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Student surveys commendable

Observer Editorial | Sunday, February 8, 2004

Residential life is both a tradition and hallmark of Notre Dame. It fosters the family community that Notre Dame boasts about and the friendships that last long after students leave the University. However, traditions can sour when they have not been refreshed. The administration realizes that residential life at Notre Dame could fall victim to this fate and should be commended for seeking student input on the future of residential life at Notre Dame. Within the next two weeks, 1,000 students will be given the opportunity to reply to a survey about the quality of residential life and what changes they would like to see in the future.Beginning last fall, a group of administrators, faculty members and students met regularly to discuss what the four proposed residential complexes that were announced in the University’s 10-year strategic plan would look like. This committee understands that students must be consulted because they are the best sources for ideas to maintain the tradition of residential life. Students constantly criticize the administration for neither consulting nor listening to them. This criticism turned to public outcry following the announcement of the alcohol policy changes in March 2002. Yes, students were consulted, but only through a limited number of focus groups. But this is not a situation like the alcohol policy. The administration is making a concerted effort to genuinely gauge student opinion via wider surveys and more representative focus groups. Essentially administrators want to hear the voice of the students and in response students cannot overlook the opportunity to participate and must be honest and forthcoming. These officials do not have to seek student opinion, but they want to and that are enthusiastic about it. These surveys and focus groups are examples of how the gap between the administration and students can be decreased; however, the administration must continue to work to foster closer ties with students. The responses that are given in the surveys and focus groups must be considered and applied to these future plans or students will lose faith in their administrators.Notre Dame’s effort to reach out to students in this matter is commendable. It is giving students the opportunity to help draft the blueprints for four proposed residential complexes, but more importantly it is letting students play a role in enhancing residential life for future students.