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April 9, 2001

Final Report of Sixth Residential College Program Committee


The Sixth College Program Committee has concluded that the addition of 500 undergraduates to the student body approved by the University Trustees provides an excellent opportunity to offer a new residential college option for third- and fourth-year students. While maintaining the benefits of the current residential college experience for first- and second-year undergraduates, the possibility now exists of adding to the colleges an attractive opportunity for significant numbers of third- and fourth-year students also to be members. The Committee recommends that the new sixth college be designed, and two of the existing residential colleges be renovated, so that then three of Princeton's six residential colleges will each accommodate and be attractive to approximately 100 third- and fourth-year undergraduates.

The Committee's proposal would augment, and not diminish, existing residential life opportunities: residential colleges composed as now predominately of first- and second-year students; eating clubs accommodating the existing number of third- and fourth-year students; and upperclass independence. Members of the Committee are clear and unanimous in their view that existing options are warmly embraced by, and serve well the needs of, a very substantial proportion of undergraduates, and that nothing that is proposed to accommodate 500 additional students should diminish the viability of the existing options. This report offers reasons why a new residential college option for upperclass students would appeal to a significant number of undergraduates. It also proposes that the presence of third- and fourth-year undergraduates (and graduate students) in greater numbers in three colleges would benefit first- and second-year students – and indeed could also benefit third- and fourth-year students who do not reside in colleges (but who are members of eating clubs, or who are independents).

In its Interim Report released in February 2001, the Committee set forth for review by the University community its recommendation for accommodating up to 250 more upperclass students than currently are in the colleges. The Interim Report was widely publicized, with more than twenty presentations and discussions about it on campus, an email survey of all undergraduates and a focus group discussion, all with the objective of soliciting responses and reactions to the Committee's proposals. The Committee then met several times to review its work in light of information, comments and reactions received.

Of the four alternative models discussed in the earlier report, the Committee now recommends a six college system, with three colleges each designed to accommodate approximately 400 freshmen and sophomores plus 100 juniors and seniors, and three colleges each designed to accommodate approximately 475 freshmen and sophomores with the requisite number of RAs and MAAs. The possibility of "pairing" each of the colleges of the first type with a college of the second, while not a necessary outcome, continues to be seen as a desirable option. The reasons for the Committee's recommendation are set out below.



At a meeting held April 15, 2000, Princeton University's Board of Trustees adopted the recommendation of a Trustee strategic planning committee (the "Wythes Committee") that the size of the undergraduate body be increased by ten percent over a period of approximately five to eight years, for an increase of approximately 125 students per undergraduate class. In reaching this decision, the Trustees recognized that Princeton's existing five residential colleges are considered to be now close to or even somewhat beyond the optimal size, and, therefore, that a new residential college (as well as additional upperclass dormitory rooms) would need to be constructed to accommodate 500 additional undergraduates.

President Harold T. Shapiro initiated a process to identify feasible sites for an additional (sixth) residential college – as well as to determine a location for additional upperclass dormitory housing. A site selection committee was formed, chaired by Vice President Richard Spies, and the architectural firm of KieranTimberlake Associates, which has extensive experience in college planning, was engaged to support the University's own Office of Physical Planning in this process. The site selection committee began its work in the spring of 2000 and made preliminary reports to a variety of campus groups both before and after the summer vacation in 2000.

President Shapiro also asked Vice President Thomas Wright to chair a committee that would make recommendations regarding the overall composition and program for a new residential college. After consultations with faculty, students, and administrators, a Sixth College Program Committee was formed that included individuals with a range of experiences and associations with the residential college program at Princeton. The Committee includes the current Dean of the College, and also the former Dean of the College who oversaw the creation of the residential college program at Princeton, the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the Dean of the Graduate School, and the Vice Presidents for Campus Life and for Finance and Administration. Faculty members on the Committee included former Masters of residential colleges and Stevenson Hall, faculty fellows, and (during their undergraduate years at Princeton) members of the precursors to the current residential colleges (Woodrow Wilson College and Princeton Inn College) and of eating clubs. Students on the Committee have experience as a Minority Affairs Advisor and College Council member, and as Assistant Master of a residential college. As requested by President Shapiro, the Committee included members who have had extensive experience over many years with Princeton's residential college program, as well as members who have had slight experience with or few presuppositions about a desirable program for a sixth residential college. The members of the Committee are listed at the conclusion of this report.

