Caitlin Dorsch ~ Co-Editor in Chief
“The housing process [for the 2020-21 academic year] is going to be drastically different,” said University of Lynchburg’s Associate Dean of Students Kristen Cooper. Although it will differ from past years and “seem complex,” Cooper and the rest of the residence life team intend to “get in-front” to have an effective process that will actually be easier for students in the long run.
Cooper made note of one upcoming important date regarding housing and residence life. On Friday, Feb. 7, the Housing Intent Form that was sent to all students by the Office of Housing and Residence Life via email on Wed., Jan. 30, will be due. Cooper insisted that this form is “very important as it lets the Office of Housing and Residence Life know who intends or is planning to be living on-campus in Fall 2020. Students who fill out this form and reply that he or she is planning to live on-campus next semester will then be able to go through the housing process this spring.”
“Over the summer, [the Office of Housing and Residence Life] implemented a new housing software system called ‘The Housing Director’ through Adirondack Solutions, a holistic system that aids college students through the housing process electronically and was specifically created for housing,” said Cooper. She went further to say that, “This system is allowing us to do a lot more things, but it is also requiring us to change some things, and slightly break from tradition, in order for it to function correctly as a result.”
Cooper noted two important and exciting changes coming to this new year of housing on the horizon and “increase the student experience of housing.” First, “the entire housing system will be online via any mobile device or computer.” She said, “The days of going to the Ballroom are over. Now, all a student needs to do is be electronically connected to the software system via a computer or mobile device on the day of choosing housing rooms. This will, hopefully, allow students to have privacy and be less anxious about being in the Ballroom at an exact time like in the past. Whereas students will still have to be online at a specific day and time to choose housing assignments, the ability to physically be anywhere as long as he or she is on the housing app is sure to reduce stress and anxiety.”
According to Cooper, “[Housing] groups will still be ranked, but those housing times from the app will be priority times. And, those rankings will now be done based upon specific number of students in one’s group. For example, if a student is in a group of 4 with three other students, then that group of 4 will be ranked according to the other groups of 4, not every other group like in the past.”
“The second thing that [the Office of Housing and Residence Life] is doing this year is making more opportunities for gender-inclusive housing on-campus. That means that our team has listened to the students about having a more diverse and rewarding experience through gender-inclusive housing if that is of importance to them. All of the Southside Housing options are now available for gender-inclusive housing. This opens the process up so that a student can go through the housing process with whichever students they would like to live with, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. We will also be making some of the floors of the residence halls available for gender-inclusive housing. And, the Housing Intent Form will allow [the Office of Housing and Residence Life] to make a decision on the number of floors in residence halls that should be designated for gender-inclusive housing. It is important to know that not all residence hall floors will be gender-inclusive because [the Office of Housing and Residence Life] wants to make sure that all students are comfortable,” said Cooper.
“These changes are really exciting as they allow for flexibility within the housing process as well as being able to offer all students the same housing opportunities,” said Cooper.
She continued, “Special-interest housing for organizations on-campus will be the same as it was this past year, with the same requirements. The sign-ups will be a bit different because, while the initial application will be similar with a Google Form, their group leader will be able to go into our system and assign their group members to specific rooms. The group leader will essentially become the ‘community manager’ for the group. And, this makes the process more effective and easier than a manual entry.”
“Outside of the new technology and increased availability of gender-inclusive housing opportunities, the biggest change is the way that the process actually works. Now, we have a Southside segment and a residence life segment for the process. Therefore, it is important for students to figure out who they would like to live with and where now or relatively soon so that they can effectively get through this process. And, groups of the same number will go through the process at the same time. For example, all groups of six who want to live on Southside will go first, followed by groups of five, etc. The maximum number of Southside students per location in the regular housing process is six and its minimum number is three. This process allows students to come up with possible contingency plans and separate their group if necessary while not being ‘in the moment’ in the middle of the Ballroom. So, this process is more evolutionary than it has been in the past,” said Cooper.
Fourth-year student and current resident assistant Christian Lohiser added to Cooper’s statements about the housing process. She remarked, “The housing process is important for a number of reasons, but most importantly from the perspective of Housing and Residence Life Resident Assistant, we want residents to consider many things: 1) where you live, 2) who you will best live with, 3) how the location will affect you and your fellow roommates/suite-mates/housemates, and 4) being on time to sign up.”
She continued, “Most importantly for me as an RA, I emphasize to my residents to seriously consider who they live with. Sometimes their friend is not the best roommate, and that is okay. Residents really need to consider the type of environment that will be most comfortable for them academically, socially, and emotionally. We also want residents to plan early. I actually started having conversations with my residents last week at our hall meeting emphasizing the three previous points, as well as potential changes this year regarding the process.”
Cooper noted that there will be two housing meetings this semester: one for students who want to live on Southside, which will be on March 30 at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom, and one for students who want to live in a residence hall, which will be on April 20 at 8 p.m. in the Ballroom. These two meetings give students the opportunity to be able to focus on what their group wants to do and will allow for more clarity in this new housing process.
For further information, please contact the Office of Residence Life via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.