College Introduces Substance-Free Housing

This house is located at 314 Burr Oak in Albion. It will serve as the campus’s first substance-free house for the 2021-2022 academic year (Photo by Sondra Sewell).

Albion College’s Office of Community Living (formerly known as Residential Life) is working to develop intentional living communities on campus in order to fit the unique needs of individuals. One of these intentional living communities is the brainchild of Dr. Shannon O’Neill: the implementation of substance-free housing. 

Substance-free housing is designed for students who are committed to being substance-free in all aspects of their lives. While substances are currently prohibited in most residential buildings, substance-free housing will add an additional layer to that. It is a commitment to refrain from all substances both inside and outside the residence.

Ryann Kaplan, a senior at Albion College, has devoted time as a practicum student to help O’Neill bring this idea to life.

“I think this opportunity is going to be really beneficial for a variety of people because the college environment is not conducive to people who are substance-free,” said Kaplan.

Kaplan explained that students choose to partake in a substance-free lifestyle for many different reasons. These include but are not limited to dedication to academic success, religious reasons, addiction recovery and family/personal reasons. 

“I think the statistics are that on any given college campus, at least 20% of the students will be substance-free,” said Kaplan.

So far, a high number of students have expressed interest in the new substance-free house that will be opened for the 2021-2022 academic year. The house, which is located at 314 Burr Oak, will be able to accommodate up to 15 students, including one resident assistant (R.A.) who will also be substance-free. Based on a Google Form that was sent out in the daily news email, 28 students have already expressed interest. 

Trista L. Geier, associate director of Community Living and operations, said that she thinks this one house may not be enough. 

“I think there’s some potential to expand substance-free housing across campus in the future, but I don’t know what that looks like yet,” said Geier.

In order to be able to live in the substance-free house, there will be a low-stakes, one-on-one interview process that students will need to go through. Kaplan explained that oftentimes, students may feel pressured by their parents to choose a substance-free option, even if they do not truly want it.

“The interview is really just to gauge how serious you are about it, how committed you are, if you really are substance free.” Kaplan said. “Other than that, it’s going to be kind of on a first-come first-serve basis.”

For the 2021-2022 academic year, the substance-free house will be open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Some factors about the house are still up in the air, such as how much it will cost and whether it will be separated by gender. Additions to the house, including a firepit to host substance-free get togethers, are also being considered.

If students are interested in joining a substance-free living community, they can contact Dr. Shannon O’Neill at

About Sondra Sewell 4 Articles
Sondra is a sophomore from Albion, Michigan. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Secondary Education and a minor in TESL. Sondra is a member of the Build Albion Fellows Program, the British Eighth Marching Band and the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program. She dreams of living in Italy and writing cheesy romance novels.

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