Dorms, Norms, and the New University Model
Posted by iusbvision on October 22, 2007
These are momentous times at IU South Bend. With the construction of the new student housing complex, the university is positioning itself to attract in- and out-of-state students and to compete against other area universities for a piece of the traditional student money pie.
As it is the case, this new initiative is not impervious to controversy: the newly-released housing website FAQ page announces that the new housing development will not accept applications from married couples and families, and there are talks of a formal dispute to be filed on behalf of the affected parties. With the work across the river well under way, I caught up with Teresa Santos, secretary for the Student Government Association to get her insight on the role the SGA has played in this new venture and the job that lies ahead.
What role did the SGA have in the planning and development of the new student housing facility?
Over the past academic year or two, the SGA has appointed various individuals to attend meetings and speak with administration about what was being planned for housing. I attended a number of those sessions and a few others were former SGA President’s Mike Renfrow and Marcus Vigil, and Chief-of-Staff Kim Muncie.
We have spoken up to point out things that students have expressed concerns over or had a desire to see. Some of which are access to facilities by off-campus students, security, the kinds of recreational facilities we would like to see, and the cost of living in the dorms.
Our concern that off-campus students have access to the site was met; all students will have access to public areas of the community building, soccer field, and the bicycle and pedestrian trail. The community building will house laundry facilities, an exercise room, a computer room, two study rooms, a large event room with a big screen TV and fireplace, and the housing offices. The trail will have lighting, landscaping, emergency phones, bike racks and some scenic gathering spots with benches including a cantilever that will be directed out over the water.
Mike Prater, Director of Facilities Management, commented that attention is also being directed towards the required retention pond, and thoughts are being discussed that will allow for a useful development, such as a wooden walkway with native plantings versus just a pond. Students also voiced concern over the cost of residency and the administration did take our views under advisement. I think they are reasonably priced and the estimates for renting them did come down.
The apartments are accessible by key card through a main entrance, and each apartment will be accessible by the same key card, after which each resident can enter their bedroom with their own key. Administration has been very active in getting student opinions about what we wanted in student housing. Last year, Chancellor Reck held a number of campus forums where she could discuss housing and directly solicit students for their opinions. The soccer field was a desire of the students and that was incorporated into the plans for the site.
When are the new tenants expected to start occupying the units?
Housing is on schedule to be completed in June of 2008. They will be made available for fall 2008; however I do not yet know the projected dates of move-in.
What are the criteria for selecting the occupants?
Applications are not yet available, but they will be available no later than January 2, 2008. This is a question for Vice-Chancellor Bill O’Donnell, but I believe the Student Housing Advisory Board will be addressing this.
Are there any plans to repair the existing student houses around the campus?
This question should be directed to Mike Prater, Director of Facilities Management. I do not have sufficient knowledge of the matter and this would best be addressed by Mike Prater or the President of the SGA, Ivan Blount, as he is the spokesperson for the SGA. The SGA, to my knowledge, has not received any complaints on the matter, during my tenure.
What are your thoughts regarding the school’s policy that prevents married couples and families from applying for residency at the new dorms, and what is the SGA’s position on the matter?
The SGA has not addressed this issue. While I am not yet up-to-date on the full policy concerning married couples and families, which keeps them from applying for housing in the dorms, I can tell you that it is not unusual for public or private universities to have such a policy. Generally housing runs in sections for individuals with similar goals and lifestyles; single undergraduate students, graduate students, married students and students with families.
I myself have lived in college dorms as well as married student housing, and from my personal experience, thus my own personal opinion, singles and married/families together in campus dorms wouldn’t have mixed well. This isn’t an apartment complex built with the intention of housing individuals who will live, go to work, and raise their families.
This is a dorm with the focus being on the support of students who are leaving home, perhaps for the first time, and going to away to college. Many colleges and universities have married/family student housing in a separate area of their campuses, it is a different environment that is conducive to their lifestyle. I am not saying whether the policy is right or wrong, good or bad, but it is what it is. Remember, we are just starting out in the beginning stages of student dorms and there is nothing that says married dorm-type housing can’t happen in a later stage.
The housing process will come in stages and we actually do have housing available for married students and families. The University has a number of homes currently utilized by students that surround the campus and they are available for rent by married students, students with families, graduate students, faculty and staff.
Do you believe it is the university’s job to determine which environment is more conducive to the lifestyle of married couples and families? Knowing of the problems that the student houses are having, don’t you think that it sends the message that the school is willing to cater and give special treatment to traditional students while relegating married students to a lower level?
I believe my first answer is sufficient at this time.
Do you foresee the new dorms playing an important role in attracting a more traditional type of student to IU South Bend?
Yes, I do foresee that happening. We are right on the cusp of an opportunity to truly make an impact and offer something that will make a real difference in our student’s lives. This is an exciting time for our campus and planning for our dorm residents is crucial at this stage. We can make a positive difference or a negative difference in the lives of not only our on-campus students, but also our off-campus students. I for one believe that this will be a positive life-changing and campus-changing event. I think that we will have an opportunity to develop a richer student life experience through our clubs and organizations and through sports. The soccer field will play a major role in attracting more traditional students.
The Search and Screen Committees are narrowing down the candidate field for the new Director of Student Life, and part of his or her responsibilities will be the integration and event planning for on-campus students into student life at IUSB. We are actively searching for a Housing Director and 2 auxiliary staff persons, and there will also be 8 RA’s, who will serve as support staff for the students. Our Director of the Health and Wellness Center Laura Hieronymus, RN, is already looking towards educating students on what they can do to stay healthy and for ways for the campus can handle the inevitable trips students will have to take to see a doctor or to go to the hospital. Mike Prater has said that the campus is going in a new direction. We have an opportunity to make a change, a real difference in the lives of students. There is a lot that we can do and still have to do – communication and involvement is the key.