This past year, poor planning scattered substance-free housing rooms on three floors of Butterfield C, making community-based living difficult. Next year, substance-free housing will be grouped together on one hall on the fourth floor of Butterfield C.
Frances Paley ’10 currently serves as the Residential Advisor (RA) for substance-free living. She chose this position to help build community, however, and she has not been happy with the room arrangement.
“[Scattered rooms are] a terrible idea,” Paley said. “It makes hall bonding more difficult and the triple on the third floor is isolated. I also proposed changing the name of the hall to something like ’Wellness Hall’ in order to accentuate the positive aspects of choosing a sub-free lifestyle, rather than what people are ’missing’ by choosing not to drink or do drugs.”
Jared Gimbel ’11 chose substance-free living for both health and religious reasons. Gimbel said that although the residents are not on the same hall, they have been able to form a community.
“I don’t have to worry more about late night screaming like in other halls,” Gimbel said. “[It allows] a heightened hour of calmness which can heighten either monastic-style studying or a calmer social interaction circle.”
Paley believes there is a stigma associated with the name substance-free.
“When I first got the RA position, my friends gave me looks of pity and said they were sorry about the assignment,” she wrote. “People think that it is harder to get out and be social if you don’t drink or do drugs, but I don’t necessarily think that is the case.”
Well-Being House is another substance-free program housing option available to rising sophomores as well as juniors.
“We offer an environment totally separated from the usual parties, booze and drugs that play such a big role in the social scene here and at any college,” explained House Manager Thom Sisson ’09. “For people who aren’t comfortable around that sort of thing, Well-Being house is the perfect environment.”
Sisson did not consider substance-free living as an incoming freshman.
“When I was a prefrosh and I was choosing my dorm I didn’t want to live in the sub-free hall because I’d heard that sub-free halls at most schools were full of prudes, puritans and hypocrites who just hid their liquor really well,” Sisson said. “I think once you get here and start to meet the people who actually do opt for substance free living, any prejudices you had melt away pretty quickly.”
Sisson reports that while Well-Being House has 13 resident spots, there were almost 40 applicants for those spaces last year. Sisson said that most residents continue to live in Well-Being house until the end of their junior year, which leaves only about four spots open to new residents.
Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting reported that for this academic year, only 11 entering freshman listed substance-free living as very important to them. Five spaces are held each year for rising sophomores interested in substance-free dorm living.
“I am very glad we can still offer this…even though it’s a very small number in the freshman class,” Koerting said. “The idea behind the floor is students who choose a lifestyle that doesn’t have alcohol in it can meet each other. I’ve seen it be very helpful.”