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SMC sets new residency requirement

Katie Kohler | Thursday, February 22, 2007

The President’s Cabinet announced a resolution at Tuesday’s Board of Governance (BOG) meeting that will require Saint Mary’s students to live on campus for six semesters – a change that will go into effect for the incoming class of 2011, but will not impact current students.

After several meetings, the President’s Cabinet – an advisory council of eight high-ranking members of the administration, including College President Carol Ann Mooney and Acting Vice President Jill Vihtelic – decided to solidify the identity of Saint Mary’s residential life.

“The President’s Cabinet made the decision to clarify its position on what a residential college should be by clarifying the residential requirement for our college,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Karen Johnson, a member of the Cabinet.

The residency program will have exceptions for transfer students and students abroad, as well as local students. Those who permanently reside within a 30-mile radius and choose to live at home will not be subjected to the requirements.

Prior to the passing of the resolution, Saint Mary’s had no residential requirements for its students.

Johnson said residential life is an important aspect of the college experience and encouraging it formally will be a positive change for Saint Mary’s.

“Students who are active participants in the college environment, and who live on campus, have been shown to be more successful – both academically and co-curricularly,” she said. “Students who are engaged in their campus community are more engaged in their academic life.”

Since the resolution does not affect the current student population, Johnson said no student input was taken into consideration during the decision-making process.

Student board members at Tuesday’s BOG meeting did not greet the decision warmly after Johnson announced the Cabinet’s resolution.

BOG admissions commissioner, junior Annie Davis, said the imposition would not be well received by the student body.

“I completely agree with the notion that the residence halls are a large part of the college experience,” she said. “I would encourage students to stay on campus for at least three years. However, I do not think that enforcing a rule such as this without the input of students is a good thing.”

Davis said more student involvement in the decision-making process would have created more support from students for the College’s decision.

“There are some things that students do not get a say in within the College, and that is completely understandable,” she said. “Although this doesn’t affect me, I feel as though, for the future of the school, this issue should be addressed by the Board of Governance.”

Davis said the resolution detracted from the positive aspects of living off-campus, which include fostering healthy relationships with neighbors and the local community.

“By moving off-campus, it creates better relationships with the South Bend community,” she said. “This is something that Saint Mary’s is proud of – we volunteer our time at numerous institutions and become involved with many people throughout the city. Neighborly relations are at the forefront for off-campus students.”

While the idea currently seems unattractive, Davis said she is willing to learn more about the new policy.

“There are definitely benefits to both sides of the issue,” she said. “Although, I will give credit to Karen Johnson for offering to sit down and talk with me about it.”

Davis, who works closely with the admissions office, said the decision to keep students on campus through their junior year would scare away applicants.

Johnson said she did not think the residential program will deter students from attending Saint Mary’s.

“The admissions staff has been involved and does not believe it will hurt our admission numbers,” she said.