This spring has been filled with much change for the Westminster community, particularly relating to residence life. With the formation of the Westminster College of the Arts, the size of incoming classes at Westminster Choir College has shrunk. In the past, only freshmen and sophomores could live on campus, but this smaller freshmen class has opened up new opportunities for students to have more on-campus housing.
Many rising juniors and seniors were thrilled to hear about this new opportunity, something people were more eager to take a look at especially given the newly created Alumni Housing Grant, which provides some of these students the opportunity to receive up to $2,000 per school year in scholarship money. These students were even willing to endure the required several-thousand dollar Westminster Aramark food plan, which has been called by one student “overly-priced dismal food all students at Westminster are forced to endure.” Unfortunately, the process this year was so muddled that students felt out of the loop, were misinformed, or worse, not informed at all. The Residence Life Office (RLO) at Westminster will really have to work hard in the coming year to establish trust with the student body.
Several deadlines shifted, something which caused much confusion. The housing deadline did nothing but constantly switch between March 1 and March 13. This type of change is simply unacceptable for something that guarantees someone’s place in the dorms for the next year. Other housing forms were laden with errors and were simply bizarre — as was the case with a single-room request form which asked for a “roommate’s signature.” Who were students going to have sign that form, their teddy bear?
These forms were just the tip of the iceberg. In the coming weeks it was announced how the room selection and housing lottery would be managed — a system that has displaced a large number of students due to many rooms being reserved for potential graduate students this fall. Basically, students were given one specific time that they could go and reserve their room — a time during which many students find themselves in class, as opposed to perhaps a common time (a half hour at dinner over several nights), or a common time such as Thursdays at 11:30-12:30, when few Westminster students are in class.
Of course, discomforts are bound to come with any change. Some students worry what it will be like to have such a large graduate student population dispersed into campus life as well as undergraduates. Others were filled with worry that they might be moved from their home dorm into one they had less of a desire to live in. While these are legitimate concerns for the students, they do not relate to concerns I am hoping to bring to the forefront. Instead, this article deals with the fact that there was not easy communication between students and the RLO staff. While they did offer several “information sessions” (which mostly consisted of one or two staff members walking around the dining commons during lunch), and by the end of the process, did post signs with information about deadlines for all students to see across the campus, this was too little, too late. Students should have confidence in the process, especially in a time of such severe change.
Already, Residence Life is starting this process for this fall. Now that the dust has settled, students are beginning to see the office become more organized and ready to handle students’ concerns. People are curious to see what residence life will be like in the fall, and are hoping that the RLO will build off of this late-semester success to create an efficient, organized campus-life experience for all residents.
Anthony Baron is a sophomore piano and voice performance major.