November 20, 2017

Lack of Continuity Ends Intentional Communities

Dexter House

By Veronica Andreades ’18, Jonathan Chandra ’19, Shalomita Maleachi ’17

Contributor

As Gordon College Residence Life introduces new accommodations for upperclassmen, the Reveal and Respond programs will be postponed indefinitely.

Lesser known of the campus’s various dorm options, Reveal and Respond are two intentional living/learning communities, designed to foster growth in Christ-centered living through spiritual disciplines and servant leadership, respectively.

Ebeth Lyon, current RD of Wilson and Lewis Halls, conceptualized the Reveal program and served as RD in the inaugural 2013-14 academic year. Respond was introduced to campus two years later, a product of presidential priorities.

Housed in Drew Hall and Dexter Hall, these more intimate co-ed dorms have provided a place for students to enjoy a tighter-knit community, in cohorts ranging from under twenty to close to thirty. This provides a more intentional approach to practicing one’s faith in the day-to-day.

Beyond living in a smaller home-style environment, residents of Reveal and Respond meet three times a week to worship together, eat dinner together and handle general house business.

Nathaniel Ryan ‘19, a member of the 2016-2017 Reveal cohort, was originally interested in the program because it offered an opportunity to grow spiritually and participate in a more focused community. However, he is not entirely dismayed to see the program go.

“I love being in the Drew House and I love the people I live with and have grown close to,” Ryan says. “But there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut vision for what it is and where it could go. And there’s not much organization.

Ryan attributes this to the lack of continuity in RD oversight, as both programs have changed hands several times in the past few years. Reveal has had three RDs in four years, while Respond has had two in the same number of years, as well as experiencing a shift in location from Gedney to Dexter House.

Jacob Brooks, RD of Nyland, said that “Reveal and Respond are casualties of lack of continuity. I personally believe that intentional community needs to have continuity in its leadership.”

Given the troubles in program leadership, many consider suspension a wise move on the part of the College.

Muoki Musau, the RD of Drew, is leaving at the end of this year. He sees the shutdown of intentional community as a temporary and calculated move.

“It will allow the Residence Life department the time needed to review the strengths and challenges of intentional living in general, and in Gordon’s culture specifically,” Musau wrote in an email correspondence with the Tartan. “Although it stings in the moment now, there is a good amount of time left this semester to make the most of it, and leave a legacy that will inspire its relaunch.”

Sara Golden, a Reveal and Respond double alumni, says that though programs should not be too strictly fixed, that “there could have been more of a basis or particularly continuity of vision.”

Reveal alumni Joel Cox says that he is grateful that Gordon is cutting back.

“[Gordon] will be more able to focus on development of existing programs. They had good intentions but the programs bloated the opportunities/responsibilities placed on students.”

The lack of RD oversight and program vision also made it difficult for student RAs.

Susi Franco, one of the Reveal RAs for the 2014-2015, is thankful for the support of the Reveal community during her time, but also points out the need for more external structure.

“I can honestly say reveal taught me way more about community than I could have ever asked for but it was also  really challenging and painful. I especially struggled having to play an authoritative role while also genuinely being a part of the community… I think the idea of the program is amazing and it’s a great opportunity, but it needs a bit more support to be sustainable,” she said in an instant message.

Regardless of difficulties, there are participants who enjoyed their experiences and are disappointed to see the end of Reveal and Respond.

Megan David ‘19, a member of the 2016-2017 Reveal cohort said, “I am disappointed that the program is ending because I have had a very positive experience while living in Drew. This program fosters a close-knit community, which has grown me and stretched me in many ways.”

Nicholas Miller ‘18 was one of four participants of the original Respond cohort who emailed the Tartan about their positive experiences.

“I was in the Respond program last year (2015-2016), and it was full of about twenty of some of the best people on campus. It felt like a family, and most of us still keep in touch, even with a few who have since left Gordon,” he said.

“As a part of the original Respond community, I can assure you many of us would have liked to re-apply to continue the experience. It needs to be more of a student led program with guidance when needed,” he added.

The end of Reveal and Respond follow the termination of the Elijah Project after last year. Three intentional communities occupied Gordon’s campus last academic year. Next year, there will be none.

When asked what could be better done about the program, Joel Cox ‘16 said, “Please focus on quality and have a non-student as someone to run the program. Don’t put that burden on RAs.”

Though there are no immediate plans for revamping intentional communities, Lyon hopes that they will return as soon as the 2018-19 academic year.

She said, “I think though that in order for them to come and survive there would have to be a Program Director overseeing them in a way that provided consistency that could pass down from one to another. I would love, I personally would love to recreate it and relaunch it, not for next year obviously, because we’re canceling them but for the following year, once we finish RD hiring and solidifying some different things.”

 

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