What’s up, ResLife?

By Leslie Massicotte

At a residential college like Earlham, the Office of Residence Life holds a major role in the college’s life and functions. By requiring students to live on-campus all four years of their college experience, Earlham’s housing policy is intended to expand Earlham education into a variety of learning spaces beyond the classroom, including into our informal living spaces. With emphasis on community building and learning in all spheres of life, Earlham’s Office of ResLife should be receiving campus-wide support and admiration. Why is this not the My sense as an Earlham senior, admittedly subjective of course, is that not many people like ResLife. I have overheard (and participated in, I will admit) many a complaint about ResLife decisions, rules, and processes. Where is this communal sense of distrust and dislike coming from? Why are various sources of discontent going unaddressed? With the forthcoming articles in subsequent issues of “Fully Present”, I aim to analyze Earlham’s Office of ResLife and its policies in an attempt to create a more transparent, informed view of how the office functions and what the implications of its choices, decisions, and processes are for students and campus as a whole. I want to create a space to publicly examine the unaddressed issues stemming from this distrust with an office that, I feel, should be more attuned to students’ attitudes and needs.

The ResLife Mission Statement, available online, prioritizes student leadership and involvement, stating that, “Students guiding the nature of the [ResLife] program is at the heart of this learning mission.”[1] As an office dedicated to fulfilling students’ housing needs and empowering us to become involved in the ResLife program, why then does so much tension and distrust exist between ResLife and students? Despite this commitment in their mission statement, so many student questions, and areas of discontent, are being left unaddressed: why are so many seniors, like myself, incredibly unhappy with our housing?

Why are college houses so competitive? Why are our dorms kept impeccably pristine while our houses are falling apart? Why does the office of ResLife have so little knowledge about the college house selection process, like who the current housing advisors are, which houses have vacancies, and how students can better increase their chances of living in a house, if that is what they desire? While there are many other questions, these particular ones all revolve around what I find to be a key piece of ResLife’s non transparency: the process of maintaining and deciding Earlham’s themed and friendship houses.Using this theme as the primary focus of my next article, I hope to begin to unveil some non- transparencies surrounding college houses, to explore current student opinions regarding their housing, and to look for opportunities to increase transparency in this area of ResLife jurisdiction.

In pursuing this project of transparency, I heard some very encouraging things from Shane Peters, the Director of ResLife, at the alcohol policy discussion panel in Stout Meetinghouse on October 2nd. Most notably, he emphasized ResLife’s dedication to increasing transparency and to their welcoming of discussion—stated within the context of the alcohol policy, but one would hope that this approach transfers to all ResLife policy in general. So for both students and ResLife alike, let’s begin this pursuit for transparency, starting with college houses.

Want to help out?

I want your opinion about college houses and the housing selection process! What have your experiences been in finding living spaces in houses? How has ResLife helped or hindered in that process? What are your feelings on the pros and cons of the college housing selection process? Send to lmmassi10@gmail.com.

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