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Bechtel Residence and Residential Life

02/01/2018

To: The Caltech Community

From: Joseph E. Shepherd, PhD '81
Vice President for Student Affairs and C. L. "Kelly" Johnson Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering

Date: February 1, 2018


Re: Bechtel Residence and Residential Life

In 2012, we began a process to add a new undergraduate residence—the Bechtel Residence—to our campus. Since that time, our community has been actively involved in a collaborative process and dialogue to shape the physical structure, design, and layout of Bechtel, as well as to reflect on how best to incorporate this new building into our residential life system.

The introduction of Bechtel is a major event in our small community; it will enable nearly all of our undergraduates to live on campus, will result in additional housing for graduate students, and will significantly change Caltech's residential life experience overall. My letter today is to inform you about the outcome of our discussions and deliberations, and to share with you our plans for enhancing residential life and for the opening of the Bechtel Residence in the fall of 2018.

I thank all the members of the Caltech community who have contributed to this process. In particular, I commend our students for their significant contributions over the last year in creating the Committee on Undergraduate Caltech Housing (COUCH) and conducting the committee meetings, presentations, and discussions that led to their final report. Consultation with our trustees, alumni, faculty, Student Affairs staff, and administrators has been equally essential in developing a final plan for our campus. President Thomas F. Rosenbaum and Provost David Tirrell have also offered valuable guidance and leadership, as well as feedback on earlier draft recommendations, and have endorsed my final decision and plan as a framework for opening the Bechtel Residence and for the future of residential life at Caltech.

In advancing this plan, the core values of our community have been the guiding principles. The key elements of the plan are:

Bechtel will be a multi-use, multi-generational residence open to all undergraduates. Bechtel will provide a new model of residential living that will be distinct from the House system.

  1. The residents of Bechtel will be full members of the residential life system, and will be represented in all student activities and in the shared governance of residential life.
     
  2. A new Advisory Committee on Residential Life will be established to help implement the initial changes, provide ongoing assessment of Bechtel and the Houses, and make recommendations to me for further steps or improvements. The committee will include faculty, staff, and students.
     
  3. The process for residence assignments for freshmen as well as upperclass picks will be reformed to maximize student choice and reflect our core values.
     
  4. Current off-campus undergraduate housing will be converted to graduate housing beginning in the fall of 2018.
     
  5. A new Residential Experience office will be established within Student Affairs to coordinate residential life activities and serve undergraduate students, residential associates, residence life staff, and Faculty-in-Residence.
     
  6. The Faculty-in-Residence program will be expanded to promote engagement between students and faculty in the residences.
     
  7. The complete plan—including the rationale and steps for implementation—as well as an FAQ and the COUCH report are available online. On the Bechtel and Residential Life website you will also find a form to provide comments about the decision and information on how you can connect with me directly during office hours.

As we move forward in implementing this plan and finalizing the details for this coming year, it is essential that we continue our collaborative efforts. Students, faculty, and staff will have an opportunity to serve on the newly formed Advisory Committee on Residential Life, to provide input to the committee members, and to develop proposals.

In order to be ready for the fall of 2018, our work will begin immediately. Next week we will ask all continuing students to fill out a short survey so that we can obtain their preferences regarding on-campus living for next year.

I look forward to working with all of you in the Caltech community on these next steps.