The Office of Residence Life Education and Housing recently made some commendable changes to residence hall features and function. Most halls received upgrades, including new computers and furniture for Edwards Hall, parking lot lights near the Smith and Adams Halls and new carpet, paint and vanities for McDonald Hall. Residence Life even extended visitation hours.
However, it made one crucial misstep in the process of summer improvements in the form of equalized dorm costs.
While the goal of keeping cost from restricting students’ living arrangements is laudable, Residence Life ambushed returning students with equalized prices.
Previously, Barret Hall was the most expensive sophomore dorm, with off-campus Smith and Adams Halls listing the cheapest prices. And online price listings only recently have been updated. As late as early July, last year’s dorm prices were still on the ACU Web site.
The only previous mention of equalized prices to which many students can point occurred at a residence life meeting for students last spring, during which John Delony, director of Residence Life Education and Housing, also made reference to plans to convert some residence halls into co-ed facilities and extend sophomore visitation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. multiple days a week, both of which he mentioned with more apparent certainty than equalized dorm costs.
It is possible that Residence Life made efforts to communicate differing dorm costs to returning students, however, clearly, they didn’t try hard enough.
The first time students hear about differences in their bills shouldn’t be when they’re moving in the day before classes start, and it shouldn’t be from RAs or even dorm directors. The news should have come via official, Residence Life notification, either by mail or e-mail. As it is, the manner in which Residence Life chose, or chose not, to communicate defeats their advertised purpose for equalizing costs at all.
According to Wednesday’s Optimist article about Residence Life changes, Deloney said he “didn’t want students picking a hall based on what they could or could not afford,” but because students were given no notification of policy changes until months after they requested dorm room assignments, many students may have chosen based on finances, only to return to ACU to find that the price they signed up for is not the price they’ll pay. And what’s worse, with everyone paying the same amount, they might have chosen to sign up for a different hall, one more suited to their personality or lifestyle, had they realized prices would change.
Residence Life should have prepared adequately for the upcoming year and decided such crucial policy changes before students requested halls last spring. Either that, or it needed to inform students of changes as early as possible and offer the option of submitting a residence hall switch form.
Although Residence Life’s new policy will benefit future students, in the meantime, current students suffer.