When I moved into Galloway residence hall in the fall of 2017, I was a scared freshman: I knew only a couple of people at Hillsdale and it was hard to leave my family three time zones away. But only a day or so after saying goodbye to my parents, there was a knock at my door. It was Peter Wenger, then a senior who lived in Galloway. He was going to all the freshmen in the dorm to give them information on local churches and Christian ministries on campus. It was one of the best things to happen to me that semester.
Unfortunately, half of Hillsdale’s freshmen do not have the same opportunity to befriend upperclassmen. Only the male dorms are integrated by age, and the college ought to extend the same advantage to female freshmen.
When dorms include students of all ages, freshmen benefit from regular interaction with upperclassmen. During my time in Galloway I regularly laughed, pranked, and attended dorm Bible study with men from all classes. It was a great advantage to be friends with upperclassmen who had completed more of the Hillsdale experience than I had and were willing to pass on their wisdom. And since Galloway was a mixed-age dorm, my friendship with upperclassmen was not limited to resident assistants. In fact, the most influential upperclassmen in my life, including Peter, were not RAs.
Upperclassmen have already survived several semesters at college. They have good advice on everything from English professors to President’s Ball attire. Currently, freshmen women turn to their RAs to ask these questions. Although RAs are a great resource, having additional upperclassmen in the dorms gives freshmen a wider variety of people to befriend. Enabling freshmen women to seek advice from other upperclassmen reduces the strain on the RA team by decreasing the amount of time they spend answering questions. This empowers RAs to spend more time fostering dorm community and helping residents who have serious struggles.
Many RAs in freshman girls’ dorms feel overwhelmed with work, but there is a great disparity in the expectations and time commitment between a RA in a female upperclassmen dorm and one in a female freshmen dorm. This would alleviate an inequality if each dorm were composed of all classes, since the job requirements for women RAs would be more standard across the dorms.
Integrating all grades in the women’s dorms also has the potential to benefit upperclassmen, who would be given ample opportunity to invest in freshmen in their dorms and help younger students grow in maturity. Those upperclassmen who take advantage of this would themselves be helped since the act of serving others is a growing and maturing experience.
No one has more enthusiasm and optimism than freshmen. While at times this may strike upperclassmen as tiring or overwhelming, enthusiasm is good. If freshmen tend to be too optimistic, then upperclassmen are in danger of becoming jaded. Acknowledging these tendencies among freshmen and upperclassmen is important. A mix of ages can moderate both these views — the experiences of upperclassmen can sober freshmen and the energy of freshmen can encourage upperclassmen.
Hillsdale wisely made the decision to mix ages in the male dorms, and I have benefited greatly from this feature of dorm life. Doing the same for the female dorms would be similarly beneficial. Every freshman woman at Hillsdale deserves the same opportunities and privileges that I and every other freshman guy were given by living in a dorm with men from every class.
No one should miss out on the chance to meet a Peter.
Bryce Asberg is a George Washington Fellow and a sophomore studying Religion.