The Committee devoted its initial meetings to fact-gathering, and its recommendations are informed by the following background information.

  • The work of the site selection committee. That committee had met very broadly with members of all the residential colleges and their staffs, and with graduate student representatives, and had conducted extensive analysis of the existing facilities and programs of the residential colleges. Focus group discussions as well as a survey had provided the site committee with information regarding current student, faculty, and administrative assessments of the strengths and shortcomings of the existing facilities and programs.
  • Archival and other historical records and data. The Committee also gathered data from University archives and records describing the history of the residential college program at Princeton. Members of the Committee who had participated in the formation of the residential college system provided valuable perspectives.
  • Student surveys, presentations and recommendations. Data are regularly gathered from undergraduates regarding their perspectives on and their satisfaction with various aspects of their experiences at Princeton. Most recently, an extensive solicitation of undergraduate views resulted in a Report to the University community organized by the Undergraduate Student Government President, titled "Visions of Princeton."
  • Comparative information from other universities. The Committee identified other institutions of higher education with residential college programs that could offer potentially valuable comparative information. KieranTimberlake Associates gathered data to enable the Committee to make "best practice" benchmarking comparisons and a summary of that information is included as Appendix I.
  • Information provided by individual members of the Committee themselves. Members of the Committee spent considerable time describing their own personal experiences with Princeton's residential college program, and also their initial personal perspectives on the task before the Committee.

The Committee determined that it would seek to complete the first phase of its work early in calendar year 2001 and make an "interim report" to the University community at that time, with the objective of stimulating discussion, dialogue and feedback. An Interim Report, dated February 7, 2001, was widely distributed on campus; all undergraduates were notified of its availability on the Web, and it was publicized in the Princeton Weekly Bulletin, The Daily Princetonian, and the Princeton Alumni Weekly. An open forum was held to discuss the Report, and more than twenty discussions were initiated with campus groups. Attached as Appendix II is a list of groups with whom such discussions took place. An email survey was developed and administered with the advice of the University Survey Center, whose director also led an undergraduate focus group discussion of the Report. (A summary of the survey results is included as Appendix III.) The Committee has met several additional times to review reactions and responses of members of the University community, and to agree upon this, its Final Report.


Guiding Principles and Objectives

During the course of its deliberations, the Committee developed a consensus understanding of guiding principles and objectives for expanding the residential college program at Princeton. These guiding principles are as follows:

1. Protect valued existing residential life opportunities for all undergraduates. Members of the Committee were unanimous in their view that whatever steps were taken to accommodate 500 additional students should not eliminate or weaken existing options. It was clear to members of the Committee that the existing options for undergraduate residential life at Princeton – consisting principally of the five residential colleges (overwhelmingly composed of first- and second-year students), the eating clubs (entirely third- and fourth-year students), and upperclass independence – serve well the needs of a great many (almost certainly a majority of) undergraduates and are warmly supported by them.

  • The residential colleges as currently organized and functioning provide first-year students with excellent support for the transition from secondary school to University life, offer them opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities without their being "crowded out" by more experienced upperclass students, afford leadership opportunities for first- and second-year students, and establish a "safety net" for those experiencing difficulties of various sorts. The colleges offer all incoming first-year students a roughly similar residential experience, yet each college is somewhat distinct in terms of architectural features and special programmatic offerings; each has its own slightly different "character" that fosters a sense of affiliation and enhances community spirit. Overall, the residential colleges represent an educationally sound balance between challenging students by exposing them to new experiences and providing them the comfort of familiar, "home-like," settings.
  • The eating clubs offer very attractive physical settings in which relatively small groups of third- and fourth-year students can organize their dining, social and in some cases cultural, intellectual and other aspects of their lives. These organizations afford valuable opportunities for exercising independence, creating and strengthening friendships, and developing leadership. Because the number of third- and fourth-year students that will be added by the approved increase in the size of undergraduate classes (namely, approximately 250) is equivalent to the number of additional third- and fourth-year students that can be accommodated in the new residential college facilities being contemplated, the total number of third- and fourth-year students potentially available to become members of eating clubs would remain the same. It is a basic premise of the Committee that its proposal to create a new residential college option for some upperclass undergraduates would not diminish existing eating club opportunities – indeed, as described below, the new option has potential benefits for members of eating clubs and for independents.
  • Students choose to be "independent" because this allows them to economize, because they have dietary preferences or restrictions, and because they enjoy preparing their own meals. The apartment-like setting of Spelman Hall continues to be popular with upperclass students; and because of strong student interest in independence as an option, the University is adding and enhancing kitchens in dormitories as they are renovated, and including attractive kitchen facilities in new dormitories. The Frist Campus Center now offers new and better dining opportunities supporting independence as a positive option.

