Residential Education and Housing Services announces new Themed Living Communities in Norris

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Decor in the living room of the Norris Blue 3 Women and Wellness themed quad at Occidental College, LA. Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Halle Steckel/The Occidental

Residential Education and Housing Services (REHS) announced via campus-wide email Dec. 12 that it will implement new Themed Living Communities (TLCs) in Norris, an upper division resident hall, beginning next year. Each Norris Tower will have a specific theme, according to REHS’s email. The four new TLCs in Norris will include a Quiet Tower, a Latinx Culture Tower, an Asian, Pacific Islander or Desi American (APIDA) Tower and a tower for those within the LGBTQIA+ community. Currently, the Norris Towers house “quads,” groups of eight or 16 people who live together on a designated floor.

Resident Director of TLCs Devon Dobbs, who joined the REHS team in July, said she introduced the new TLCs to accommodate the student body and address challenges in supporting the “Create Your Own” quads.

“There were difficulties with staffing and structurally supporting communities that changed year to year,” Dobbs said via email. “After reflecting on the current TLCs in regards to the student body and talking with students about their experiences, I saw this as an opportunity to introduce new themes, specifically more identity-based themes.”

View of Norris Towers from Emmons Road at Occidental College, LA. Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Halle Steckel/The Occidental

Genesis Andrade (first year) said she is excited about the new TLCs because she sees the benefit in changing the themes and plans on applying to the Latinx Culture Tower.

“I think that because of how many groups are isolated and don’t have a solid community here, that the Themed Living Communities will give them that,” Andrade said.

Lily Hue (sophomore) currently belongs to the “Women and Wellness” quad in Norris’ Blue Tower. According to Hue, her quad has brought her friends and quadmates closer together.

“You don’t have to plan to hang out, you’re just always together,” Hue said. “You can just hang out and do nothing, or you’re also just there anytime anything happens.”

Wall art and a red couch in the Norris Blue 3 Women and Wellness themed quad at Occidental College, LA. Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. Halle Steckel/The Occidental

Hue said the amount of work they put in as a quad related to their “Women and Wellness” theme is minimal. She said she refers to their quad as “the house.”

“For me, communal living works really, really well because I like to be surrounded by people but not necessarily have to be interacting with them all the time,” Hue said.

Andrade said many groups do not have an environment where they can connect with each other day to day.

“I think probably [there are] a bunch of other people that have been deprived of fully engaging with people who they identify with, and I think that a themed living community would kind of, I don’t want to say force, but make us create that bond,” Andrade said. “I’d get to live with people who I feel naturally more comfortable with.”

Dobbs said the identity-based living communities will provide a specific space for students who identify with a certain group.

“Another goal is to recreate and strengthen the mission and vision of the TLCs as a whole and the individual themes in order to foster a shared sense of community,” Dobbs said via email.

According to Dobbs, many students are enthusiastic about the changes.

“We have received valuable feedback from students and staff. Overall, a lot of people have expressed excitement about the changes,” Dobbs said via email.

Hue said she believes more work is necessary to make everyone feel welcome on campus, and she hopes the efforts to do so are successful. She said everyone should have a chance to live in a quad.

“I’m really glad I got to live in this space,” Hue said. “I think it’s a good experience for everybody.”

In the Yellow Tower, the Quiet Hall will have 24/7 quiet hours. The Latinx Culture Collective will be housed within the Blue Tower. The APIDA Hall, intended for those who identify as Asian, Pacific Islander or Desi American, will be located in the Orange Tower. Lastly, the Riviera and Johnson Hall, named after queer activists Sylvia Rivera and Martha P. Johnson, will be a space in the Green Tower for those who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community.