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ResLife Director addresses student concern over new housing policy

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ResLife Director addresses student concern over new housing policy

Olivia DuCharme '22, Staff Writer

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Director of Residence Life Aretha Milligan sat down to explain the new housing policy for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year and to address student concern as housing dates approach. 

The former housing process descended by grade using proxy numbers—often referred to by students as “lottery numbers”— in attempt to make the selection process as fair as possible. However, Milligan, who joined Rhodes College staff in August, was hired to make this process better for students. 

“We’ve spent a lot of time researching what our sister schools do,” Milligan said, “By looking at how different colleges approach the same issue, we’re hoping to meet student need in the best way we can.” 

The new housing system, outlined in an email released earlier this week, is more elaborate—hoping to encompass more student need. “Students with accessibility needs will be able to select their housing first and therefore have priority for single rooms,” Milligan said. “These students need the spaces they request, and it’s only fair that they get what they need.” 

After students with accessibility needs select their housing, the new facet of the housing process will be implemented. Night One of the selection process is Squatters’ Night. “Students who like their rooms—excluding first-years in first-year dorms—have the ability to reserve their rooms for the next year,” Milligan said.

Students who room with graduating seniors have the ability to bring in new roommates to their living space on Night Two, Squat with a Friend. After the squatting process is complete, rising seniors, juniors, and sophomores will select their housing using the traditional proxy method. 

This process was not created without obstacle. Student concern focused heavily on the process of “squatting,” and Resident Life recognized students’ growing discontent by hosting two town hall meetings earlier this month.

“Hosting those town hall meetings was one of the greatest things we could have done. Students expressed opinions and ideas we hadn’t considered,” Milligan said. “We gladly took notes and made changes in the days following to meet student need.”

After the town hall meetings, Residence Life met with several students who were more vocal in their concerns. The housing plan changed in response to these meetings as well. “Cooperation between students and the administration is helping create a process beneficial to all involved,” Milligan said.

Though Residence Life has committed itself to listening to students, “There will be kinks,” Milligan said. “But there are kinks with any new thing and we will pay attention to feedback until the housing process becomes consistent and benefits students as much as it can.” 

Milligan, who has been in the residence life field for over twenty years, also looked forward to improving other aspects of on-campus living, including random roommates and Winter Break residence. 

“This year we’ve sent out a survey for students thinking about random roommates to meet each other.” Milligan said. “But in the future, we’ve considered hosting speed-date night events so students can meet more people and get to know them, even if they don’t end up rooming together.”

In an additional attempt to meet student need, Residence Life has explored better living arrangement for athletes and international students who need housing during Winter Break, but this is still in the works. 

Milligan’s email also included other changes to the housing selection. A pilot gender neutral housing option will be available next year and students interested in this and other housing must complete registration by March 6 at 11:59 p.m. Students still discontent with the new housing policies will have another opportunity to voice their concerns at an upcoming town hall. 

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ResLife Director addresses student concern over new housing policy