Willamette Considers Residential Commons Plan

Willamette University released today an 18-month Campus Life Task Force Report which outlines recommendations that over the next 10 years Willamette reconfigure student co-curricular life around a system of five residential commons complexes, a grouping of free-standing Greek houses and a new student center. A copy of the report can be accessed on Willamette's website.

The residential common system creates five main "neighborhoods" where students live on campus. The "neighborhoods" will feed into the "downtown" area of campus, which consists of academic, administrative and campus life buildings. The following features distinguish the residential commons system from Willamette's current housing system:

  • Students will have a four-year affiliation with their commons. Even though some students will eventually live off-campus or in Greek houses, all students will at least have a two-year commons experience and the commons will remain a campus "base" for them throughout their four years at Willamette.
  • Each residential commons will contain an array of living arrangements, including singles, doubles, suites (two or four bedrooms plus living room) and apartments.
  • Each commons will have a high degree of self-governance. Key programming, space and budget choices will be made by elected student officers, including a commons president.
  • All commons will feature a faculty member with his or her family who resides in the commons complex and will serve as a mentor, strengthening the student-faculty relationship.

Each residential commons will serve as a local administrative, social and cultural focal point for its students. "The residential commons proposal addresses themes of great importance to Willamette students, and these recommendations present a bold design for campus life in the next 50 years," said Pelton. "Willamette is committed to enhancing students' intellectual and campus life, and I look forward to receiving comments and reflections from our entire community as they review these recommendations."

Willamette Board of Trustees has created a Trustee Special Committee to review the feasibility of the residential commons plan. After this committee makes recommendations to the entire board, the board will vote on whether to pursue the Campus Life Task Force residential commons plan.

In September 1999, Pelton established the Task Force on Campus Life aimed with collecting research on current programs, practices and attitudes in the areas of residential life, student activities and multicultural affairs. To investigate campus life at Willamette, Task Force members conducted extensive student focus groups, held several panel discussions and commissioned a large-scale, website-based study of student satisfaction. Task Force members also gathered information on residential programs on other campuses, particularly other small liberal arts colleges.