U students live substance free in residence hall

A new program in Middlebrook Hall offers occupants a substance-free community at the University.

Vadim Lavrusik

When looking back on their first year, some college students think of beer pong and parties that end in a long stumble home.

But for first-year biology student Diane Brown, the first few months at the University have been far from a drunken haze.

Instead, Brown has spent most of her weekends watching movies with friends, playing board games and going to dinner without thinking about going out for a drink.

Brown chose to join the new Substance Free Living & Learning Community on the second floor of Middlebrook Hall. The University offered the choice in response to students’ requests for supportive, substance-free housing.

Brown, along with 13 other first-year students, a community adviser and a U-Crew peer mentor, signed a contract to refrain from using alcohol, tobacco and drugs while living in the community.

Brown wanted to stay away from the party scene when she came to college and live with people who shared this common interest.

“Me and my friends from home never drank and I wanted to continue that trend,” she said.

University Housing and Residential Life officials added the community to its 21 other Living & Learning Communities, which allow students with a common academic interest to live together.

Students in the substance-free community will take part in educational and social programs presented by their community advisers and the Boynton Health Services staff.

“The other communities share academic commonality; the thing we have in common has to do with the way we want to live our lives,” Brown said.

The residents of the substance-free community come from different backgrounds, but remain a “tight-knit” group compared to other communities, Brown said.

“We all hang out together a lot; some of the other houses on this floor don’t do anything together,” she said.

The other bonus, she said, is focusing on academics and studying without disruption from noisy, drunk students.

Brown, who is a Christian, said she has never drunk alcohol because of the way she was raised.

“It’s not like I was, ‘I’m a Christian, I can’t drink,’ it just always seemed like drinking in college was a bad idea and leads to poor decisions,” she said.

Half of the students in the substance-free community are Christians, she said.

Susan Stubblefield, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said the new community gives students a chance to live in an environment which supports their decision to refrain from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

She said University housing officials had been looking at other campuses that have similar substance-free communities for some time, but didn’t begin planning the new community until September 2005.

“Over time, we have gotten requests from students that they would like to live in a substance-free community for a variety of reasons, so we started looking at options,” she said.

The substance-free community was originally planned to be in Middlebrook and Pioneer halls, but after a majority of the students requested to live in Middlebrook, housing officials dropped Pioneer, Stubblefield said.

Pioneer Hall will be added next year if more people sign up, she said. She expects the community to grow next year as more students hear about it.

To “ensure that their interest fits with the philosophy of the rest of the house,” Stubblefield said students had to write an essay explaining why they wanted to take part in the Substance Free community to live there.

All of the students in the community share a double room with one other person.

University first-year student John Fischer said he stumbled across the Substance Free Living & Learning Community while applying for housing.

“The whole partying scene was never appealing to me,” Fischer said. “I wanted to live with a group of people who shared the same view on alcohol.”

Fischer said alcohol doesn’t appeal to him because he doesn’t like the thought of losing his inhibitions, which he said everyone under the influence of alcohol does, to some extent.

First-year journalism student Laurel Wales said she doesn’t mind if people don’t drink, but she doesn’t like it when they bash drinkers.

“If you party on a Saturday night, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a bad student,” she said. “It helps some students unwind.”

Fischer said many first-year students want to be part of the community but didn’t know about it when they signed up for housing. The community gives students fun things to do outside of drinking, he said.

“It gives us this common bond and brings us together, because we all choose not to do drugs or drink,” Fischer said.