Upon the departure of Assistant Director of Campus Life Koreen Kerfoot this past winter, her duties as Head of Housing Operations were filled by Associate Dean of Students for Residential Learning Craig Southern. No stranger to the housing system, Southern had the job until Kerfoot’s arrival at Knox about five years ago.
Despite having had the position before, Southern noticed a change in how the process seemed to work and be received by students. He noted a shift in what students take to be important aspects of their housing situation.
“Cooking matters to students now much more than it did five years ago,” he said. “And I think cooking and the ability to cook drives a lot of students’ housing choices.”
Sophomore Michel Mora thought that this year’s way of choosing housing was more stressful and inefficient than the previous year’s, which was all handled online. Although she ended up where she wanted, in a Tompkins apartment, she had to first apply for a two, three and four person apartment before being granted a five person apartment. In addition to this, she and her roommates were placed in a 24/7 quiet residence area. She attempted to change her situation, but was unable to do so.
“Even after we told them we’re pretty loud people and that wasn’t going to work for us, they still wouldn’t change it,” she said.
Junior Miya Connor also expressed discontent at not having a high enough lottery number to be able to choose her preferred spot to live in for next year. As a rising senior, Connor feels that she should have priority over students who have not been on campus for as long.
“I remember coming here as a freshman and that the seniors would always talk about how they would get the housing that they wanted immediately,” she said. “And so I was waiting and waiting for my senior year just to be very disappointed with how it turned out.”
Connor, who will be living in Queer & Ally House next year, attempted to apply for a three person apartment in Tompkins, but was denied it because she and her roommates all received high lottery numbers. Connor is worried that her living situation will be difficult to deal with during the colder parts of the year.
“Where I’m living is very far away. Where Sigma Chi is is very far away from the buildings,” Connor said. “And so I’m just thinking that Winter Term is going to be a very difficult trek back onto campus.”
Mora believes that a student’s living situation and the comfort they experience are important aspects of their academic performance and well-being. She also feels that more information about housing should be made available to students before they select their housing, as some residences have damages or other qualities that would affect a student’s comfort level. The bathrooms in Tompkins, she noted, are connected to two of the bedrooms, meaning one has to pass through one of them in order to get to it.
“That person is going to have to go through their rooms to go to the bathroom. That should definitely be mentioned and maybe fixed,” she said.
Southern hopes to improve online resources outlining information on the various residential options across campus, ensuring that each student is able to make more informed decisions when choosing where they want to live for the next year. He said that Coordinator of Student Engagement Andrew Salemi, among other projects, is going to work on making more information about housing available online over the summer.
“We always look at the web, but we could do a better job of improving what types of information students have ahead of time, so they can make better decisions,” Southern said.
In addition, Southern wants to return to an online version of housing selection, much like the one used to select housing for this year. He said that, had he been given notice that he’d be operating housing sooner, he would have used the same format.
“By the time I knew I was going to do room selection, I did not feel comfortable enough with the online aspect to do it fairly,” he said. “We will return to online next year.”