By Haley Doss, Assistant News Editor —
Students residing in the Honors College living community of Lockmiller will be dispersed across campus in the Fall 2017 term after administration deemed the environment “toxic.”
A central part of students’ experiences in the Honors College Program is living with other honors students in a section of Lockmiller apartments. The decision for this placement was made to create a sense of community between honors students, however, several feel that problems have been arising because of this community. As time has gone on, administrators have increasingly made more aware of these issues.
In February, students were sent emails from Title IX Coordinator, Stephanie Rowland, to come in and individually speak about “the general climate within the Honors College and the greater campus community.” According to students of the Honors College, an officer also questioned them about their experiences.
On March 22nd, students planning on staying on campus for the 2017-2018 school year were called to a mandatory meeting with the Chancellor.
Emily Gray, an English major and junior from Savannah, Tennessee currently serves as Treasurer for the Honors College council said that the Chancellor could not make it to the meeting because he was sick, but the Provost, along with Housing and Residence Life faculty, the University’s lawyer and the Honors College faculty, were all present at the meeting.
“Linda [the Dean of the Honors College] read a printed off statement that basically said because of the responses to the questionnaire from the inquiry, that was still going on, the Chancellor had decided to disband honors housing,” said Gray. “They said the reasons for moving us were from reports of drinking, drug use and a peer pressure mentality that they gathered from the interview questions.”
Gray feels that the University’s goal is to spread the community out.
“I think they feel like having all of us in one place is toxic – they used that word,” said Gray. “I do not think I agree with that, I will admit that there is problems within the college, but I do not know that it all stems from us all living in Lockmiller.”
Emily Hopkins, a freshman from Franklin, stated that students were given the news with little explanation or heads up.
“All of the reasons given for this change were extremely vague,” she said. “I know that the honors administration were unable to give detailed answers because they had just about as much information as we did on what had been gathered through the inquiry. However, the Provost and Housing director seemed reluctant to answer any of our questions clearly,” said Hopkins. “From what I could gather, we are being dispersed because alcohol and drug use within the Honors College has contributed to a number of sexual misconduct reports from other honors students over the past eighteen months.”
In November 2015, the Honors College hosted a Title IX training for its honors students after a need for the topic specific training was recognized by University officials. Later, on Oct. 28th, 2016, UTC police reported another rape within the Honors College. These particular situations are what many students feel contributed to the relocation.
During a Honors College council meeting, Stephanie Rowland and Sara Peters visited to gain further information about the sexual assault investigation and climate of the Honors College, according to students.
“They pretty much sequestered us in the attic of the Honors House and started out just talking to us and telling us that they wanted us to help them solve this problem, that they were receiving a large number of reports but when we could not give them an answer immediately about how we felt about how this should be addressed, it turned into them kind of yelling at us,” said Gray. “We were there from 8 to 11:30 [p.m.] and we could not leave.”
Hopkins is frustrated and feels, from her point of view, that the decision was rash.
‘The sense of community that has been established among the students is a cornerstone for the Honors College to the extent that a majority of us think of it more as a family than a community,” said Hopkins. “This whole development came as a major shock to me. Many of us had no idea that there was even a problem in the college and I personally have never felt endangered by my peers. It feels like the whole college is being punished for the actions of a few and I’m having a very hard time believing that this was the best solution.”
Hopkins wrote a letter to the Provost that clearly outline her objections to the decision and why she feels it will negatively impact the Honors College experience she has had up until this point. One of her main objections was that as a group, the students were not involved in the decision.
Some students were shocked by the decision, but Vince Rollins, a sophomore from Cleveland and the head of the Communications committee within the Honors Council, said his first guess was that the college would be shifting away from Lockmiller housing after he received the email.
“There are a lot of things going on in the Honors College and the way that Lockmiller is set up now, the fact that it is eventually going to be torn down in the next two years, supposedly, I knew something was up,” said Rollins.
As far as the determination that the climate is harmful to the students, Rollins can see both sides.
“I can recognize where some of those issues come from, however, I personally was not negatively effected by this community,” said Rollins.
When asked if he felt positively effected by the community, he agreed “100 percent.”
“I obviously really do love it and can see the benefits of that community however I can recognize that anytime you have a close knit community and fish bowling arises and all this happens, it is not necessarily the healthiest,” said Rollins. “I do not know if it was the worst decision but I do not know if it was handled the best way, it was thrown upon us as to decide in the next day.”
Rollins can appreciate some of the up sides to the rooming changes including nicer living, his own bedroom and a closer proximity to the Honors House.
Freshman joining the Honors College in the upcoming term will be residing in an official living, learning community in Stagmaier. The rest of the students will be dispersed to four other apartment complexes on campus: Boiling, Johnson Obear, UCF and Stophel.
Since these living facilities often cost more than the yearly cost of living in Lockmiller, students were given an additional $500 a semester to cover the excess cost.
This amount, however, will not cover the excess costs for several students living on South Campus.
Gray will be residing in a two bedroom apartment in Stophel next year which will exceed her budget by $1,300 with the additional cost of parking.
With little notice of the changes, Gray, and all the other students, were only given from March 22 to March 26th to determine where and with whom they will be living as well as how they would make up for the exceeding costs for relocation in the Fall.
The Dean of the Honors College and the Women’s Center both referred their comments to University Relations whom, after several attempts for a comment, has not responded.