Hide the Beer - Professors Are Saving on Rent and Moving Into College Dorms

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The newest trend on college campuses? Professors -- and sometimes their families -- as dorm dwellers.

Lured by rent-free living, coaxed by culinary upgrades at campus cafeterias and yearning to recapture youth, professors are lofting their beds and setting up their families on futons at college campuses and universities across the country, according to The Washington Post.

Dozens of colleges, from Colorado to North Carolina to Washington, D.C., are renewing an old tradition where professors live in dorms in exchange for free rent -- a move educators say helps bring a personal, small-campus feel to the schools, the newspaper reports.

"I learn a whole lot more about the students hanging out with them and then eating breakfast with them," Bob Cook-Deegan, a public policy professor and director of Duke University's Center for Genome Ethics, tells the Newsobserver.com.

When he was recruited to Duke, he insisted on living with his family in a dorm, in an attempt to recapture the experience he had as an undergrad at Harvard, where faculty members live in "houses" with students and act as advisers. The idea is to eliminate barriers between faculty and students and enhance the academic experience, he says.

Jeffrey Sich, a 55-year-old associate professor at George Washington University, lives in a sophomore dorm. When Sich told friends in St. Louis where he would be living when he moved to the Washington area to work at GWU, "it was met with shock: 'You're going to do what?' " he tells the Post. "But it's been a great conversation starter."

At the University of Colorado at Boulder, Thali Douglass, 4, is the youngest resident living in the school's dorms. The preschooler dines in the cafeteria with her dad, Scott Douglas, an engineering professor, and pedals her tricycle around the Kittredge pond, calling her neighbors "those crazy college kids," reports the Boulder Daily Camera.

In exchange for the free rent, these professors agree to live the typical dorm life, attending floor meetings, enduring loud noises at late hours and hosting small gatherings in their quarters, which are typically larger than the dorm rooms shared by their collegiate neighbors.

"It's very casual. There's no class attached to it. You solely talk about your interests," Patrick Eronini, 19, a junior nursing major at Georgetown University, tells the Post. The university has six faculty members and 28 Jesuit priests or chaplains living on campus.

As colleges construct new dorms, many are adding a professor suite or two to the floor plans, according to the Post. Last year, Catholic University opened a hall that included an apartment large enough for two faculty members and their now 1-year-old daughter. Georgetown included faculty apartments in the last three residence halls built on campus.

The idea is that the all-in-the-family approach to dorm living helps advance the university and college's "living and learning" goals, turning academia into a 24/7 opportunity.

CU-Boulder's Douglass says he formally teaches in one of the hall's classrooms -- and informally answers questions when he bumps into students in the hallways, plays pick-up basketball with them or eats lunch with them in the dining halls. One experiment led students to microwave a sliced grape to create plasma.

"These students eat, breathe and drink science research," Douglass tells the Daily Camera.

Professors living in the dorms aren't expected to double as resident advisers. They aren't in charge of policing underage drinking or monitoring the decibels coming from speakers.

But their presence -- along with a mix of upperclassmen -- is expected to create a calming effect, CU leaders say in the Boulder newspaper.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.