The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - 98

Deborah Worley

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
ON RESIDENCE LIFE
Early American colleges were rooted in institutional models from Oxford and Cambridge that
posited higher education institutions as places
where students lived, studied, and played together (Rudolph, 1962; Thelin, 2019). In this model,
community formation in housing relied on the
physical structures of the college to serve as the
connectors, though there was great variation
in the complexity of the campus environs; on
some campuses, living and learning occurred in
a single building, while on others they occurred
in separate buildings. Residence life became a
central feature of American higher education
in subsequent years, but institutions were challenged to provide adequate student housing due
to significant growth in the college-going population that lasted through the 19th century and
well into the 20th century (Thelin, 2019).
In addition, the number of students living
off campus increased, especially after World
War I, partly due to a shortage of on-campus
housing but also to a desire for independent
living quarters; it was challenging to engage
these students in a campus community that
was primarily designed and intended for residential students (Lewis, Baron, Murphy, &
Titus, 1963). Yet off-campus housing was cost
prohibitive for some students. In 1935, Kelly
and McNeely recommended in a federal financial aid program report that colleges "make
provisions for students to live cheaply" (p. 18).
They further elaborated,
Where college buildings have been converted
into living quarters for [students], the
arrangement consists of placing cots in one
or more large rooms in the armory, stadium,
gymnasium, or other structure to provide
98

Community in Retrospect

Beamer positioned the network of
individuals, particularly residence
life professionals, within the
student's community as essential
and necessary supports to facilitate
developmental growth . . .

sleeping accommodations for the students.
Temporary barracks have also been erected in
some institutions for the students. (p. 18)
By the 1960s, more affordable options for
off-campus housing became available and
offered amenities that on-campus living quarters did not provide (Striner, 1973). Thus, more
students chose to live off campus. According to
Striner (1973), students eschewed on-campus
housing because they desired more privacy,
independence, and a more "home-like atmosphere" (p. 1) where they could be themselves.
She concluded that basic requirements for
on-campus housing must include "privacy, interaction, territory, security, safety, a sense of
identity, a sense of belonging, and a sense of
responsibility for the environment" (p. 1). Subsequently, Striner indicated a need for campus
housing to respond to the student exodus from
living on campus and the departure from a true
sense of belonging to the campus community.

BEAMER'S FOUR NOTIONS
ABOUT COMMUNITY IN
RESIDENCE LIFE
In response to these trends indicating the
decline of residence life as an important

THE JOURNAL OF COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY STUDENT HOUSING

college experience, Marvin Beamer (1974)
published a piece in The Journal of College and
University Student Housing titled "Residence
Hall Living: Four Notions About Community."
In this article, Beamer sought to define community and the components that are central
to a sense of community in residence life.
To Beamer, "the concept of community in a
campus residential setting suggests that attention must be paid to the gestalt, the totality of
experiences and awareness in the life space"
(p. 33). He offered four priorities that professionals can attend to in order to meet students'
affiliative needs in a residential setting:
●

	 Group living: Promoting a sense of
responsibility for the well-being of self and
others

●	

●	

●	

Personal identity: Getting to know oneself in
the truest sense
Values system: Determining a personal
philosophy to guide thoughts and actions
Developmental socialization: Experiencing
growth in a physical and psychological
sense that is "developmentally harmonious
with social norms." (p. 33)

Group Living
Beamer (1974) presented the impetus of group
living as being rooted in the problem of increased enrollments on campus that create an
overwhelming and impersonal atmosphere
where students may feel lost. He used this position to frame group living as the way in which
intentional educational programming within
residence halls could be used to overcome isolating residential experiences by connecting
residents with each other. Beamer's consideration of group living also acknowledged the
role that the physical structures of residence
halls played in promoting a sense of belong-

ing and community. Beamer surmised that the
"mechanical aspects" (p. 33) of residence halls
should provide a balance of opportunities for
students to socialize and to be alone.

Personal Identity
Beamer (1974) framed the concept of community as a way to foster, encourage, and support
identity development-and to do so intentionally. He recognized the need to "organize students into comprehensive living communities"
(p. 34) where they can discover their individual
identities in a positive learning environment.
Going further, Beamer cited a 1966 report
by the National Student Association recommending that programming be conducted on
a smaller and more local level (i.e., in residential settings) in order to present more opportunities for residents to develop their personal
identities.

Values System
Beamer (1974) asserted that "values are set
only as a result of reality testing . . . [which]
is possible only through contact with others"
(p. 34). The process of determining a personal
philosophy is dependent on community building and, specifically, on connectedness with
others. Beyond discovering and owning one's
values, Beamer felt that it was equally important that students be able to engage in sharing
their values and applying those values toward
a common good. He specifically expressed a
connection between values and activism and
painted a picture of a residential setting where
students hold administrators (and the institution) accountable and responsive to change.

Developmental Socialization
Beamer (1974) describes developmental socialization as an amalgamation of group

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The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2

Contents
The Journal of College and University Student Housing - Volume 46, No. 2 - Intro
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