2. Create new residential life option for third- and fourth-year students. The members of the Committee consider the current need to create facilities for 500 additional undergraduates to be a superb opportunity to increase the options available to third- and fourth-year undergraduates by creating appealing facilities and programs for them within a residential college framework. Among the attractions of this option would be the following:

  • The three existing residential options – eating clubs, independence, and the residential colleges as currently configured (i.e., overwhelmingly oriented towards first- and second-year students) – do not fit the needs of all undergraduates. While the proportion of dissatisfied students may be relatively small, it is a significant number of each class, and their dissatisfaction has continued over the years to be clear and strong.  In answers to the survey administered to all undergraduates, in individual comments, and in campus group discussions, significant numbers of undergraduates expressed a desire for an alternative to existing residential options.   For example, 26% (240 of 926) of the undergraduate respondents to the survey conducted by the Committee described an upperclass residential college option as either "extremely attractive" or "somewhat attractive" to them.  In addition, each year some of the students who are judged to be highly desirable members of the undergraduate body but who turn down Princeton's offer of admission cite the University's residential living and dining arrangements for third- and fourth-year students as an important reason for their decision.
  • In a recent survey of undergraduates conducted by the Undergraduate Student Government and summarized in its report, "Visions of Princeton," students point to a lack of "real diversity" as "the most universal problem" at Princeton, "despite the achievement of numerical diversity." Students attributed this problem to "cliquish segregation among all types of campus groups." The residential colleges have successfully created environments that tend to overcome such "group cliquishness," in which individuals of different interests, backgrounds and attributes live, learn and have fun together. A significant number of undergraduates clearly wish that there were more opportunities for such experiences.
  • Third- and fourth-year students could benefit from highly attractive programming opportunities in a residential college designed to include upperclass students in significant numbers. Career-related programs and advising, cultural and arts offerings more substantial and more continuous from year to year, topical studies and informal engagements involving faculty – all of these could be more effectively offered in a four-year residential college setting, in part because of the continuity from first to fourth year represented by such a college. Again, in "Visions of Princeton" undergraduates reported "criticism of what some students claimed was an anti-intellectual undercurrent," coupled with insufficient support for the arts and insufficient diversity. Students who expressed these concerns would be likely to welcome the kinds of program activities that could be based in and supported through a four-year residential college.
  • A residential college that included substantial numbers of third- and fourth-year students would be a more welcoming environment for students whom the University might wish to attract in greater numbers, such as international exchange students and transfer students, because a residential college environment can most easily facilitate the transition for such students to Princeton.  In addition, a residential college is almost certainly the preferable environment for upperclass students who are experiencing special difficulties, or who are especially "at risk."
  • Upperclass students in a residential college could have access to academic advising and career counseling that were beneficially different from what is currently offered. Directors of Studies currently cease to have responsibilities for students after their second year, depriving students of the benefits of continuity in advising throughout their academic careers.  Additional resources are being committed to these positions, and an expanded advising capability in the colleges could provide stronger support for post-graduate fellowship, graduate school and job applications since greater knowledge and depth would be afforded, based on longer-term familiarity with the student.
  • Third- and fourth-year students who do not reside in the colleges (e.g., who are members of eating clubs or are independents) could also benefit from a four-year advising program based in the colleges. The advising and counseling advantages described above, flowing from four years of familiarity with each student, could be extended to these students through the residential colleges in which they earlier spent their first and second years.
  • In considering the possibility of a more attractive residential college option for third- and fourth-year students, the Committee believes that flexibility in eating plans should be aggressively explored by the University, ideally with the participation of the eating clubs. Students seek greater flexibility; and greater flexibility can serve valid educational objectives. With 250 additional upperclass students at Princeton, it should be possible to devise plans that maximize possibilities for individuals to participate in multiple eating arrangements – to the advantage of the students, and perhaps in ways that will increase efficiencies for the institutions.
  • A residential college option for third- and fourth-year undergraduates would also include the creation of facilities that are attractive and appropriate for upperclass students in the ways that the eating clubs clearly currently are – social, study, performance, recreational and lounge spaces, for example, of a relatively intimate scale where possible. Residential colleges of this kind would also provide opportunities for developing friendships and for exercising leadership in ways similar to the opportunities afforded by the eating clubs.
  • A residential college that included undergraduates from all four classes would re-establish a type of experience at Princeton that served extremely effectively for many students in classes of the late 60's and 70's.  Many of them recall their experiences in strongly positive ways, and future students and alumni would undoubtedly be similarly served exceptionally well.

