Residence Life addresses changes in student housing preferences



Lauren Piro

Although residence halls are now filled to capacity as the first week of the semester quickly comes to a close, the Office for Residence Life remains ever-busy, introducing new changes and planning for the future of housing at Villanova.

Most significant may be the addition of the newest residents in the West Campus apartments – 24 sophomores.

A privilege normally offered to juniors and seniors with guaranteed housing, the option to offer a small number of sophomores came up at the end of last spring.

“Vacancies – that’s the big thing,” said Marie Schauder, assistant director for housing services. “I had a lot of drops up in the apartments come the end of May, beginning of June, and we had exhausted the list of folks in St. Mary’s who had submitted room change requests to go into the apartments.”

With six full apartments empty and no other junior or guaranteed senior who had expressed interest in living in one, a plan was devised to offer apartments to a small group of sophomores. Such a move would free up space in freshman-sophomore resident halls, namely Good Counsel and Fedigan Halls, allowing for a reduced number of freshmen in triple rooms, an issue faced by the Residence Life staff every year.

Schauder e-mailed all sophomore students who were assigned a room on campus for this semester, listing the criteria to apply for an apartment.

“They had to apply as a group of four,” Schauder said. “And we were very up front in saying that we were going to look at your judicial standing and your academic standing.”

Although academic and disciplinary records are not customarily taken into account during the housing lottery and room selection process, Schauder believed this stipulation was appropriate for the privilege and responsibility needed as a sophomore resident of an apartment.

About 30 groups applied and were then reviewed by the Residence Life staff and the Dean of Students office. GPAs were averaged within the groups of four to pinpoint their general academic standing in the fairest way, and groups were marked as ineligible if any student had any sort of disciplinary record, even if it was just a warning.

To have as many as six vacant apartments at the beginning of the year is odd for Residence Life to experience. Schauder speculates that with the present economy, some junior students may have opted to live at home or in a cheaper off-campus space this year, leaving vancancies on West. However, this is not the first time sophomores have been housed in the apartments; several years ago there was a special program that situated them there.

Student reaction, particulary from the sophomores, has been fairly positive, Schauder said, noting that she only received one negative e-mail from a junior student.

“I thought it was great that sophomores were given the opportunity to apply to live on West this year because sophomores absolutely get the worst housing pretty much wherever they are – on Main [Campus], anyway,” said sophomore Megan Dyckman, who applied for an apartment spot.

“I am pretty satisfied with how housing is handled,” Dyckman said, mentioning, however, that sophomores who don’t check their e-mail as frequently during the summer may not have known about the opportunity.

Junior Beth Awalt also commented positively.

“It is a trade-off for sophomores – they get a nice apartment, but they do live farther from most of their classes,” she said. “I think it’s great that Residence Life is being a little more creative in housing options. I know Villanova is running out of housing space, so I think it makes sense that sophomores are living on West.”

The number of freshmen in triples, seemingly on the rise in recent years as admission goes up and the number of beds stays the same, was eased this year.

As of August 11, there were 148 triples, and Schauder believes that number is fewer than 140 now, as the enrollment of freshmen capped out at the admission target of around 1,535 students. At the beginning of last year, there were 177 freshman triples.

“[Moving sophomores onto West] really did help tremendously in the sense of de-tripling,” Schauder said, also noting that the move opened up more spaces in Sheehan and Sullivan Halls for sophomores – coveted spaces on campus for second-years.

Also new in residence halls this year is a renovated, two-story Good Counsel study lounge, complete with more work space and sound-proofing panels.

With issues like growing enrollments and renovations looming, the office is constantly thinking about the future of housing.

Ideas and preliminary planning are outlined in the Campus Master Plan, of which interim reports were released in March and July and can be found on the University’s Web site.

Schauder serves on the committee for housing issues.

“Ideally, if we could create between six or seven hundred more beds, we’ll be at a good spot,” she said. “We’re looking for housing that is flexible in that we’re not looking at building new apartments, but space that can be utilized for different class years.”

Schauder plans that such new housing will eliminate freshman triples, as well as offer rooms to transfer students and any senior who requests one.

A new building could also provide swing space for housing while a larger residence hall, like Sheehan or Sullivan, is renovated – a project that would take more than a summer break to complete.

Although no concrete plans have been made to go ahead with new construction, Schauder hopes that the University will continue to make housing a priority, and that progress will come “sooner rather than later.”

In the meantime, renovations will continue where there are possible options.

Fedigan Hall is scheduled to be renovated next year, a project that is set to include new windows, a new entry-way, upgraded bathrooms, landscaping and the installation of air-conditioning.

The building will then also qualify as a “green” building, in concordance with the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, signed by University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., in June 2007.