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Pros and Cons of substance-free housing?

mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,241 Senior Member
edited April 2013 in Parents Forum

Is substance-free housing a good choice for a student who would prefer that his/her social life not revolve around drinking/drugs, or does it just mark the student as a complete dork (or controlled by parents who want to try to prevent them from engaging in substance abuse)?
Post edited by mathmomvt on

Replies to: Pros and Cons of substance-free housing?

  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    My oldest chose subfree housing for three years on campus.
    They had several theme houses, womens floor, outdoor activities, quiet dorm...
    With ADD, being able to focus was a challenge and we discussed which dorm would be quieter. We thought that while the quiet dorm was only quiet after 10pm, ( theoretically), the sub- free dorm was likely to be quieter all the time, because no substances.;)
    She also had the concern of addiction running in our family, which I think was a concern of other students who considered sub free housing.

    Those were her reasons for the first year, for subsequent years, it was because that was where her friends were.
    Had we known that they were going to assign her a single room for three years, she may have considered another dorms, but I think it worked out well, especially as we didn't have to pay extra for the single.
    ( Senior year she lived in a two bedroom townhouse owned by the college- not subfree)

    Her school made it clear that it was the students choice, and I don't have the impression that it impacted her ability to interact in any way with other students on campus.

    This was a very small school, too small to ostracize a group of students because they didn't partake of the blotter acid pinatas.
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,241 Senior Member
    Do substance-free dorms actually end up offering social activities that the residents want to and enjoy participating in, and is that any different from the "regular" dorm social activities?
  • mrscollegemrscollege Registered User Posts: 659 Member
    Our D was afraid to choose sub-free her freshman year because she wasn't sure what it really meant in terms of the types of kids that she'd be paired with. It was too general at her school. A "quiet dorm" would've been something she'd have probably picked, but "sub-free" seemed too general. Even though she's not a partier, she has friends who are.

    In the end, she regretted not choosing it, I think. But it really depends on the school and the kid.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,973 Senior Member
    mathmomvt wrote:
    Do substance-free dorms actually end up offering social activities that the residents want to and enjoy participating in, and is that any different from the "regular" dorm social activities?

    Dorm-sponsored activities would be substance-free for any illegal substance anyway (including alcohol for most undergraduate students).
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,241 Senior Member
    Dorm-sponsored activities would be substance-free for any illegal substance anyway (including alcohol for most undergraduate students).

    Well, yes, and technically every freshman dorm should also be "substance-free".

    But it seems that some "substance-free" dorms claim to provide more organized activities as an alternative to going off and partying. I was just wondering if that tends to be true, and if the activities are actually things the students enjoy. (Of course it will vary by school -- just wondering if folks have anecdotes to share, I guess.)
  • HImomHImom Registered User Posts: 29,533 Senior Member
    Our S didn't pick but was assigned the "Great Outdoors" floor in his dorm, which was partnered with a "Great Outdoors" floor for women. He enjoyed it--not quite a substance free dorm, but I guess they figured he'd fit in because he was an Eagle Scout. He did start a rockclimbing club--perhaps with boys he met on the floor, he never said.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    d#1s college was smaller than her sisters high school. I didnt notice that her dorm offered special activities just for the dorm, but they may have sponsored things to involve the rest of the school, freshman year, the subfree dorm was 25 students.

    However virtually all of them were freshmen, and as they were all taking the same humanities 110 class, they studied together in the common room.

    D co-led a support group for students with ADHD and was a mentor to first gen students.( she had a mentor herself, freshman year) There were many activities that did not seem to center around substances, or if they did- ( for instance Fetish Ball strikes me as the type of event that may inspire substance use), I don't have the impression you would be ostracized if you didn't partake.

    Looks like construction has been busy.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    Her sister is attending a midsizeduniversity.

    Freshman year she lived in a freshman dorm, having selected her roommate herself from the online bulletin board. I don't think they were interested in subfree housing as it was in a more remote section of campus and while D had the attention issues even more so than her sister, having a private room didnt seem to be an option.

    The dorm was OK but sophomore year she opted to move off campus, to apartments that housed students. The next year she moved to a house that was off campus, but closer to the center of campus than her previous situations. She is planning to move again, but I am guessing she will try and stay close to where she is now, as it is close to campus, but also close to the center of town.
    She is pretty active, so has gotten to know people by doing active things, trying to get flag football games going, going skiing at a local mt & with the running club.
  • shawbridgeshawbridge Registered User Posts: 5,250 Senior Member
    My vicarious gleanings from my son and his friends is as follows. There is a lot of drinking/partying in regular dorms that can be disruptive at times, even to those who use drink/use drugs. Sub-free dorms contain a) some kids who are still wholly unseparated from their parents who told them to stay in sub-free dorms (this may later create a backlash); b) asocial kids; c) religious kids who don't want alcohol or drugs around and think that the substances and sometimes the people who use them are evil; d) kids who had normal social lives in HS but don't drink/use drugs but are relatively non-judgmental; e) kids who drink and use drugs but would like to have some control over when they come into contact with drugs and prefer as a result to live in a sub-free dorm; and f) drug dealers (I kid you not -- my son told me about more than one who lived in sub-free dorms). My son is in the fifth category and has lived or spent time in sub-free housing, but thought that groups a through c tend to be pretty socially awkward and would not make great roommates or hallmates (I think you are calling these the dorks, mathmom).

