Re-imagining Student Life
Under the leadership of Vice President Jim Terhune, the Student Affairs Division launched Colby 360, a wide-ranging approach to student life that seeks to blur the lines between classroom and out-of-class activities. Colby 360, about which you may read much more on Colby’s Web site, “asserts as its guiding principle the idea that a residential college affords students opportunities to learn and develop in all aspects of their college lives.” Its statement of purpose continues: “However, where traditional approaches to student affairs in residential colleges tend to focus on creating policies and procedures, Colby 360 establishes a setting for student life designed to achieve five specific learning outcomes: 1) development of life skills; 2) appreciation of and engagement with diversity and human difference; 3) understanding democracy and civic responsibility; 4) promoting wellness and healthy lifestyle choices; and 5) leadership education for the 21st century.”
The College’s commitment to Colby 360 will require us to re-imagine student life on Mayflower Hill. We anticipate that the more responsibility students have to craft community for themselves, the more opportunity they are afforded to engage with Colby’s fundamental values and with the faculty’s hopes for their development as intellectually curious and actively involved citizens, the more confident they become that they are developing skills and habits of mind that will serve them throughout their lives, the more powerful and valuable their time at Colby will be.
As with our curricular planning, we have a distance to travel in order to reshape student life. We began one leg of this journey on the last day of classes in May 2008, when seniors gathered at Miller Library for the “champagne on the steps” celebration. Begun about a decade ago as a brief toast by the graduating class to itself, “champagne steps” has had a troubled history marred by excessive alcohol consumption with all its predictable results.
At their meeting in May, with the full support and encouragement of the administration, trustees passed a resolution eliminating the “champagne steps” and directing the administration to take any and all steps to eliminate the culture of excessive drinking on Colby’s campus. That work began in earnest this fall with the establishment of the Campus Culture Working Group, chaired by Jim Terhune and including trustees, students, faculty, other administrators, parents, and a member of the Waterville Police Department.
We are fully dedicated to the task of reducing alcohol’s central role in too many student social events. Our approach is dependent on rejecting an “us vs. them” mentality that can infantilize students and relieve them of accountability for building a community of which we can all be proud. The College has and will continue to enforce clear policies on alcohol abuse, but meaningful progress in reimagining social life on campus cannot be made in a cat-and-mouse atmosphere where we set rules and students look for loopholes. Working on this issue in the context of Colby 360 puts us shoulder-to-shoulder with students.
There will be much more to say about all of these topics as academic year 2008-09 unfolds, and those of you with access to the Web needn’t wait until next year’s President’s Report to learn more. The online version of this essay contains active links to information about initiatives mentioned here, and Colby’s home page serves up a daily menu of stories about the College and its people. I invite you to visit often.