The University of Connecticut is planning on building a new residence hall to promote learning communities for like-minded students, including a residence hall specifically for black males.
The new dorm, which will be called ScHOLA²RS House, will be an all-male residence hall built as one of seven new communities set to open at the school next fall which will make up a $79 million, 210,000 square-foot NextGen Residence Hall. The name stands for “Scholastic House Of Leaders who are African-American Researchers & Scholars.”
According to its website:
“UConn ScHOLA²RS House is a scholastic initiative to groom, nurture, and train the next generation of leaders to address grand challenges in society through the promotion of academic success in undergraduate programs at the University of Connecticut and in competitive graduate programs.”
While any male student interested in the topic of African-American males in higher education can apply, male students who will be freshmen or sophomores next year and identify as African-American or mixed race will be considered first when the school is selecting the 43 students who will live in the housing. Most of those chosen are expected to be studying in STEM fields, reports Lidia Ryan for CTPost.
University spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said that the program came about as a result of research showing that black males tend to have lower retention and graduation rates in higher education. The school hopes the dorm will use the Learning Community model to offer a supportive community for undergraduate students. She added that 13 students have already shown interest in the dorm.
However, UConn’s student paper, The Daily Campus, states that a number of students disagree with the idea. Haddiyyah Ali, a fourth-semester Africana studies and political science major, said that although she acknowledges the research that went into the decision, she believes that black women and girls should have been included.
Reitz responded by saying the school is interested in hearing the opinions of other student groups and would like to know if black females feel they should have their own learning community. She went on to say they were not included because they hold a higher graduation rate than black male students, writes Eric Owens for The Daily Caller.
She added that the initiative has seen a backlash on social media as well as through phone calls made to her office. She called it “disheartening,” adding that people do not understand the thought process behind the initiative.
“We know it’s not issue of whether African-American males have the capability to excel in school; rather, it is their environment that sometimes inhibits their potential,” Reitz said.
The school previously opened La Comunidad, a learning community created to benefit Hispanic or Latino students, as well as WiMSE, a housing community meant for women studying math, science and engineering.
A $300,000 grant was given to the school last spring to fund the initiative. Other Learning Communities that will be included in the NextGen building are EcoHouse, Engineering House, Eurotech House, STEM Honors House, Innovation House and Public Health House.