The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Residential Commons may affect party culture

The Residential Commons project is expected to be completed in summer 2014, ready to be opened up to students for the 2014 fall semester.
The Residential Commons project is expected to be completed in summer 2014, ready to be opened up to students for the 2014 fall semester.
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Women friends toasting with shots at a bar. (Courtesy of AP)


The SMU campus has celebrated some exciting events over the last few years. The school’s centennial anniversary was celebrated in 2011, the George W. Bush Presidential Center was unveiled to the world in 2013, and the new Moody Coliseum is set to open in early 2014. As the construction on the new Residential Commons comes to a close in this next year, another big change will happen 
on campus.

Summer 2014 will mark the end of construction on the new Residential Commons. The sophomore dorms, as they are known to most, were based upon student housing at schools like Harvard University and Vanderbilt University.

A description from the Residential Commons’ website states that, “Each commons will develop unique traditions, gatherings and meaningful activities that build community and long-term bonds among residents. Students will have a close-knit, living and learning environment where a rich intellectual, social and community life can flourish.” The dorms will consist of five buildings and aim to create a supportive community for students with live-in faculty and staff members, as well as resident assistants and student leaders.

The opening of the dorms, and the addition of all sophomores living on campus, will represent a change in student life at SMU, a change that should be for the better. Jeff Grim, associate director of Academic Initiatives and Campus Partnerships, noted that the new residential commons are more than just new buildings and “a transformation of the residential experience at SMU.” With the close community the dorms hope to provide, drinking among the underage dorm residents could be lowered.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that four out of every five college student drinks. Of those students, half of them will consume alcohol through binge drinking. This drinking culture results in 1,825 alcohol related deaths a year for college students aged 18 to 24, injures approximately 599,000 students, and causes academic problems for 25 percent of college students who consume alcohol.

SMU is no stranger to the drinking culture and, in 2012, the university was ranked the college with the “Best Nightlife,” according to Playboy magazine’s annual list. The article stated, “At SMU, Dallas is your never-ending house party,” and mentioned the approximate 2,000 bars within the city limits of Dallas County.

The university has taken proactive steps, joining the National College Health Improvement Project, along with universities such as Stanford University, Duke University, Dartmouth University, and more than 30 others, in the 2007-08 academic year. The NCHIP press release states that the group will evaluate and measure techniques “to identify and implement the most effective ways to address the problems of high-risk drinking.” In June 2011, SMU became a charter member of this group and continues to collect monthly data about alcohol consumption among students.

The data collection has shown that though the SMU student body’s rate of high-risk drinking is lower than the national average, there are spikes during certain times of the year. The 2012-13 President’s Commission on Substance Abuse Prevention Annual Report attributes these spike times to “big party” times such as spring break, the end of the spring semester and the beginning of the fall semester. Through being aware of the times where the highest risk drinking will occur, the school can “specifically target prevention education and intervention strategies” among the student body.

When asked if he thinks on-campus drinking will be lowered with the addition of the Residential Commons, Jeff Grim said, “maybe,” adding that, “We know that in most of our communities we currently have that have both upperclass and first-year students live together, we see significantly less damage and alcohol violations.”

Senior Alessandra Neason, agreed, as she recalls that “after every Thursday night there would be something in the lobby or hallway that was broken, that’s just how the dorms are when you’re a freshman.” She sees the Residential Commons as an opportunity for sophomores to stay more involved with campus life.

Grim said that with “more money dedicated towards programming and activities with faculty, there will be more and better options for activities for students than drinking.” And with half of the student body living on campus, school activities will be more likely to be attended said RJ Winters, an SMU senior. When he lived on campus Winters said he and his friends went to a majority of athletic events because they were able to walk there.

“It’s important to recognize that we are hoping to build a more cohesive, connected and engage[ing] community with the Residential Commons,” Jeff Grim said. “But this will not be a simple fix to any of SMU’s issues it continues to face such as underage and more importantly binge drinking.”

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