3. Enhance the experience of undergraduates now in residential colleges. Members of the Committee are confident that a residential college with significant numbers of third- and fourth-year students could, with careful planning, also offer an excellent experience for first- and second-year students. In such a college, the relative proportion of students is important. The number of first-year students should be a substantial proportion of the whole (in the Committee’s judgment, at least one-third) in order to assure that they are not "overwhelmed" by students who are more senior. This is critical to the successful transition of first-year students to University life. Maintaining such a proportion assures not only that the students will be surrounded by peers, but also that program activities of the college will be significantly directed towards them and involve them. The benefits to first- and second-year students of a college that also contains significant numbers of other students include the following:

  • One of the most common regrets among undergraduates is the division that the current residential college system creates between students in their first two years and those in their latter two years. Possibilities are now limited for friendship, mentoring, and learning between relatively more experienced and less experienced students; and both some older and some younger students would welcome the option of being part of a residential college that encouraged connection among all classes.
  • The enhanced program possibilities that the inclusion of more third- and fourth-year students would bring to a college would benefit the first- and second-year student members of the college as well.

4. Create opportunities for graduate students (as many as ten per college) to become college residents. While most graduate students have different interests and objectives from undergraduates, some would be interested in being part of a residential college and would contribute greatly to the life of the college. Because graduate students are thoroughly familiar with their own academic departments at Princeton in ways that undergraduates are unlikely to become, they can provide especially valuable information and academic mentoring to undergraduates. Moreover, graduate students are likely to bring significant additional dimensions of diversity to residential colleges of which they are members. Post-doctoral scholars, visiting teaching fellows, and members of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, may also on occasion be important contributors to the life of a residential college that includes the full spectrum of experience of those in the University – from the newest members of the community, through those who have been here for several years, to those with longest experience. A membership of this kind would maximize the possibilities for fruitful and enjoyable interactions among those in the college, and would break down artificial barriers and gaps that now tend to separate individuals from one another within the University.

In summary, members of the Committee are convinced that a new residential college option that includes undergraduates from all four years (and a relatively small number of graduate students) will provide enhanced residential opportunities, without detracting from those that now exist. The creation of a new college option of this kind can make it possible for the overall residential college system to take better advantage of the enormous variety and richness of individuals and experiences that exist at Princeton.


Recommendations for Princeton's Residential College System

The Committee explored a number of options for including third- and fourth-year students (and small numbers of graduate students) in a residential college setting. Four models that the Committee concluded merited extended consideration (shown in tabular form in Appendix III, and as pie-charts in Appendix IV) were described in the Interim Report, with a request that interested members of the campus community provide reactions and advice regarding the models.

The model that the Committee has concluded holds greatest promise (and also the model receiving widest support on campus) is as follows: Three colleges would continue to consist primarily of first- and second-year undergraduates, and three would include undergraduates from all four years (the latter each accommodating approximately 400 first- and second-year students, and 100 third- and fourth-year students). Members of the Committee believe that this would be a sufficient number of upperclass students in each of three colleges so that a critical mass would be achieved and that, given attractive facilities and programs, students would select this option – though it is clear that renovation and enhancement of existing facilities would be required to make two of the existing colleges attractive for third- and fourth-year students. (The new college to be constructed can be designed specifically to achieve this goal.) At the same time, with upperclass students in three of six colleges, the beneficial impact of their presence would be relatively widely distributed among first- and second-year students, and a four-year configuration would be experienced as one of several typical residential options for undergraduates.

