Ferguson addresses housing concerns

Allegheny Student Government continued to hear concerns from students regarding changes to housing policies for the 2016-17 academic year on Tuesday, March 8. Dean of Students Kimberly Ferguson attended the meeting and addressed concerns voiced by students.

At its March 3 meeting, ASG suspended Robert’s Rules of Order, allowing both constituents and senators to speak on concerns about student housing. However, few constituents were in attendance. On March 8, ASG again gave constituents a chance to speak.

President Haley Riley, ’17, said they attempted to have a representative from the Office of Residence Life in attendance, however, the time of the meeting conflicted with room draw.

The reality is, you are absolutely right. Students need to be engaged in the housing process.

— Kimberly Ferguson

While Ferguson did attempt to address student concerns, some members of ASG noted that without residence life in attendance, there was little they could do.

“We can’t just have a one-sided conversation. We need residence life here,” said ASG Senator David Odusanya, ’18.

ASG Senator Amy Currul, ’17,  also voiced her feeling that without a member of residence life at the meeting, ASG’s best option was to decide how they would act in the future. She said she is currently drafting a resolution that will hopefully address some of the current concerns regarding housing policies.

“We basically want [the resolution] to demand that we be included in the conversation,” Currul said.   

A large part of the housing debate, which was discussed at both meetings, is that residence life will not be releasing seniors from the four-year residency requirement next year. This means more students need to be housed by the college. Many members of ASG have pointed out that non-campus owned options are often cheaper.

Ferguson said the decision to not release seniors was largely based on enrollment numbers. She said with the current enrollment, and the projected size of the class of 2020, the college should be able to house all students in school-owned housing.

According to Ferguson, another reason for not releasing seniors from the housing requirement was the behavior of students living in non-college owned houses. She said the college received complaints from the community about some students, citing one incident where a group of students stood by the road with signs asking drivers to honk if they wanted them to drink.

“We want students to be in the community, but if you’re going to be in the community you have to be responsible,” Ferguson said.

While she admitted there was nothing that could be done this year, Ferguson agreed that the students should have a say in making some of these decisions, and that things could have been handled better.

“The reality is, you are absolutely right. Students need to be engaged in the housing process,” Ferguson said.

However, Ferguson also said some decisions cannot be approved by students, as there are factors that will have to be decided by enrollment numbers.

Another concern voiced in the meeting was the application process by which special-interest houses are assigned. Ferguson pointed out that there is an appeals process, but reminded students that receiving a house is never a guarantee.

“People think that if they have a house, you get a house every year,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said her office is willing to work with students to improve the process and make dormitories and campus-owned houses more livable, a concern which was voiced at the March 1 meeting.

Ferguson also said she is currently pushing for a new software program to make housing selection run more smoothly. The program, which she said could cost anywhere between $20,000 and $45,000 dollars to implement, would make housing selection entirely automated. The program would also allow students to file their own maintenance request forms which currently must go through a resident advisor.

In addition to changing how room selection is run, Ferguson said she hopes that with the extra revenue generated by the incoming class, which is projected to be fully enrolled, the college can put money into improving existing housing options.

In the meantime, Ferguson suggested that any students having maintenance problems that are not addressed within 48 hours should contact her office.

This article was corrected from its original form to correctly attribute a statement to a source.