A substance-free housing option will be available to University of Maryland students starting next fall.
Carroll Hall, located on South Campus near Prince Frederick Hall, was approved last week for a pilot program as “an intentional community where residents are engaged in creating a supportive space for those who choose to live in an environment free from alcohol and illegal drugs,” according to a Resident Life document.
Students who live in Carroll Hall will be responsible for keeping their personal space free from alcohol and illegal drugs, not being present under the influence, holding their guests accountable for community standards and participating in the community accountability process, the document stated.
Resident Life chose the dorm because it’s a small building that houses 121 students, allowing the department to commit the whole building to substance-free housing and preventing possible cross-over traffic from students not bound by the community standards, said Erin Iverson, Department of Resident Life’s manager of assignments and public inquiry. Other benefits are single rooms on the third floor, no triples or quads in the entire building, a centralized campus location and a price tag on the lower end of the differentiated rate structure for residence halls, which allows accessibility to the greatest number of students, Iverson said.
“Personally, I’m very, very excited,” said Jerry Mi, Resident Life Advisory Team chair for the Residence Hall Association. “I think Carroll Hall is one of the more perfect buildings for a pilot for this program.”
This university started the substance-free program in 1993 after requests rose for non-drinking roommates, according to a Victoria Advocate article. The program ended in 2001 when all resident halls went smoke free; this addressed the concern of most students, who worried about second-hand smoke. Iverson said her committee conducted a survey in fall 2015 among then-current residents to gauge interest in reviving the substance-free housing option. The survey was sent to 1,500 campus residents and saw a response rate of 47 percent. Of those who responded, 18 percent said they were either interested or very interested in living in substance-free housing, Iverson said.
Some Big Ten universities have already instituted similar programs, including Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin, which offer substance-free rooms and floors, respectively. Other schools such as Northwestern University and the University of Illinois also offer substance-free dorms.
Because Carroll Hall is still a campus residence hall, its residents must abide by regular residence hall rules and policies laid out in the Community Living Handbook, with the normal judicial process applying for policy violations, Iverson said. There will be an additional community accountability process, however, for students living in the substance-free community, which will implement some practices known as “restorative justice” in the case of a violation.
“Restorative justice means recognizing that harm was caused to a community, and then turning that around to say, ‘How can we restore the trust between the perpetrator of the harm and the rest of the community so that we can continue living together?'” Iverson said. “Rather than saying, ‘You broke our expectations, you broke the community standards, you’re out, you have to live someplace else,’ we’re saying, ‘We all make mistakes, sometimes we exhibit poor judgment, we want to give an opportunity for that resident to make amends to the community.'”
Resident Life Director Deb Grandner said she wished the building was air conditioned and had more lounge space like some of the other buildings to be more attractive to students, but emphasized Carroll Hall will not be substance-free housing’s permanent home.
“As a part of our new construction and renovations project, Carroll [Hall] will eventually come down,” Grandner said. “And then, we would need to relocate the program to another space, [but] that’s years away. We get to try this out in its first year … and students generally find the North Hill area to be desirable.”
Carroll Hall’s planned demolition is currently projected for the summer of 2020, according to the On-Campus Student Housing Strategic Plan. However, that timeline will be affected by the need for surge space — space used to house resident students during construction and renovations so campus occupancy doesn’t drop — and the exact timeline is yet to be determined, Grandner said.
“One of the things that is important to [Jon Dooley and I] when we take a building down and no longer use it [is] that we have a surge space to make sure that our occupancy doesn’t drop during that time period,” Grandner said. “So, we really do need to create a new facility in order to be able to accommodate the surge space that we need to renovate the other buildings.”
Freshman communication major Kayla DuBose is one of many students who see the implementation of substance-free housing as beneficial for the campus community.
“It’s something that’s very necessary on campus, especially if you’re not interested in drugs because it’s kind of offensive when you walk into your dorm and all you smell is marijuana,” DuBose said. “It would be something that’s comforting to be around other people who are also not interested [in drugs].”
Danielle Villeneuve, a senior information systems major, said that it’s good to provide students with a setting where they’ll never be pressured to drink or do drugs.
“I’m actually an RA, and in the RA class they always tell us 25 percent of the student population actually doesn’t drink at all,” Villeneuve said. “If that number is accurate, then there should be a place for students who don’t want to drink on campus to live in an environment that’s free of that.”
New students can indicate their interest in living in Carroll Hall through their Resident Life profile, and returning students will be able to self-select themselves into Carroll Hall through the room selection process on MyDRL, Iverson said. Carroll Hall’s fees totaled $6,805 for a traditional double without air conditioning for the 2016-17 school year. In comparison, nearby Prince Frederick Hall — a newer building — offers a new traditional-style double for $7,187 per year.
Students must submit their Returning Student Agreement by 4:00 p.m. on March 31. Priority numbers will be available online April 5, and room selection will take place between April 5 and April 19, according to the Resident Life website.