Administration focuses on increasing senior presence on campus
Megan Valley | Friday, April 21, 2017
This year, 63 percent of Notre Dame seniors live off campus — translating to around 1,600 seniors living off campus, compared to the 800 that live in the residence halls — according to director Margaret Morgan, director of residential life at the University.
Each year of the past five or six years, the number of Notre Dame students electing to move off campus has increased about 1 percent, she said.
“I think it would be a huge win if we saw that not happen for a year and then we started to slowly turn it back,” she said. “That seems like a very low bar, but that’s where we’re at right now, just learning how to stop the tide of people moving off campus.”
There are two main reasons to keep seniors on campus, Morgan said — to keep seniors involved on campus, and concerns for student safety.
“When seniors move off campus, we obviously lose their impact in the residence halls because they’re not living there, they’re not taking on leadership roles,” she said. “It’s also harder for them to be more involved in campus leadership.
“ … Some students live in some excellent, very safe places, and some students don’t. Some students live in areas of town that aren’t great or in houses or places that aren’t the most well-kept. We are helping to provide them with the most safe options on campus.”
The office of student affairs has been working with student government to conduct focus groups. Junior and student body president Becca Blais said the campus life council’s focus group discussions included the input of around 260 people.
“We brought all that data together and a few themes came up as to why people are moving off,” she said. “From that, we formed recommendations for how to keep people on campus for their senior year, and in a few weeks we’ll be doing the board report to the Board of Trustees on this very topic — we have nine recommendations.”
Senior and former student body president Corey Robinson said they were looking for a “holistic view” of how students make housing decisions.
“One of the things that we kept hearing over and over again was the transparency of fees — what exactly are they paying for?” Robinson said. “It’s one lump sum, as opposed to off campus, when they give you every breakdown. That’s what we’re pushing for. What are we really paying for and what are we getting on campus? … We just want people to make an educated decision.”
Morgan said suggestions to address financial concerns — “the story is it’s cheaper to live off campus” — ranged from changing laundry quotas to changing the type of meal plans that are offered.
One suggestion from students that Morgan shared was creating a senior apartment complex.
“An idea that came up — and I’m not sold on it — is a senior apartment complex,” she said. “If that really mattered to students and we could figure out how to make that happen, I think it would be interesting. … I heard in a lot of the focus groups that that was important to people, and I think that could be an interesting in-between option for some students.”
Blais and Robinson, on the other hand, said they felt the senior-only housing didn’t address some of the reasons why bringing seniors back to campus has been made a priority.
“With the intention to get seniors on campus to be in the dorm culture, we decided it may not be the best opportunity to do something like senior dorms,” he said.
Whatever incentives are provided, Morgan said the choice is still ultimately up to the students.
“I think this is eventually going to be a culture change, and changing a culture takes time,” she said. “You can incentivize it, but ultimately it has to come from the students. And they’re the ones who will tell us if it’s important to them or not.”