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Office of Housing gathers student, rector feedback on residential life

| Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Following the announcement of a new housing policy in the fall that students are to live on campus for six semesters, many students began to examine their residential life experience and express concerns. In order to address some of the issues raised, the Office of Residential Life has been working with students and rectors to consider a potential waiver process and improve other aspects of dorm life.

Margaret Morgan, director of residential life, said the Office of Housing’s most recent initiatives have focused on student input.

“I think we’ve really taken a posture of listening and trying to hear the student experience to figure out what’s important to students and then think through ways that we can continue to make the student experience in the residence halls better,” she said.

Throughout this process, the Office of Housing has met with several student groups to examine ways to improve the dorm experience, most recently to explore the possibility of a waiver system exempting students from the six-semester housing policy.

While some students said they would prefer to meet with an administrator to discuss their reasons for wanting to move off campus, others are concerned that this process would force students to relive traumatic experiences. Morgan said administrators hope to take all of these responses into account and develop the most “student-friendly” waiver system possible.

“I think what I have heard mostly from [students] is this desire to protect students’ stories, to help continue to hold them sacred — to really feel like it’s not a cumbersome process so that a student doesn’t have to go through a lot of paperwork or jump through a lot of hoops to make this request, but also really respects where a student is coming from,” Morgan said. “ … And I think what we have said, too, is our commitment is to really honor each person.”

The Office of Housing has been gathering feedback to examine other aspects of residential life, in particular the consistency of protocols amongst the various dorms. To this end, Morgan and Fr. Matt Kuczora — rector of Dunne Hall — chaired a committee of rectors and members of the Office of Housing. In addition to his work on the committee, Kuczora also conducted a survey amongst rectors.

These initiatives revealed differences between certain dorm policies, results Kuczora said he sometimes found surprising.

“Something I didn’t expect, too, from some of that response was that there are differences [in policies], like the way that dances run across the board,” Kuczora said. “That was a really interesting thing and I didn’t really know because I don’t go to a lot of other halls’ dances.”

Though there is a common conception that men’s and women’s dorms operate differently, these varying policies do not always manifest themselves along gendered lines, Kuczora said.

“A lot of the results we’ve gotten initially haven’t been defined along ‘women’s halls do x and men’s halls do y,’” he said. “There are some men’s halls that do the ‘x’ and some women’s halls who do the ‘y.’ That was surprising too, to have this really good data that it’s not that cut and dry, like is often the narrative.”

By gathering information on these policies, Morgan said, the Office of Housing hopes to identify the “hallmarks” of residential life: consistent expectations and resources each student can anticipate while living in a dorm.

“It’s more saying, ‘What can we guarantee that every student on a baseline experience and absolutely have available to them and absolutely go through the halls having?’” Morgan said. “So what are these hallmarks of our residential communities that we can say confidently, whether you live in Cavanaugh or whether you live in Dunne or Fisher that I know for sure you’re going to have available to you?”

The Office of Housing will continue to gather feedback throughout the rest of the semester, through four different student “listening sessions” as well as Friday office hours with the directors of residential life. Morgan said she would encourage students to come to these meetings and voice their concerns with administrators.

“I think a big part of this that we’ve realized is students don’t often know that we’re listening,” Morgan said. “So talk to your rectors, talk to the directors of residential life, talk to members of the office of housing operations. … We want to know and we want to hear things because if we don’t know — and I think this is a part of it, too — if people just decide to move off campus because they’re frustrated and never tell us why, then we can’t make it better. So we’re here. We’re listening. We care. Take us up on it and tell us so we can really dive in and see what’s going on.”

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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