Res Life implements new changes for students living on campus

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Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 at 10:22 PM

The office of Residence Life and Housing had several changes in store for students when they began to register for their housing this past week.

Students will now be able to room with students of the opposite sex, Highlands 2 will be designated as a freshmen-only building, and the living-learning floors options have been updated. The gender-flexible housing idea began with a proposal written last year.

This type of living is self-selected only and students will be required to sign a specialized agreement.

“It is in response to the fact that we know that we want to offer students the ability to feel safe and accepted in the residential community,” said Director of Residence Life and Housing, Amy Franklin-Craft. “And for some students, that’s about living with an individual whose biological sex assignment is different…for a variety of reasons and needs that a person might have.”

First-year students are excluded from the gender-flexible housing option, unless their parents are willing to sign off and have a roommate selected. Additionally, anyone under 18 years old cannot participate in this program.

While gender-flexible housing wasn’t initiated with the intention for couples in relationships to live together, it is allowed.

“I don’t really agree with that policy because it’s already as rowdy as it is in a lot of these dorm rooms and lot situations and problems can occur if they live in the same room,” said freshmen, Carly Chrostowski. On the other hand, some students are looking forward to this new option. “In the time I’ve been here, more of the friends that I’ve made have been guys,” student, Maddie Lance said. “So [I like] the idea of having more options for people to room with. I would much rather room with my friends, guys that I do know, than just be stuck with a bunch of girls that I barely know who they are… I think it’s a certain comfort level, when you’re around people that you [know] better.”

Franklin-Craft recognized that when a dating couple lives together there can be problems ranging from simple roommate disputes to domestic violence instances.

“That can happen equally with two women roommates living together, with two male roommates living together. It may not be in the context of a relationship, but it is in the context of a roommate dispute,” she said.

More so, the department of Residence Life and Housing is taking steps to ensure transgender students can find room options that fit their preferences. Franklin-Craft encourages these students to contact the office directly to discuss their living accommodations.

The department also decided to create a First Year Experience (FYE) dorm building for incoming students who might have FYE classes or general education classes with one another. Highlands 2 will offer approximately 200 spaces for an incoming class of 600 to 700 students, but Franklin-Craft predicts that some students will choose mixed housing and living learning floor options, too.

Residence Life and Housing is working closely with Fai Howard, the director of academic success and student retention, with the goal of creating a “tight-knit community,” as the students will all have a common bond, often coming to college and moving away for the first time.

“The research on first year experience communities show that they can be really, really good when you have an intentionally built program and have students that live in the halls that may be co-enrolled in university classes together, so…they can be really, really good in terms of academic success,” FranklinCraft said.

“But to be honest, they can also be really, really bad if you put a bunch of first year students in a building with no guidance, no program expectations, no sense for goals and goal development [and without] moderating experience of upperclassmen.”

Junior, Casey Cribbs has freshmen roommates who she gives guidance to, and during her first year on campus, upperclassmen helped her get established, as well.

Lance, who just began studying at Edinboro University this January, could see the positives of having upperclassmen’s guidance, but also explained why having a first-year student only dorm building might have made her move to Edinboro more relaxed.

“When you are new…you just want to know that you are not alone,” she said.

“Having other freshmen to get along with and bond with, it is an awesome idea in that you will all have that one common link, as you are trying to figure out what you are doing here.”

Students will also be able to find others with similar interests if they choose to live in a living-learning community. The newest living-learning community will be on the second floor of Highlands 6. The Fredrick Douglass Social Justice Community is for students concerned about socially unfair issues who want to make a difference.

“There’s a lot in our world that is inherently unfair and it’s based on some systems that have been entrenched and are systematically excluding individuals… and taking advantage of that which our country has to offer,” Franklin-Craft said. “I really want students to think about the benefits that living in a community where they believe in and are looking to make a difference."

However, with the addition of a first year building and more living-learning communities, students currently living in Highlands 2 and other specific floors will need to choose a different room for next semester.

“I want to make the largest number of students excited about their housing assignment and feel really good about their choices and when you tell an entire community that has established itself… that next year you need to live in a different community, I recognize that comes with some feeling of loss,” Franklin-Craft said.

“My hope is that they will align themselves in small groups and make the decision to move wholesale.”

Lance recently moved into Highlands 2, but even though she isn’t a long-standing resident, she has already noticed the community between the residents there. “It’s not like I’m a long-standing resident of this building. Having to move isn’t going to be too much trouble for me personally,” she said. “But, I know there are some people in this building that really have a well-established sense of community and it’s going to be a lot harder on them than it is me.”

From Feb. 23-27, residence assistants held floor meeting to discuss the housing registration process. Students could log into their Scots accounts to begin the process on Monday, Feb. 23. While they couldn’t select a room yet, this first step in the procedure involved filling out some information about themselves, their habits, their sleeping patterns, and other factors that often play a role in how well roommates get along.

The online housing registration began last year for returning residents; this year it is being extending to incoming freshmen, as well. Last year, within the first few days of online process, residence life and housing had about 900 students participate.

Beginning Monday, March 2 at 9 a.m. students keeping their housing had the opportunity to reserve the room they currently live in.

The following day, Wednesday, March 4 at 9 a.m., students that are displaced from Highlands 2 and living learning floors can choose an available room. Friday at 9 a.m. will begin the period for all others to change their current assignment.

Tracy Geibel is the campus life editor for the Spectator. She can be reached by lifestyles.spectator@gmail.com.

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