Many students wonder what their housing situation will be the next school year. They’re curious to know if they will live in the Bushnell apartments, Butler, or the streets of Keene.
An informational meeting on the housing situations for the next academic year was held on Wednesday Nov. 16 in the Mountain View Room, informing students of a new policy and of other living community concerns.
This new policy requires both freshmen and sophomores to live on campus beginning next year. It was explained that there will most likely still be a wait list for upperclassmen with about 400 spots open, which is similar to the wait list situation this year.
Mandy Martin, assistant director of housing operations for Residential Life, explained the reasoning behind this new policy.
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She said it was enforced for “a number of reasons, one is really from a development standpoint.”
“The research across our industry supports two years of on-campus living,” Martin said, while making note of the benefits.
“All that support structure in place with the Residential Life staff, you’ve got Campus Safety, you’re close to courses and activities,” she said, in a listed format.
“On the operations side, we’ve been in a situation with housing selection where at the end of housing selection, we’ve had a large number of sophomores- a rising number of sophomores- on the wait list,” Martin said, explaining that these sophomores don’t know if they should move off campus or not.
“We only have a certain number of beds; we’re not going to get new beds anytime soon, so we had to decide if somebody has to be on the wait list. And our demand is high enough that somebody has to be on the wait list. Our commitment is to not having sophomores make that decision about moving off campus or not. We want our sophomores on [campus], and juniors and seniors, although they might prefer to be on, are going to prepare to go off,” Martin said.
Freshman Taylor Thomas, a resident of Fiske Hall, expressed that she did not like this policy but said she understands if they [KSC Housing Operations and Residential Life] have “good reasoning.”
“I would obviously like to have the option [of living off campus],” Thomas said, when asked how she felt about this new policy.
Thomas detailed what she finds a hassle with housing. She said she would prefer to choose the people with whom she will be living, but spoke of how that is not always the case when “getting stuck” in a double room.
“I want a puppy and my own kitchen,” Thomas said, which will not be possible for her now that this new policy is being enforced.
When asked if she thought the policy would benefit students or become a drawback, Thomas said, “Maybe a little bit of both. For me, it keeps us closer to campus but at the same time we’d probably rather have our own house.”
“I like that I’m so close to everything, I like the experience because I’ve never had dorm life so it’s different. There’s nothing that I really don’t like about it. As I said, I’d like to have animals and a kitchen but other than that I can’t complain,” Thomas said.
The benefits and expectations of living off campus were explored during the session where Allison Riley, the newly chosen coordinator of student and community relations, explained her new position.
“I was working in Student Affairs and I was, for lack of a better word, a floater in the division of Student Affairs. So Andy Robinson, vice president of Student Affairs, asked me because I was doing this work in the division where there was a need in the community for the position to have somebody that was a liaison between community and students, and so he asked me if I would consider doing the part-time job so I stopped doing that kind of floating work and started,” Riley said.
Riley further said, “I think there hasn’t been a real support network and a lot of resource information for students who are moving off campus, and now we’re starting to get that ball rolling. That’s essentially what it is.”
Riley said her new occupation aims to help students “feel like there’s somebody that’s in their corner.”
By having information sessions and workshops, Riley said, “We’re trying to make students be more educated tenants. That really, you know, is the other piece of it because I think it serves the city of Keene and the community more if we’re sending out more educated tenants, and also, it’s better for the students who are living out there because they know what questions to ask.”
Martin said, “The community is benefiting by gaining more experienced, older students.”
When asked how the community and students can benefit from this new change, she mentioned the “Sophomore Success Series” and said, “There’s a whole round of sophomore specific programming that’s happening and we can do that more when we know we have almost all of our sophomores on campus, so more specific targeted programming for sophomores.”
Martin also said, “The college benefits in that when we have fall open houses for prospective students, then we can tell the families, not only are you required to live on for your first two years if you come to Keene State, but they look at that as a guarantee [of housing]. It takes the stress out of the beginning of their college career.”
“In fact, even the number of spaces that are offered to each class is not changing a ton. I think that’s where a lot of these rumors and myths have come from those who say, ‘Oh well, if all the sophomores are required to be on, that must mean that there’s no junior or senior housing,’ and that’s not the case ‘cause again, we made a switch offering this current year more beds to sophomores in Owl’s Nest, Butler, and a few other places,” Martin said further when speaking of how the change will affect students living on campus.
Sophomore Matthew Canning, a resident of Butler, expressed what he thought of this new policy.
