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A Neighborhood in a Dorm
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Author: Applestein, Eliot
Date: Feb 25, 2003
Start Page: C.10
Section: STYLE

First developed in the Middle Ages at Oxford and Cambridge, and brought to America by Harvard and Yale in the 1930s, residential colleges are enjoying a resurgence. This fall, Middlebury College in Vermont opened the first of five residential colleges, or "commons." Princeton, which has had a two-year residential college since the 1960s, is gradually moving to a four-year system. And Vanderbilt is converting the entire campus into residential colleges, with the first opening in 2006.

At residential colleges, 200 to 500 students from diverse backgrounds live together under the direction of a master or president (like Dumbledore at Hogwarts), who is in charge of administration and finances. A dean (like Professor McGonagall) is responsible for academic advising and counseling. Masters and deans usually serve five-year terms. The dean is elected or appointed from the fellows, professors drawn from academic departments. Below fellows are tutors. These are graduate students or upperclassmen (like Percy Weasley) who are in charge of a residence floor or wing, overseeing perhaps 20 to 40 students.

At Virginia, new students are admitted to the residential college after their housing applications have been approved by a student- run committee. But [Robert O'Hara] prefers random selection to avoid a self- selecting process that creates a "jock college," a "nerd college," or an "arty college," etc. How students are housed is so important, says O'Hara, that "any institution that puts student housing in the same administrative category with vending machines and parking shouldn't be entrusted with student housing."

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