Members of Allegheny Student Government discussed their concerns regarding the Office of Residence Life’s recent changes to the 2016-17 housing policies at its weekly meeting on Tuesday, March 2.
Among the concerns that were brought up by both ASG senators and constituents was the lack of student input that went into the changes, and the safety and structural stability of many of the on-campus houses owned by Allegheny College.
The changes were outlined in an email sent out to students on the evening of Monday, Feb. 29. The changes include the prohibition of underclassman living in upperclassman housing options, the conversion of Edwards Hall into a “wellness” option solely designed for first-year students and the creation of more gender-neutral options in Caflisch Hall. Quads in Caflisch will also be converted into doubles.
The decision to make these changes comes on the heels of a decision by the Office of Residence Life to not release any seniors from the four-year residency requirement for the 2016-17 academic year. This decision was also the subject of debate during ASG’s meeting.
The discussion was started by ASG Senator David Odusanya, ’18, who said he feels ASG should have been part of the decision-making process that lead to the changes.
“I think it’s rather ridiculous how they have made all these changes without conferring with the students,” Odusanya said.
After Odusanya voiced his concern, ASG voted to enter into a unmoderated discussion for a period of five minutes during which Robert Rules of Order were suspended. The time was later extended to give more members of ASG a chance to speak.
ASG Treasurer Hayden Moyer, ’17, agreed that residence life should have sought more input from student government. He said ASG is supposed to handle situations like this.
“We are supposed to be the intermediary for changes like this between the administration and students, and we haven’t been for this,” Moyer said.
Moyer said that residence life has made no effort to seek input from ASG.
“I think it is pretty telling that the one group of administrators who have not come to see us is the group from res life,” he said.
Several members of ASG also brought up the issue of off-campus housing. They said for many it is cheaper, and that if these options are taken away it could cause students to leave the college.
Current Vice President and President Elect Tess Bracken, ’17, said she has been engaged in conversations with Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Linda Wetsell to address this issue. One of the proposed solutions is making meal plans optional for seniors.
While the issue of cost is a concern in regards to off-campus housing, Senator Tyler Kowalski, ’18, said having students forced into college-owned houses is also a concern.
“I know last year the house I lived in, the foundation was crumbling,” Kowalski said.
Kowalski said he is not the only student who has had problems with college-owned housing. He said several friends and teammates have had issues with everything from leaky roofs and pipes to water leaking into electrical sockets.
“They’re making the kids live in these houses, and they aren’t safe,” Kowalski said.
Jennifer Foxman, director of residence, and Gretchen Kerr, associate director of residence life, said the policy of releasing students to live off-campus was always a way to meet housing needs.
“The process has always been that we release an equal number of students who we believe we cannot house,” Foxman said.
Kerr explained that since residence life should be able to house all students on campus there is no need to release students from the four-year housing requirement.
Kerr and Foxman said they feel they have responded to student concerns that have been raised in the past and that some students do not understand some of the new policies. They explained that the new policy regarding underclassmen living with upperclassmen is a perfect example.
The new policy, they explained, will not prevent sophomores from living with upperclassman, it will instead prevent sophomores from taking upperclassman housing spots until after juniors have chosen. Sophomores on the waiting list will then be placed before sophomore room draw begins.
“I feel that this is what we were being asked to do by the student body over the last two years,” Foxman said.
Both Foxman and Kerr said they had not heard of any serious safety or maintenance problems with college-owned houses, but encourage students with problems or concerns to contact Physical Plant or residence life.
“How students can help is to bring those concerns directly to us,” Foxman said.
According to Foxman and Kerr college-owned houses are inspected by Physical Plant once a year, and by the City of Meadville for fire code violations twice a year.
Kerr said she understands that room draw is a stressful time for students and that residence life is always looking for ways to make the process smoother. She said she wants students to understand that room draw is not always the end of selection process if students are dissatisfied with their selection.
“It’s not set in stone necessarily, there is a lot of movement after room draw,” Kerr said.