"It creates walls between students, this idea that they need to be protected from the real world and cocooned together... Is that really why you come to a university, to be with people like yourself?"The university already has "specialized dorms or floors within dorms where like-minded students can live together, including those with a foreign language immersion or a math and science focus." Is there something wrong with these specialized dorms — or with some types of specialized dorms? Is it wrong for students to want a home base that's somewhat cocoony? But not all students who choose themed dorms are trying to replicate their childhood homes. Some seek the challenge of adapting to a new environment. Consider the foreign language dorms. Sometimes it's part of trying to excel in your studies: They want to be near people who are taking the same courses.
Kelsey Wolff, a member of the student ministry at the Pres House, said it wasn't that simple. Wolff, who will be a senior this fall, said she had a hard time in the "party dorm" she was assigned as an underclassman and would have appreciated a faith-based option.
And Wolff said the idea of a separate dorm for students who wish to focus on religious issues didn't mean those students had to segregate themselves from campus life. Students in the new dorm, she said, will take classes, go to ball games, explore State Street and join campus organizations, just like any other student.
"They're still going to get all of that exposure, but at the end of the day they're going to be able to come home," she said. "They'll just have their space where they're away from that."
But the religious dorm creates the impression that the students are trying to live among less sinful people — or at least among people who will feel guilty about sinning. Is there something wrong with that? But is that what's going on with the new UW dorm?
Pres House board member Tom Schwei said the new dorm would be open to students from any and all faiths, not just Christian ones. Residents won't be required to take part in any of the planned programs -- such as informal discussions about religion, mission trips on academic breaks or weekly church services -- but they should expect to have them offered, Schwei said.Well, then, what is it all about? The dorm is looks as though it will really nice, and the location is fabulous. And what are Presbyterians going to do to you, anyway?
"It's not going to be a high pressure environment," he said. "But people shouldn't be too fooled. There is a Presbyterian church sitting right next door. They're going to hear some Presbyterian singing. We are going to continue to grow."Ha ha. Presbyterian singing. Look out. I remember it from my youth, when my family went to Presbyterian church. My father was a terrible singer — despite the fact that he looked like Frank Sinatra — and he sang very loud. I thought good singing was loud singing. Imagine how embarrassed I was when I found out that was not the case — and that I too was a bad singer!
Anyway, the Presbyterian days ended when I was about 10 years old, and we moved to a new neighborhood where there was a new church, an Episcopalian church, with a young vicar who befriended everyone including my parents. He was convivial, so we became Episcopalians.
Schwei said the "core" of the new dorm experience would be "personal discovery."That's awfully nice. I appreciate the super-nice religious sects. And I'm glad the students are getting a nice new option among all the many Madison options.
"Being in college is a period of self-exploration and learning and discovery," he said. "We would like to facilitate that for people who are really interested in doing that seriously."