Housing policies at Goshen College are getting a makeover — but not quite yet.
Ken Newbold, provost, Gilberto Perez, dean of students and Chad Coleman, director of housing operations, sent an email to residential students Friday afternoon addressing announcements made at the housing information night on Wednesday. The email came in response to student feedback following the meeting.
There will be no changes to the housing policies for the 2019-2020 school year.
In the email, Newbold, Perez and Coleman acknowledge that they need to have “additional discussion with student senate and a greater number of students before a final decision is made about possible changes.”
Changes announced at the Wednesday meeting included the addition of a gender inclusive housing floor, themed housing and revised requirements for living off-campus. Student senate was not involved.
“We apologize for causing any confusion to the housing selection process by not being clearer that this is still in the proposal stage,” said Newbold, Perez and Coleman. “We as administrators should have had better communication with each other and with you.”
Administrators will be holding three listening sessions after midterm break to give students an opportunity to voice their needs and ideas. These sessions will occur Monday, March 4 at 10 a.m., Wednesday, March 6 at 9 p.m. and Friday, March 8 at 10 a.m.. All sessions will be held in Newcomer 17.
Discussions surrounding housing policy began last spring. This fall, a housing subcommittee was formed to tackle specifics.
The subcommittee consists of several administrators, including Glenn Gilbert, director of facilities, Deanna Risser, vice president for finance, Jeremy Corson, executive director of AVI at Goshen College, Coleman and Newbold.
Moving forward, the housing subcommittee hopes to work more closely with students in finding solutions.
“As we schedule more meetings, there will be time for feedback,” said Newbold. “We’ll gather information, structure some ideas, come back, read, react, respond and then come up with something that is representative of the input we’ve heard and would fit what we’re trying to achieve, which is a great student living experience.”
Any changes will be run by the president’s cabinet before a final decision is made.
“There was information that was shared on Wednesday— I’m the first to say that it felt like it was final,” said Perez. “We recognize that we as administrators do need to have done more work. Our work needed to go further with student input and listening to students express their ideas, their vision for what a residential experience might look like.”
Administration is looking to alter GC’s housing policy in order to remedy larger issues, including an increasing lack of demand for Intentional Living Communities (ILCs) in recent years and a changing student body that has led to more inequities in off-campus living requirements. Financial matters are also a factor.
“College is more expensive now versus when these policies were first implemented,” said Coleman. “We try to find ways to make it more affordable.”
One initiative was the implementation of a senior discount applying to any student with at least 112 credit hours. It provides them with a 30 percent housing discount and removes the requirement to purchase a meal plan.
However, Coleman said that there are inequities within the discount, especially for those who didn’t have opportunities to acquire credits prior to college.
“You have a student who has 112 credit hours and then you have another who has 109,” he said. “112 credit hours gives options to live on-campus at a significantly reduced rate and an option to live off-campus. The one who has 109 who lives on-campus for what everybody else pays. That’s their only option.”
Coleman said that a main issue moving forward is finding an equitable way to reward students in their fourth year.
“There needs to be some more internal discussion around the credit hour policy, especially as it relates to equity, inclusion and fairness in our process,” said Newbold. “That will be one of the points that we’ll be discussing in our open sessions.”
Coleman said, “The average student in 2002 came in with less than 10 credit hours. Now they’re coming in with around 22. I’ve never liked rewarding housing privileges on credit hours. I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair way to do it. I’d rather it be that students who come in the same class have the same benefits year over year with housing. That’s a problem that we’re trying to solve.”
Administration is also working to implement gender inclusive housing and themed housing options in the more immediate future.
“One of the things that was shared at the meeting was the themed housing and gender inclusive housing,” said Perez. “Those are the two things that we have done more work on, so those will continue to move forward. That work will happen and continue to evolve the rest of this semester. I think by the housing lottery it should be ready.
Perez and Coleman noted that is important to make the distinction that gender inclusive housing is not a co-ed floor, nor is it not themed housing.
“Someone’s identity is not a theme,” said Perez. “Someone’s identity is their identity.”
Both the above options will involve an application process. Specific themes and locations of themed housing and a gender inclusive floor are yet to be determined.
East Hall and Kenwood House will still be available as ILC options next year. They will only be considered for themed housing locations if there isn’t a continued demand for them as ILCs.
A long-term renovation plan for Kulp Hall is also in the works.
“We talked about whether we would close it down for a year and do some renovations but we feel it’s too valuable of a space to kill for an entire year,” said Coleman. “Our hope is to make incremental improvements over the next several years to get it up to speed. Over several years we can continue to improve Kulp’s experience.”
Work will continue in upcoming semesters in order to establish a collaborative solution for housing policies.
“Giving a chance for students to speak and share ideas with the administration and have a more collaborative approach to defining improvements and enhancements for our residence life experience is important moving forward, ” said Newbold.
In addition to the listening sessions, there will also be communicator announcements in the next week with more detailed information regarding housing updates and processes for the coming year.