expensive neighborhoods nearby.”

(O’Hara is the proprietor of The Collegiate Way and has a consulting practice on this sort of thing.)

There’s something appealing about living on campus, and not just the part about saving money. It’s the direct opposite of the move toward distance education — not that distance learning is bad, but if you’re going to claim that your college values personal attention and care for the individual student, then you can’t get much closer to that ideal than to have faculty and their families actually part of the campus both day and night. Having faculty and their kids present might serve as a disincentive to some of the worst behavior that college students can exhibit at night or on the weekends when the closest thing to “adult supervision” they have is an RA. There’s something sobering about having the professor and his wife and two kids living across the street or down the hall from you. And I think it’s important for college students to see how academic types model not only their approach to learning but their entire approach to life outside the classroom as well.


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