Scripps cuts substance-free housing, replaces with ‘wellness community’

A student in a Eleanor Joy Toll Hall reads a poster about alcohol awareness. Scripps will not offer sub-free housing next year. (Eloise Shields • The Student Life)

Scripps College is scrapping its substance-free housing program for the 2019-20 academic year, according to an email obtained by TSL, which Director of Campus Life Brenda Ice sent to a student.

Ice did not specify in the email why substance-free residence halls would not be offered, but wrote in the email that “elements of the community will be incorporated into the wellness community,” a new residential community Scripps is launching next school year.

Previously, students in substance-free housing agreed to not use drugs, alcohol or tobacco in the community, regardless of their age, and to participate in substance-free programming, according to Scripps’ website.

“The new option of a wellness [learning community] will be providing programming with a holistic wellness approach in which all students are encouraged to participate,” assistant dean of students Adriana Di Bartolo said via email. “We believe this will build a strong culture of wellness that can better support students who choose to be [substance]-free.”

For the wellness community, Scripps is “seeking students who prioritize wellness in their daily lives,” but not specifically students who want a substance-free living environment, according to an email Ice sent to Scripps students.

“We would want students in the wellness learning community to be mindful of the impact of substances on their bodies and that substance use may be detrimental to their academic and personal success,” assistant dean Deborah Gisvold said via email.

Dulcie Jones SC ’21 has lived in Scripps’ substance-free hall for the past two years, and now has to find somewhere else to live. She didn’t apply for the wellness community because she doesn’t think it aligns with her substance-free goals.

“Learning communities are supposed to be for people who have shared interests and hobbies,” she said. “And I wouldn’t say that being [substance]-free is a hobby.”

However, some have questioned the effectiveness of substance-free housing. In February, a student in a substance-free hall had to be transported to a hospital by ambulance for alcohol consumption, according to Jones.

The administration expects all students under 21 not to use illegal substances or drink in any residence hall, not just substance-free halls, Di Bartolo said.

Jones said she understands that the administration does not have “a real way to enforce that you’re going to be [substance-free] while living in a [substance]-free hall.”

But Sophie Liles SC ’21, who wanted to live in a sub-free hall next year, thinks one student’s actions should not ruin the community for everyone else. She also did not apply for the wellness community, and doesn’t think it will sufficiently fulfill the role of sub-free housing.

“Scripps is now attempting to alter the culture of the school without thinking about those of us that like Scripps the way it is,” she said via message. “The least they can do is provide a substance-free area for students.”

In contrast, Claremont McKenna College is expanding its sub-free housing for the 2019-20 academic year due to an “overwhelming” amount of sub-free housing requests.

CMC residential life has “committed to housing any student who desires to live in a sub-free environment,” Director of Residence Life Jennifer Guyett wrote in an email to CMC students. The school will convert two additional floors in south quad dorms into substance-free housing.

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