Friday, November 6, 2009

An Alternative to “Housing” for the Higher Ed Lexicon

Recently, I wrote that I thought the “Housing” ought to come out of the higher ed lexicon. So what about a replacement?

I have not tinkered for years, mentally, with what an alternative name could be—particularly one that wouldn’t be a true mouthful. One idea- “ACU” for Academic Residential Environments (ACUARE). And maybe we should throw the key word “learning” in there somewhere. I argued in my introduction to the ACUHO/FYE monograph years ago that residence halls have always been a place for “learning.” But I think the question has increasingly become: what should students be learning in such contexts and is what they definitely are learning what we would ideally want them to be learning? So, how about “Academic Residential Learning Environments” (ACUARLE)? or “Collegiate Residential Academic Learning Environments” (CRALE). That last acronym is slightly more pronounceable! “Collegiate” is generic for “college and university” and “collegiate” is also meant to differentiate from “corporate” as in outsourced housing. I think that somewhere the three words “residential” and “academic” and “learning” are central. I am sure there could be other semantic reorderings for consideration. The practical question would immediately be thrown out: “Well, what would the “Housing office on campus become known as?” Good question. How about simply the “Residential Learning” office? Students would have to sign a “residential learning” contract. Campuses would adopt “residential learning” policies. There, that’s solved. Quite simple. And it is a great improvement over “housing” which, again, says nothing about learning—or being “on campus.”

I think the time for a name change has come. What a boost a name change would give to the whole movement to push student affairs in more academic directions. It seems not changing the name flies in the face of everything the student affairs profession has been trying to do since 1994 with the first publication of the profession’s core mantra: The Student Learning Imperative. Or more recently restated as: Learning Reconsidered.  Finally, I think I am put off by the language of ACUHO because it is fundamentally a business paradigm and not an educational one. In that sense it is in keeping with other more “corporate” directions of the academy which profoundly disturb me. Ah, I feel the subject of another blog coming on.

John N. Gardner

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