Each year, the housing selection process can be one of the most chaotic experiences, but Director of Campus Life Eleanor Kahn is constantly trying to envision a more efficient and enjoyable system to adhere to the Knox community.
This year, Kahn and the Campus Life Office adjusted the application process for the students to consolidate the amount of time spent on selecting their rooms. Luckily, the housing selection process was moved online last year, making the selection easier with the impact of COVID-19.
“This year has been in a lot of ways easier, obviously, we made some changes, some of those changes were well-received, some were less well-received, but I have to keep in mind that I’m going to hear from people who are unhappy rather than people who are happy usually. So I would say most people liked the changes that were made, I’m more confident in our housing program which I think helped this year run more smoothly,” Kahn said.
The most prominent change this year was in regard to the priority numbers. Each Knox student is given a number based on their academic year. The lower the number, the earlier each student gets to select their housing. In years past, the priority numbers are averaged with the roommates they select, but this year, the Campus Life Office adjusted it so the lowest number in the group will determine the picking time.
“Rather than housing being broken up into the small apartment, big apartment, and group housing, it was broken up into senior selection, junior selection, sophomore selection. This allowed students to change their roommate groups as the process went along, and this meant that every student had a selection time,” Kahn said, “I think that’s the biggest shift and that’s where we had the most growing pains, but I think based on the conversations I’ve had and based on what I observed, I think that’s a positive shift.”
The changes made in the housing process were discussed between the Campus Life Office and Student Senate to ensure that the student’s voices were heard. Kahn still has ideas for how the process can be adjusted in the coming year, specifically with students who do not have a roommate when selecting.
“I think figuring out how to utilize every single bed without impacting those without roommates in a negative way. This year those without roommates and those with an odd number of groups, it wasn’t the most positive experience and I recognize that and we are brainstorming ways so students aren’t spread out everywhere,” Kahn said. “I think it would be really helpful to have like an in-person find a roommate social, or a Facebook group that campus life moderates that we could put people in to find roommates, cause there was a good number of students who didn’t know what to do because they didn’t have a roommate.”
Another change that has been particularly difficult to figure out is students who request single-gender suites. According to Kahn, most students on the Knox campus seem to not mind a mixed-gender suite, but there are some students who prefer single-gender living due to preferences or religious identities.
“We do have students who prefer single-gender communities, and that can be based on bathroom sharing or religious identities, but being able to identify how many people want that, there’s room for improvement,” Kahn said, “The majority of our students don’t really care or prefer mixed-gender environments, but there is a significant amount who prefer single-gender and right now we kind of do that case by case.”
In regard to the off-campus lottery, Kahn wants to assure students that the lottery is just that, a lottery. For rising seniors who request off-campus, they are put into a random selection where only 25 students were chosen to be placed off-campus. This number is based on projected enrollment and retention from previous years, along with the combination of leaving a cushion for those who petition to be off-campus for personal reasons, and for those who have been previously living off-campus.
“The lottery really is the luck of the draw and there are other students who may petition to be off-campus for other reasons and we have to leave some cushion for that,” Kahn said, “Students who contacted me asking to be reconsidered, I highlighted their names and if I’m allowed to let more off, and if the numbers change to allow me to let more students off-campus, I’ll let the students who went through the lottery and asked me to reconsider.”
Overall, Kahn is proud of the improvement in the housing selection from last year to this year but sees where the improvement is needed for the following years. She hopes that students come to her directly with issues on the housing selection so that she can adjust the application for years to come.
“It’s always a good reminder to students that our office is not a scary office, and even if you leave not liking the answer, it’s worth asking. There’s a lot of students who we really bent over backward for this year, and there are also a lot of students upset and complaining to their friends because they didn’t get what they want who probably never came to our office to ask,” Kahn said.