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Currents: substance-free living

McKean Hall: Substance-free and Lovin' It

by Amber Cronin '11

“Substance-free, small and fun — that's McKean Hall” is how Colby-Sawyer describes the only residence hall on campus that is devoted to a specific lifestyle for its residents. The hall's residents revel in the uniqueness of their college home.

Built in 1930, McKean Hall is named for Dr. Horace G. McKean, principal and headmaster of Colby Academy from 1899 to 1905. The building houses 35 new and returning students and has been designated substance-free since 1995. The first and third floors of McKean are for women and the second floor is for men. The basement features a kitchen and laundry room as well as the alumni phone-a-thon area.

Students who wish to live in McKean Hall have two options for getting a room there: First, on the survey that all incoming freshmen receive during the summer, students may choose McKean. Second, during the spring room draw any student interested in living in McKean can attend the specified night for McKean and will be placed into that hall. Numbers for students who want to live in McKean has remained steady since its switch to substance-free housing in 1995.

In order to live in McKean, residents must sign a contract stating that they will abide by the hall's philosophy: “McKean is a substance-free environment. Residents who chose to live in McKean are either substance-free or support a substance-free lifestyle. McKean residents choose to be free from the detrimental effects of substance use in their attitudes, interactions, and environment.”

The contract also talks about how students' participation in a substance-free living will enhance both their college experience and the development of a community within the dorm, a statement that RA Jessica McCabe '10 can attest to.

“Everybody knows everybody,” said McCabe, who lived in Abbey last year. “This year I've noticed that the residents are all very connected. Any part of the hall outside of their rooms is everyone's. The hall is very community based.”

McCabe says that students choose to live in McKean for a variety of reasons. Some simply do not want to be in an environment where substance use, even alcohol consumption by those of legal age, exists. A few may come from families in which alcohol or drug use was an issue, or feel that substance use will negatively affect their college experience. Others sign on thinking the building will be quieter and cleaner than other options.

Patrick Sylvia '08 has lived in McKean Hall since his first year and describes the dorm as “a very close-knit community as a whole; there are always lots of doors open. People always find things to do without drinking; there are generally lots of movie nights and people hanging out in the lounge.”

McKean Hall clearly offers an option that the other residence halls on campus do not - the opportunity to have a substance-free college experience - but the real attraction to living in McKean is the community feel of the hall. With a ping-pong table in the lounge, sports games on the television, the building's small size and the buzz of activity that is in the air, it is hard to find a reason not to want to live in the close-knit community that is McKean Hall.

Amber Cronin is a Colby-Sawyer College student who writes for College Communications.