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Article on the Founding of the Interest House Program (May 1971)

From the May 13, 1971 Courier-Express from Dubois, Pennsylvania

New Interest On Campus

By LEE UNDER Associated Press Writer STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) —

There's a new interest in college today, inside the dorm, that's got more going for it than just studying and sleeping. And it has absolutely nothing to do with sex. Pennsylvania State University is experimenting with community living, as an extension of learning. It calls it "The Interest House." "Students will get a chance, starting this fall, to live with other students who have a common interest or concern related to a broad area of human experience," says Dr. Charles Spence, assistant dean of students who brainstormed the idea. Something similar is underway at Stanford and Michigan State. At the beginning the unique plan will involve about 600 students out of more than 25,000 on the main campus of Pennsylvania's biggest university, and one of the largest in America. "I think it will work, and will grow," Spence says. He believes such a program is overdue, especially in the giant college complexes where students are more easily identifiable by social security numbers than name, and everything is fast, furious and impersonal. "Too many kids get lost, literally, in college," Spence says. "A student needs to have interests outside the classroom, especially where he lives. He needs to have people who know about him, care about him, and maintain some human relationship. It is important for his future well- being. "An impersonal education doesn't foster good student- faculty contact. Nor does it foster commitment of people for each other, and this is vital for personal intellectual growth." Spence believes the Interest House program "will help in developing a more relevant curriculum." Current courses of study now are under attack by protesting students demanding a piece of the educational action. There will be 10 "interest communities" at Penn State spread among a dozen of the school's 50 dorms, and each will consist of separate male and female units. In the Environmental House students will be able to define issues which affect the quality of their lives now, as well as in the future. Working in their dorm, at rap sessions, they can map ways to put land, water and air to better use, and protect the world populations. The Race Relations and Social Conflict House will be balanced, deliberately, with whites and blacks, and Spence says here "the historical, cultural and institutional roots of racial dominance would be the starting point for understanding the present." "This house could hopefully begin to move people from a relationship of tolerance to one of reconciliation of equals," Spence adds. Also contemplated is a dorm community devoted to "the individual in a complex society," which is expected to provide serious living experiences. "Individuals would be allowed in such a context to explore 'being' in order that 'doing' may be a creative and growing process," Spence says. "This would be an opportunity for a person to develop and interrelate his social, vocational, educational and spiritual consciousness." With assistance from person-oriented people as resources and a measure of serendipity, the process of converting 'higher education' into 'deeper education' will have begun." Language interests are not skipped. There will be communities for students skilled in French, Italian, German Russian and Spanish, all connected to create an academic Tower of Babel.

1971 article, quoting Ann Stephenson

1972? article, quoting Christal Mokenhaupt

1973? Article, quoting Jeff Wall

Note in the 3rd column, that the newly formed Business and Society interest house plans to "acquire a calculator for the study lounge.  It's hard to recall those days!