Students seeking on-campus housing has gone up 37 percent over the 2005-2006 school year, according to Karen Maggio, Assistant Vice President of Business Affairs.
And, as room draw approaches, students face a variety of residential options. Changes have been made to room draw as well as the physical and community structure of on-campus housing, leaving the residential community with mixed feelings.
Students can now pull up more than one friend during room draw. After receiving their lottery number, they can share it with two of their lower ranking friends. Jolie Harris, Area Coordinator within the Office of Residential and Commuting Life, said the increase was made to simplify the room draw process and prevent continuing students from being isolated in the dorm of their choice. "This enables students to live near their friends," she said.
Undergraduate and graduate students over the age of 21 will be eligible for the new Courtyard Apartments, currently under construction near Underwood Apartments.
In addition, a variety of new housing arrangements are available within the traditional residence halls. Ege Hall, currently home to both Mills and EF students, will only be open to Mills students and feature an international theme.
Freshwoman Jennifer Johnson is excited about the idea. "It seems like we have lots of [housing] options," she said. "I want to live in Ege because…the different wings would concentrate on different cultures/languages."
Mary Morse will also feature themed floors, whose topics may be chosen by residents. A minimum of five students could request a particular theme for their floor and will receive funding for related activities from the Office of Residential and Commuting Life.
According to Harris, themed housing improves a student's college experience and has become a trend on college campuses nationwide. "Studies have shown that students living in themed communities tend to be more satisfied with their college experience, stay longer [at the school] and do better academically," she said.
Mills chose to continue themed housing after the success of "Wellness" centered programming in Olney Hall last year. "It was really successful in building community," Maggio said. Applications for theme, apartment and co-op housing were due on March 31st and students have been notified as to their outcome.
Freshwomen will continue to be housed in Olney and Orchard Meadow Halls. According to Harris, upperclasswomen will still be able tolive in Orchard Meadow, however freshwomen and disabled students will have priority.
Maggio said the decision to continue housing freshwomen in Orchard Meadow was made in anticipation of a large incoming class.
Several students are unhappy at the idea of possibly losing access to the centrally located dormitory. Junior Azure Hankins, an Ethel Moore resident, believes Orchard Meadow is one of the nicest dorms on campus and wishes it had remained an upperclassmen privilege. "So many people leave after freshman year," she said. "How are they rewarding those who stick it out?" Classmate Rachel Howard agrees. "Apparently, the longer you're here the crummier your living gets," she said.
Despite such complaints, Maggio believes next years housing arrangements will benefit upperclassmen, who often prefer more independent living such as the Prospect Hill Apartments. In addition to having a new set of apartments to choose from, students can also anticipate renovations to Underwood Apartments that will be made during the summer.
Current Orchard Meadow residents Maggie Reynolds and Rachel Gordezky, share Maggio's opinion about independent living. "[Prospect Hill] is a senior treat and I'd like to get away from the freshman," said Reynolds. Gordezky believes that Prospect is far more affordable than the dorms or the new apartments, and said she will move off-campus if she isn't offered a room.
Fellow junior and Orchard Meadow resident, Kimberley Swanberg is content to move to Mary Morse or Ethel Moore. "I'm frustrated by living in a dorm that's mixed with freshwomen," she said. "I'm a little annoyed that…upperclasswomen will have to hike up the hill…but at least those rooms are bigger and nicer."
Many students are satisfied with their housing options yet would like to see the residence halls upgraded in accordance with the American Disabilities Act. Sophomore Molly Bower appreciates her choices. "I think the students at Mills are incredibly lucky compared to other schools," she said. "We have really fantastic facilities." Her primary concern is disabled students may feel restricted to particular dormitories due to the lack of retrofitting in others.
Blake Saffitz, a senior and Resident Assistant, agreed and is working with her department to resolve the issue. "There are some issues around the housing situation next year, but we are looking into ways to remedy this as best as possible," she said. Saffitz would like to see greater student involvement in the process so that the voice of continuing residents remains strong. "Students need to be active in their circumstances as a student," she said.
Maggio encourages students to contact Housing Management and Dining Services and Cowell's Office of Residential and Commuting Life with any comments or suggestions on residential housing. "If there are any options they like that they don't see they should let us know," she said. "After all, students are the customers."