Housing surveys sent out
Meghanne Downes | Friday, February 6, 2004
Within the next two weeks, the Office of Student Affairs will be e-mailing 1,000 undergraduate students a survey about the future of residential life at Notre Dame.The survey is the product of several months of discussion by a committee for the future of residential life, which consists of administrators, faculty members and students. The results of the survey will be used when designing and renovating residence halls.Ann Firth, committee member and executive assistant to the vice president of student affairs, said the committee is dreaming big and these results will be crucial in determining the nature of the four proposed residential complexes that were outlined in the University’s most recent 10-year plan. The committee, which formed as a result of this plan, has discussed several options such as co-educational housing, senior apartments and suite style living.Firth said the University also intends to significantly renovate residential halls within the next 10 years once funding is available.Committee members said the survey is a pro-active approach by the University to gauge student opinion and to lend credibility to future plans.”As we go forward and renovate, we want to make sure residential life is important,” said Bill Kirk, committee chair and associate vice president for residence life. “You have to be sensitive to the student’s needs.”Firth said that students who participate in the survey, which the Office of Institutional Research estimates should only take about 10 minutes, will be eligible for a drawing that includes ten prize packages. These packages include a laptop computer, season football and basketball tickets, flex point certificates and pizza parties.Undergraduate students from each year, including those who live both on and off campus, will receive the survey.Kirk said the committee wants to know what students opt to move off-campus so that future and renovated residence halls can provide amenities that will keep students on campus.Kirk said the decision to review the character of residence halls and the nature of residential life was not in response to the growing trend of Catholic universities that have abandoned completely mandatory single-sex living arrangements.”If you look at what’s going around at other campuses, after they upgrade, you realize that you have to do something to make [residence halls] attractive,” Kirk said.Kirk said the aspects of residential life that students value most – the stay-in-hall system, in-hall chapels and the small community – will remain, but that officials want to know what else students value and that the committee is remaining very open-minded about the range of possibilities that residential life could take at Notre Dame.Kirk cited the creation of Legends, Reckers, the Coleman-Morse Center and the renovation of Hesburgh Library and the LaFortune Student Center as recent examples of where the University solicited student opinion in an effort to enhance campus life and said that this survey will continue that effort on a larger scale.Keri Oxley, a senior and student member of the committee, said the administration is putting a great deal of energy into including students in this decision making process.In addition to the surveys, student opinion will be gauged through focus groups. Focus groups will also target administrators, faculty members, rectors, assistant rectors and young alumni.Kirk said these surveys and focus groups will be different in nature and composition than the ones used to create the revised alcohol policy that was announced by vice president of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman in March 2002. The committee expects to have survey results sometime this spring and the deadline for the first round of focus groups is March 15. Firth said the committee’s recommendation report most likely will not be completed until fall 2004.