Housing reform in the works
After extensive discussion at last week's informal Student Government Association (SGA) meeting, the Housing and Facilities Advisory Committee (HFAC) brought the housing reform proposal to the floor for questions and debate at Sunday, November 15's formal meeting.
The proposal includes three major changes. The first is an increase in the quota restricting the percentage of seniors allowed to make up a dorm's population. The number will rise from 25 percent to 50 percent.
The second major change is to create a lottery system for selection of suites (defined as any room housing four or more people, excluding the Alfond Apartments). Students would enter their names in groups of four, five or six, depending on the size of the suite they want. Groups with the highest averaged lottery number would have first choice of suites. Groups would have the right to drop out of the suite lottery at any time and participate in regular room draw.
The third major change is the creation of "block housing," in which every Hillside and un-renovated Roberts Row dorm would contain a grouping of some combination of two doubles and one triple that any student in the regular room draw could select. Then that student could pull in up to five friends.
HFAC contacted several of the College's peer schools to get insight into their housing selection programs. The new proposal is very similar to the selection processes at both Bates and Bowdoin.
The main goal of the proposed changes is to further benefit the seniors each year. In the past past, under the current system, seniors have frequently been denied open quads because the quotas for the dorms have already been filled.
Some representatives argued that an elimination of senior quotas alone would solve many of the problems. Others discussed the idea of ranking suites and designating certain, "more desirable" suites as available exclusively to seniors.
HFAC's reform proposal is far from a finished product, but HFAC members stressed that the document is an all-or-nothing endeavor. "We aren't going to vote on this item by item. We are going to vote on this proposal as a whole. That being said, we are going to take your recommendations from this discussion and change the document," Class of 2012 Co-President and chief author of the HFAC proposal Justin Rouse '12 said.
The next step for the project, and likely the most crucial to its success, is feedback from the student body. "We don't want to make the situation worse for students, so if we are getting feedback from our constituents that the suite lottery is a horrible idea, then we aren't going to do it."
Parliamentarian and HFAC member Julie Achenbaum '10 encouraged representatives to talk to constituents and "get as much discussion going as possible."
"Talk to us, e-mail us, give us as much feedback as possible," Rouse said.
SGA also released the first of what is promised to be many polls aimed at soliciting more specific feedback from students. SGA is actively seeking responses via an online poll, as well as a table set up in Pulver. The first poll question is, "How would you improve Cotter Union?"
Publicity Chair Ricky Schwartz '11 also released a set of poll questions to be distributed by dorm presidents with the help of the Residence Hall Associations.
The Executive Board chastised several representatives for not doing what SGA President Jake Fischer '10 called the "bare minimum" of writing dorm newsletters and picking up poll questions for in-dorm distribution.
Class of 2012 Co-President Laura Maloney questioned the commitment of the one-third of the representatives that failed to pick up their survey questions on time. "How are we going to convince the student body that we are legitimate if we don't even care about this?"
Looking ahead, SGA also plans to discuss changes to the dorm damage policy at next week's informal meeting. "We haven't been focusing on the root of the problem, which is why there is dorm damage," Vice President Katie Unsworth '10 said, reporting to SGA as a representative of the Academic Affairs Committee.