The University of Connecticut is kicking off Black History month with a controversial decision: to create housing for African-American males on its Storrs campus.
It’s called the ScHOLA²RS House (short for “Scholastic House Of Leaders who are African-American Researchers & Scholars”) and will be located within one part of one floor of NextGen Hall–a housing community that will be home to 700+ students, all of whom are involved in what’s known as “Learning Communities,” once the building is completed next fall.
Before we continue, it’s important to note that while the ScHOLA²RS House is meant for black males studying in STEM classes, anyone can apply.
The idea came from Dr. Erik Hines, who studies African-American male academic achievement. Here is the mission of the ScHOLA²RS House, from their website:
ScHOLA²RS House is a Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of male students who identify as African American/Black through academic and social/emotional support, access to research opportunities, and professional development. The intent of this Learning Community is to increase the retention and persistence of students using educational and social experiences to enhance their academic success at UConn and beyond in graduate and professional school placement. ScHOLA²RS House will encourage involvement with the larger university community to foster peer and mentor relationships and will actively engage students in inclusion efforts at UConn.
Understandably, the idea that a “black males only” living situation is causing commotion and uproar amongst both UConn students and media outlets who incorrectly believe that the housing option has elements of segregation. Some websites are publishing articles with titles like “Segregated dorms for males ‘who identify as Black’ coming to UConn” and “Why This New College Dorm Will House Black Males Only.”
Similarly, some UConn students are uncomfortable with the idea.
“I was not pleased, my immediate thought was ‘What?'” Haddiyyah Ali, a fourth-semester Africana studies and political science major told the paper. “I know there had to be a lot of research that went into it…but just for me coming from a student perspective, my initial thought was what about black women and girls – what about us?” [source]
But before we get into the whole “what if UConn had housing for only white male students” argument, let’s take a second to relax and take a deep breath.
First of all, this is a program that freshman and sophomore students can opt into. It’s their decision. And while we can argue all day about the merits of “living outside your comfort zone” as a good college experience, let’s not forget that it’s becoming clear for many reasons that black students are already uncomfortable on campus. The graduation rate of black males is significantly lower than that of other demographics, even black women. To us, there is nothing wrong than fostering a sense of community and support among a student demographic in need–especially when those students are studying subjects our country has demonstrated a desperate need for.
We spoke with UConn’s Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz who informed us that NextGen Hall will be completed by next fall. The building will be primarily used as a living space for students studying in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Other “learning communities” within NetGen Hall include EcoHouse, Engineering House, Eurotech House, STEM Honors House, Innovation House and Public Health House.
The ScHOLA²RS House will open next Fall, and will comprise one section of the seventh floor of NextGen Hall.