    ShawSon had a friend from HS who went to a different school and his parents told him to live in a sub-free dorm (which he did). ShawSon visited him a number of times and thought the preponderances of kids in the dorm were socially awkward -- except for the drug dealer two rooms away who seemed to be pretty socially skilled. For that kid, the regular dorms might have been superior as he didn't make any friends in the dorm and had very little social attachment to the school.

    So, the upside is control over your exposure to alcohol/drugs and the people who are drunk/high in the middle of the night and puking in the hallway, etc. The downside is the population in sub-free dorms has a higher proportion of folks one might consider poor roommate or hall-mate material. At my son's school, a significant proportion of the sub-free dorm kids that he was friends with fell into category e. A number of them became his suitemates in the next year in a non sub-free dorm.
  • LonghaulLonghaul Registered User Posts: 2,501 Senior Member
    I would caution to carefully review the policies of the dorm. A HS kid may not have partied before, but then finds the desire to go out on weekends once at college. You want to be sure if they do get into a "one time" situation that the dorm does not have a harsher written punishment policy vs the overall school policy. Most do not, but a few do.
  • PackMomPackMom Registered User Posts: 7,667 Senior Member
    At both my kids big state u's, all the dorms were officially called "substance free" but that didn't stop kids from doing what they wanted to do. S2 knew some guys that got kicked out of the dorms in the first semester of freshman year one for marijuana use and the other for drinking.

    Even if kids aren't drinking in the dorm, they still go out and party and come back drunk. S1's dorm room was directly across from the hall bathroom. He said he could count on there being vomit on the floor in the hall ever weekend when some guy couldn't make it into the bathroom. This was an all freshman dorm.
  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 21,014 Senior Member
    I am a bit confused with substance free dorms considering drinking age is 21. Does that mean students are allowed to drink/smoke (or whatever) at other dorms?
  • mathmomvtmathmomvt Registered User Posts: 4,241 Senior Member
    The idea with the sub-free dorms is typically students agreeing not to partake (or at least not to come home drunk/high) versus the other dorms where it's also not allowed, but everyone knows it happens. It's more a matter (at least in theory) of being housed with like-minded students rather than having different rules.

    My S1 is a "doesn't party but doesn't care if others do" kind of kid, at a school that doesn't offer sub-free housing and where no one does anything about kids drinking openly in the dorms. He had a huge double freshman year, and came home to a beer pong game in his room one night! He was never terribly bothered by the whole thing, but I think that kind of thing, and kids puking in the halls etc. would bother S2 more. S1 is at a large school and had no problem finding friends who share his social preferences. I wonder if those kids are harder to find at the smaller schools, making sub-free housing a good place to find them. My kids probably all fall into the "awkward social skills" category.
  • PhotoOpPhotoOp Registered User Posts: 1,194 Senior Member
    My daughter might be considered to fit into some of the stereotypes listed above. She is a Christian, and a self-professed nerd. She was also diagnosed her freshman year with an illness that requires her not to drink, although she was already in the substance free hall.

    At her school there was only a hall in the huge freshman quad that offered substance free living. It was a "healthy living" hall but that included substance free. They didn't allow the kids to come back to the hall inebriated. As a result of living in the substance free hall her first year she made very close friends with other like-minded kids but they are all of different backgrounds. My daughter is a Christian, her best friend that she met at the substance free hall is Jewish, she is friends with a Muslim girl, very good friends with a Mormon boy, anther Christian boy. I think they all consider themseves to be nerds. The one problem with the ambiguity is that one of the boys that she is friends with is a health nut and signed up for the hall not realizing it was substance free so when he did go partying he ended up sleeping on a friend's floor in another hall until he was sober enough to return.

    During spring fling since the hall was in the quad where massive partying occurs they did have drunks coming in to vomit in the hallway and bathroom. They were expressly told by their RA not to let anyone in the hall but it still went on anyway. She thought that was pretty gross.

    Her sophomore year they didn't offer the substance free hall as there wasn't enough interest but she wasn't going to live there again anyway as she wanted out of the quad. But she chooses her own roommates now and they are all non-partiers and then the male friends from the hall room together also non-partiers and they manage to get into the same dorm, sometimes the same floor, so they all still live near each other.
  • PhotoOpPhotoOp Registered User Posts: 1,194 Senior Member
    To answer someone's question above about underage drinking. Yes, the drinking age is 21, and technically drinking isn't allowed in any freshman dorm, but the schools all turn a blind eye to it.

    We even visited a college my daughter was admitted to but did not choose and it was well-known as a "wet" school. (Lots of drinking.) At the parents conference during the whatever it was called when the admitted students visit to make their choices, parents asked about the drinking policy and we were told that the school acknowledges underage drinking occurs and it while it is not legal they did not take responsiblity of enforcing the law. The kids are all adults and it is up to them to choose not to drink. That seems to be the sentiment at all schools. Yes, it's illegal. But they aren't going to stop it from happening. I think it would be pretty impossible to stop.
This discussion has been closed.