Housing policy concerns prompted ASB to lead a forum with VP of Student Life Brenda Roth and Dean of Students Nathan Geer on Jan. 24.
The new policy — which will require freshmen, sophomores and juniors to live on campus — that will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year is an attempt to bring more students back to campus, but not all students are happy with the proposed changes.
With approximately 50 attendees at the forum, students asked Roth and Geer why the policy was created. Some gave suggestions about how they would like to see the policy improved, while others shared their stories about how this change would affect them negatively.
Some students shared how the new policy could hinder them from coming back to campus at all.
Amanda Dewart is one student whose plans changed because of the policy, and is concerned about overcrowding, community and affordability.
“As students coming into this school, we know things can change, but so many people planned out what they were going to do with their money carefully, so they’re being good stewards of their finances,” she said. “And the school is trying to be a good steward of their finances, but what about the students? This is affecting so many students that I feel like, in a way, they’re not being good stewards of us.”
For others, the policy will affect them indirectly.
“This is frustrating to those who will be seniors next year planning to live with juniors,” Casey Jansen said. “Not only is it more expensive to live on campus, but now I have to pay the consequences as well, because I will be losing two potential roommates.”
Geer and Roth explained that the decision was made in the best interest of the university as a whole. But they explained that the decision was not an easy one to make.
“These are the individual impacts, and, unfortunately, we can’t mitigate every individual impact with the policy” Geer said. “And that’s the pain that we face when making a decision like this. And we just don’t have individual answers today.”
“But it’s good to hear your name and see your face and give you the opportunity to tell us your story,” Roth said.
A handout was created for students to address some of the most prevalent concerns or questions asked in Facebook comments.
The handout at the forum read, “In recent years, these policies have been formulated to adjust to high enrollment numbers. But because we have graduated a couple of large classes and the corresponding freshman classes have been smaller than normal, it has resulted in lower on-campus requirements.”
Roth and Geer also explained that President Sheldon Nord has wanted to switch to a junior live-in requirement for many years, but the opportunity has only now presented itself.
Roth added that Student Life has considered and is still considering how this decision is going to affect the community.
“Our job is to prayerfully ask given the situation we’re in, ‘How shall we move forward?’” she said. “We wrestle with the impact of our decisions. We are thinking through ‘What does it mean for us to steward this institution on a large scale?’”
Brianna Ashmore hopes students and Student Life find a common ground.
“I understand the reasoning behind this change,” she said. “It makes sense financially to try to have the dorms in their full capacity, and it would be stewarding resources better. But I also understand that there will be many students who are planning to live off campus who will be disappointed, and there are many who will have difficulties in affording on-campus housing. In the meantime, I know Student Life is trying to make a decision that will be best for students and for the university.”
Serena Koch is one student who is troubled by the possible financial repercussions for the university and the students.
“Has the school considered that those who planned to move off campus for financial reasons might not return to the school if this policy is enforced?” Koch asked. “The school will not only be losing room and board revenue, it will also be losing tuition revenue from the student who had to leave since he couldn’t afford on-campus living. Corban will have some seriously ticked off students if this policy is finalized.”
Camille Williams is also worried about how students will be able to afford living expenses because of the policy.
“There’s a difference between struggling to afford it and not being able to afford it all,” Williams said. “If they do this, many people will have to drop out. I don’t agree with this, and I seriously hope they rethink this.”
According to the handout, “Student Life has been working closely with Financial Services personnel who are committed to find viable solutions for as many students as possible.”
Geer encouraged students who will be affected financially to make appointments with Financial Services directly.
“A lot of times, students think, ‘Great you make this sweeping decision without any concern for the impact it has on the individual,’” Geer said. “While we know it is a sweeping decision, and it has a broad reaching impact, there are people at this school who are committed to the individual impact. We wanted to make sure you guys were aware it’s not just a blanket thing. There are people here to help you and options for you.”
The team decided not to implement the policy change for the 2017-18 school year because they wanted to uphold the commitment they made for this year. Geer said the decision was announced in January to give students enough time to rearrange their plans, if necessary, for the upcoming school year.
“I don’t think we’ve violated a promise,” Roth said. “We’ve certainly discouraged you and possibly disillusioned you, and I’m not happy about that.”
Some student suggestions included implementing a grandfathering system, providing discounts to students who now have to stay on campus, upgrading facilities to make resident halls more livable, allowing juniors to live with students who are eligible to live off campus and applying the policy only to incoming freshmen.
Roth was open to hearing those suggestions and encouraged students to keep sharing their ideas.
“We have investigated a broad range of options,” Roth said. “If you’re concerned we haven’t come up with the best option, give us a suggestion. I’m pretty sure we came up with the best decision of those we have considered.”
Hannah Hohenshelt understands the position both sides are in.
“This might be a bummer for transfer students coming in their junior year who already have their own place with roommates or pets and were counting on being able to afford Corban by working and paying their own rent,” she said. “I understand that the changes may have been necessary in order to keep certain programs running, though.”
Geer and Roth confirmed that the changes will not be financing projects like the new sports complex.
The two-hour session left different impressions on the students, but Dewart was thankful for the opportunity.
“I was really grateful that they took the time to come and answer our questions,” she said. “But, I didn’t really, personally, feel like all my questions were answered. But it was still nice to at least be heard.”