He said, “I’d say it’s better for the college; I think it’s good, not bad. I think it’s probably a good thing, you can make more friends, make better connections staying on campus before moving out.”
“It’s probably better for the majority,” Canning also said, making reference to wiser and older students living off campus.
Riley listed a few things students should remember when looking to rent off campus.
“Communication with the landlords would be an important part,” she said. “That there’s open communication and that students are asking different questions, like they’re going in and asking good questions and getting good information, that when they’re going to sign legal documents like leases that they’re reading them carefully and that parents are helping and that they’re reading the fine print. And also, that they’re kind of considering the move in to the community and what that means in terms of being a responsible community member.”
“I think it makes for a older, more mature student to be living off campus, and I think that’s the main thing,” Riley said.
As far as the benefits of living off campus go, Riley said “I think that there’s a sense of independence that they’re [the students] getting off-campus because they’re not supervised by anybody and you’re sort of having to deal with real world kind of things like paying bills and working with landlords and, in some places, making their meals which they [students] haven’t had to do before.”
Martin pointed out that a two-year requirement for living on campus “is very, very common” and said that there are exceptions to this requirement at KSC.
“We make exceptions to the first and second year requirement for any student who contacts our office and appeals based on commuting from within the 30-mile radius,” she said.
“We have a lot of families at Keene who have siblings here; a first-year student living off-campus with their senior sisters is not the same thing as living at home with Mom and Dad, so it doesn’t count, commuting from a parent or guardian home within the 30 mile radius, if there is some sort of medical or safety concern, and then other [exceptions] case-by-case,” Martin said. “So yes, we will make exceptions as appropriate.”
When asked what she was doing to let students know about this new policy, Martin said, “It is new so that is actually one of our concerns.”
“We’ve updated our website so it is on the website, and it’s been in the works for a year so the current first-year students, when they were admitted, were told that they were required to live on for first and second year, so it’s been in the admissions materials,” Martin said.
Martin also said there were e-mails sent out and made note of more information sessions coming up in December and January.
“We’re just trying to be any place we can be,” she said.
In response to talk of current year freshmen looking into signing leases for next year, Martin said, “A lot of the students are affected by it, I think the students required have known that, or at least were informed, from the beginning of their process and Alison [Riley] worked very closely with the landlords who attended the on-campus, or the off-campus, housing fair that was held here a few weeks ago and that was part of her work with them was to inform them about that [the new policy].”
Canning spoke of the lottery system and said, “I think it definitely has a few flaws; it’s stressful for students waiting for the lottery and the wait list. I’m not quite sure how you’d fix that, maybe let people know earlier if they’re going to get housing or not.”
Canning is pleased with his housing for this year.
“I think that the floors are a lot more tight-knit sophomore year, I know a lot more people this year than I did last year,” he said.
Canning explained that he is still figuring out his housing situation for next year. He would like to either live on campus or close off campus. For him, it is “pretty much about location,” Canning said.
He also said, “I wish there were a few more options for juniors on campus.”
Thomas also said her opinion about the lottery system. “Obviously everyone wants to get a good number, if I know who I want to live with,” she said, but added that “chances of that happening are so slim, obviously there’s a lot of room for disappointment.”
Thomas would prefer to live with her friends in Butler next year, “but I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” she said.
When asked what she would change about the housing on campus, Thomas said, “I wish there were more housing as nice as Butler. That would be good, and having more control over being able to live where we want.”
In addition to the social benefits of keeping sophomores on campus, the college hopes students will have more time to learn the responsibility of living on their own.
Martin said, “One of the goals is that the students who are going off campus will be better prepared to be citizens in the community because off campus means you’re living in somebody’s neighborhood. And so, hopefully this means after two years of being with us on campus, our students who are going off campus are not only older but better prepared.”
On concluding her remarks of the new housing changes, Martin said, “We’re excited to kind of bring this full circle on the proposals of a couple of years ago.”
“So now, to have our first class required to live on for second [year], and really complete forming the ‘Sophomore Success Series’ and the sophomore programming, combining that with the resources Alison [Riley] is giving, I just feel like it’s more of a holistic approach.”
Riley said, “What I’d like to see is for people to take advantage of the workshops that we’re planning, this shows me tonight [Wed. the 16], because we had such a group here tonight, that people are needing and in interest of the information and I just hope that as we have more and more of them that people take advantage of it because I think it’s a really great resource and students that have taken advantage of the pilot programs have really felt like the information is valid.”
Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at email@example.com