Moreover, with half of the colleges being two-year and half four-year, the possibility of "pairing" colleges naturally arises. By pairing each of the four-year colleges with a two-year college, the experiences and advantages of the presence of third- and fourth-year undergraduates could be extended at least in some degree to all first- and second-year undergraduates. Members of the Committee observed that some third- and fourth-year students may be more likely to choose a college where they have lived in their first and second years (or its twin) as opposed to moving to an entirely different part of the campus, and this may also contribute to the appeal of this model.

A substantial portion of the commentary on the Interim Report received by the Committee concerned the relative merits of two four-year colleges (model C in the Appendix) as compared to three four-year colleges (model D in the Appendix). (Little or no support was expressed for the other models described in the Interim Report.) Differences emerged in weighing the benefits of broader campus impact (in a three-college model such as D) compared to greater concentration of third- and fourth-year undergraduates (in a two-college model such as C). The principal underlying reason for preferring the two-college model, however, seemed to be a concern that spreading upperclass students across three colleges "might not work," and that concentrating them would improve the odds for success. The Committee discussed many aspects of this set of issues and concluded that a) there are important distinctive advantages to a three-college rather than a two-college model, and b) it is possible to maximize chances of making three colleges attractive to the requisite number of upperclass students. Therefore the Committee recommends that planning go forward for three residential colleges (the Sixth College to be constructed, plus two existing colleges) to accommodate and be attractive to a total of approximately 300 third- and fourth-year undergraduates.

The fundamental advantage of this approach, in the judgment of the Committee, is that it is most likely to achieve the full range of benefits described as goals in the "Guiding Principles" for the work of the Committee set forth above. Specifically, such an arrangement seems most likely to create a distinctive and strongly viable new option for students who do not now feel well provided for, and to do this in a way that will be perceived broadly on campus as one of the "standard" or "normative" residential experiences at Princeton. The resulting benefits, as described above, are believed likely to affect positively the experiences not only of undergraduates who choose a residential college experience in their third- and fourth-years, and graduate students who do so, but undergraduates, and even graduate students, more broadly.

In imagining the ways in which three residential colleges, each with four undergraduate classes, would be configured, the Committee made the following recommendations:

  1. Size: Based on the size of existing residential colleges at Princeton, on experience at other universities, and, most significantly, on the work of the site selection committee, the Committee focused on a residential college of approximately 500 students.
  2. Assignment to the college: The Committee concluded that first- and second-year students would be randomly assigned to the college, as they are now to existing residential colleges. The decision to live in a college after the second year would be made by individual students in the spring term of that year; those students who wished to do so would be free to remain in the colleges where they had spent their first two years or to become members of other colleges. Survey results appear to confirm the hypothesis that while a preponderance of students who express interest in a four-year residential college experience would find attractive the idea of staying in their original college, a significant additional number would find attractive the opportunity to move to another college in their final two years.
  3. Configurations of living spaces: Reflecting the recommendations of the site committee and its own deliberations, the Committee concluded that four-person suites together with a modest number of single rooms (all typically served by group bathrooms) are generally the most appropriate configurations for first-year students; and that singles and two-room doubles (with relatively private shared bathrooms, as in Scully Hall), again with some availability of four-person suites and group bathrooms, are generally the most appropriate room configurations for students in their second, third, and fourth years.
  4. Public, social, and academic spaces: The Committee believes that "public spaces" such as TV lounges, study areas, limited cooking facilities, and laundry facilities are highly desirable throughout a residential college. Flexible classrooms (especially to accommodate freshman seminars, and instruction in the new undergraduate writing program) together with spaces for cultural, social and recreational activities were also considered to be highly desirable in the design of a new college.


