UT to Offer Sober Freshman Dorms

UT to Offer Sober Freshman Dorm

The first year of college can be a daunting experience—living away from home for the first time while juggling school and a social life. For students in recovery, the party scene can be an added pressure. That’s why next fall UT will offer on-campus residences for students committed to substance-free lifestyles.

A partnership between the Division of Housing and Food Service and The Center for Students in Recovery, the residences will match up roommates who are both committed to sobriety and wellness. “There’s a lot of data supporting [students in] residential learning communities—meaning specialized housing for people who have a shared interest—having a better college experience,” says Aaron Voyles, associate director for student learning and development with the Division of Housing and Food Service (DHFS). “We want to create a supportive space for students who have this interest and connect them with other like-minded students.”

Beginning in 2004, The Center for Students and Recovery (CSR) was one of only about 20 programs in the country for college students in recovery. CSR director Sierra Castedo says that while similar programs have grown in recent years, only a small percentage of campuses include recovery housing. She credits UT’s young, vibrant recovery community as a reason for its implementation. “We have a great recovery community here,” she says. “[With the new housing,] UT recognized the need to support those students who are already excelling here, but need a little additional support to get the most out of their college experience.”

The sober dorms, officially referred to as the Healthy Lifestyles Living Learning Community, will be located in Moore-Hill Residence Hall, across the street from CSR. “It’s going to be a constant presence for those students,” Castedo says. “They’ll have their safe space in the residence hall, but also have us readily available as a safe space.”

Voyles says UT will offer spots to somewhere between 12 and 24 students next fall, depending on the demand, and that they are still determining what criteria students will need to meet in order to secure a spot. Aside from offering a special living space, both departments stress the importance of fostering a sense of community through programming such as sober activities, peer support meetings, and educational opportunities.

“Our hope is to start conversations about the choices that students are making in terms of their own wellness, and to help educate students to remove the stigma around being in recovery or choosing to maintain a particular lifestyle that might include abstinence from different substances,” Voyles says. “Which is not always the prevailing narrative around college students.”

“What we do here [at CSR] and what we hope to achieve with this new housing initiative is to help spread the word that recovery is possible,” Castedo says. “You can absolutely have a genuine college experience free from alcohol and other drugs.”

Photo courtesy UT Division of Housing and Food Service

 

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