Res Life policy to require sophomores to live on campus in Fall 2012

Kirstin Cook, Editor-in-Chief

A new Residence Life policy to enforce a two-year residency for incoming students is actually a reincarnation of rules that are at least 20 years old. The new policy will require students to not only remain in campus housing their freshman year, but their sophomore year as well. This sophomore living requirement existed at Wilkes from 1992 to 1999, said Director of Residence Life Liz Swantek.
The idea was made a year ago through the university’s master plan, when the plan committee and an outside architectural firm went through every residence building on campus and assessed the ideal number of residence students. The suggestion was to reinstate the sophomore residence requirement to reach that number, so Residence Life considered the option.
“Obviously instead of just implementing it just away … we decided to look into it some more, do some research, see what other schools are doing,” Swantek said.
Swantek looked at area colleges, and found that most had similar residence rules.
“For the most part, they had either a two-year living requirement or they have four-year living requirements,” Swantek said.
She also considered the history of the policy, and decided that if it worked then, it could work again. She said there is considerable academic research showing positive correlation between living on campus and benefits ranging from “increasing an aesthetic culture” to “increase in graduation rate.”
“We just wanted to know if it fit here, and if it was adaptable,” Swantek said.
Swantek said 46 percent of Wilkes sophomores live off-campus, which is an average of the last three years. To accommodate this increase of students required to live on-campus, Residence Life and Facilities are planning to renovate the Fortinsky buildings next to Schiowitz Hall, similar to the Roth Hall project that combined two older dorm buildings four years ago.
Residence Life won’t seen an increase in students living on campus until fall 2013, which Swantek said gives them time to renovate and make the buildings more pleasing to students.
“We should be at the capacity we need to in order to make this happen,” Swantek said.
Local landlord Bill Henry was surprised to hear the decision, since he said a sophomore residency policy failed at King’s College. He said it will not be a detriment to his business at all, because he can still rely on juniors and seniors looking to move off-campus. He said he supports what the school decides, but administrators should keep in mind what students think.
“I think the school is making a business decision,” Henry said. “I think it’s a good experiment for the school to try, but it’s all up to the students and how they feel.”
Henry, who leases about 12 nearby buildings to Wilkes and Kings students, said one downfall to students living on-campus is they don’t have full access of their apartments, such as over school breaks.
He said the new policy will benefit some of the students, but might not others.
“I think students want to be on their own after freshman year,” Henry said.
Swantek also hopes the new policy will make students feel more involved in campus events.
To accommodate and entertain the growing population of students on campus, Assistant Director of Residence Life Danielle Kern is trying to create more “after hours” activities, such as the recent “Love it or Hate it” event on Friday, Feb. 10. This late night event was held as a pilot to see if students are interested in that type of evening activity.
Residence Life welcomes new ideas for campus events.
“If students want it, we’ll do it … if it works and students really want that, we’ll make it happen,” Kern said.
Swantek said if the students support them, more programs will be created to give students more things to do on campus. She hopes to make students feel more engaged and involved in the campus community.
“We’ll be working with Student Development over the course of the next couple of years just having more of these programs, as long as people are interested,” Swantek said.
Swantek urged that if students have issues with the new policy, that they should discuss them with Residence Life.
“I think they need to voice their concerns so we’re prepared and can help the students in the long run.”