Next Steps

Detailed planning for specific program elements of the kinds described above is assumed to be the responsibility of a future Program Committee. Using the work both of the site selection committee and of the current Program Committee, this new committee will work with the architect who will be chosen for design of the new college. But it is clear from preliminary planning work that has been done for the Committee by the KieranTimberlake firm and the University Office of Physical Planning that existing dormitory facilities at Princeton can be renovated, reassigned, and reconstructed — within feasible budgetary and scheduling parameters — to accomplish all of the proposals being made in this Report.

In the planning process that will now be required it is apparent that attention will need to be given to providing rooms that are generous enough in size, and sufficiently appealing, to attract upperclass students. Attractive, functional, public spaces and amenities (such as study, lounge, laundry and other similar facilities) must be available. The quality of food and its variety, the attractiveness of dining areas, and the flexibility of meal plans (including, in particular, the possibility of relatively easy exchanges with other University facilities and with eating clubs) were identified by many campus respondents to the Interim Report as very important elements of the success of an upperclass residential college option.

As planning proceeds, the Committee strongly recommends that attention be given to the following issues:

  • Flexibility in the design and program options of the new college will be essential, because, inevitably, much will be learned — and can only be known — after the new arrangements are in place, and student reactions and choices are available for analysis. For example, projections of how many students from each undergraduate year will be housed in each of the residential colleges as shown in the Appendices, which underlie the Report’s proposals, are only informed guesses about choices that will be made by future students, who will be considering options that do not now exist. Capacity to adjust the configuration of University facilities and programs in response to actual choices must be designed into the plans for the new college from the beginning.
  • Sufficient preliminary examination has been made of existing dormitories, and of the currently projected timetable for renovation of dormitories, to provide a high level of confidence that accomplishing the proposals in this Report is fully feasible. Nonetheless, specific schedules and plans for implementation have not been fully worked out, or, of course, been approved.
  • As noted earlier, altered administrative and staffing arrangements may well be desirable in four-year, as distinct from two-year colleges — particularly if significantly new program possibilities are included (such as altered advising arrangements). Residential colleges will doubtless continue to require a mix of "full-time" staff (e.g., directors of studies, college administrators), and "part-time" staff (e.g., faculty masters, and graduate student assistant masters), and the numbers of each required in each type of college will need to be carefully considered.
  • Numerous issues regarding the presence of graduate students in residential colleges also remain to be addressed. These include the kinds of formal and informal mentoring roles graduate students might appropriately take on, the right threshold in terms of numbers of graduate students in each college, and the arrangements that would be made for summer housing for graduate students in the colleges. The possibility also exist that adjacent housing, rather than housing directly in college dormitories, might provide more attractive and effective means of involving graduate students in the colleges.
  • Also as noted earlier, very important discussions and planning will need to take place with University Dining Services, and with representatives of the eating clubs, to determine what degree of flexibility in dining arrangements is compatible with their respective needs. Similarly many issues regarding room-draw will need to be worked through, including the timing of upperclass residential college room-draw, and appropriate sizes of room-draw groups.

Many of these issues will involve questions of resources, both one-time expenditures for facilities improvements and ongoing costs for staff and other programmatic and operating support. In some cases the resources required will be substantial. Those issues must be studied and cost estimates developed. But it is the Committee's judgment that the benefits derived from the kind of program being proposed are so significant that the University should be prepared to make sensible investments to achieve those benefits.

In summary, members of the Committee are unanimously convinced that the need to plan accommodations for 500 additional undergraduates provides an opportunity to build on the existing strengths of Princeton's residential life by adding a new option that will be welcomed by many students and that will enhance the opportunities available to all. We hope that the President of the University and the Board of Trustees will endorse the recommendations of this Report. We would then look forward to working with interested members of the University community – of whom we believe there are very many – in further developing and implementing the ideas that are set forth in this Report.

Respectfully submitted,

Professor Sandra Bermann (

Dean Kathleen Deignan (

Vice President Janet Dickerson (

Professor Joan Girgus (

Professor Jeffrey Herbst '83 (

Ms. Sarah Igo GS (

Mr. Joseph Kochan '02 (

Dean Nancy Malkiel (

Ms. Shani Moore '02 (

Professor William Russel (

Mr. Ryan Salvatore '02 (

Professor David Spergel '82 (

Vice President Richard Spies *72 (

Ms. Tara Ward '03 (

Dean John Wilson (

Vice President Thomas Wright '62 (chair) (