Iowa House to be used for Dance Marathon living-learning community

BY ARIANA WITT | MAY 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa Housing officials are developing a Dance Marathon Living Learning Community to be held in the Iowa House for the fall, but thecommunity could be a no-go unless more students show interest.

The Dance Marathon community would house 68 residents on the upper floor of the Iowa House. It would be restricted to first-year students, and the residents would learn about cancer research.

Dance Marathon officials said they could not yet comment on the plans but said they are “excited about this opportunity.”

On Friday, representatives from UI Housing and Dance Marathon will meet to further discuss the arrangement.

Lauren Larson, a sophomore at West High who participates as a dancer for Dance Marathon, said she thinks freshmen should join the learning community.

“It’s such a huge group, and everyone’s so warm and inviting, and it’s such a great bunch of people to be around,” she said. “This sounds like something that would get you more involvement with the university.”

But as of now, only around 10 students have shown interest in the community, which concerns officials.

“At this point in time, we’re not seeing the numbers to support it,” said Director of Housing Von Stange. “If we don’t, then it probably wouldn’t exist.”

If the Dance Marathon community doesn’t pan out, the floor would be a general-interest group in relation to the Center for Student Involvement.

Tom Rocklin, UI vice president for Student Life, said last week at a state Board of Regents meeting living learning communities at the UI have proven to be beneficial to retention rates, and UI officials have made plans to have every first year student in such a community within the next few years.

Officials don’t know the cost of switching the floor to student living because no contracts have been signed, but Stange said room rates equal those of double occupancy with air conditioning — $6,930 for the 2011-12 year.

Using the Iowa House for students was the best option because of its on-campus location and the space could easily be converted, Stange said.

“It’s hard to find university properties that could set up easily as a residential hall,” he said.

UI officials have been planning to use the Iowa House as a dorm in some capacity for more than a year. The entire upper floor will be used for the learning community, and the other floors will remain hotel space, said David Grady, the dean of students.

“We want to be supportive of first-year students here,” he said. “We know that students who live on campus and those who are in living learning communities are successful.”

Hugh Ferrer, the associate director of the UI International Writing Program, said the program has been housing writers at the hotel since 2002, usually taking up the second floor for approximately 10 weeks.

Ferrer said using the Iowa House for students is proof of a university problem with space. But he said he understands the university has “got to put the freshmen somewhere.”

“It’s a hotel, so there have been guests all around, and there has never been a problem with our writers, and I don’t expect one,” Ferrer said. “I assume if it’s run the same way as the other halls, things will be fine.”

Stange said housing officials are looking to fill positions for resident assistants to live in the hotel with students.

The arrangement with the Iowa House would only be temporary while the new dorm is constructed, Stange said.

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