Students’ summertime housing could get the axe

Repairs to Main Apartment Complex housing mean students used to living on campus during the summer could get the boot in 2008.

“We have an intensive life-safety project scheduled to occur during the summer months of 2008 with the installation of a fire sprinkler system in the MAC apartments,” said Debra Lovaas, director of Dining, Housing and Conference Services at UAA, in an e-mail interview.

She noted that housing services still plans to accommodate nursing and med-school students with summer housing, because their programs are year-round.

Other students, however, will need to find somewhere else to spend their summer if the university proceeds with its current plans. Housing in the North, East and West halls and Templewood apartments is reserved for conference guests during the summer and is not made available to students.

The university generates more revenue from conference guests than students in housing during a 12-week period reserved for conference guests, Lovaas said. Student housing reserves 90 beds for students in the summer. In 2007, 43 of those beds were occupied.

Michael Votava, associate director of Residence Life, said he opposes housing services plans.

“I would encourage students to make their voices heard to the Residence Hall Association, to USUAA, with regards to their feelings on the topic,” he said. “I informed my student staff members last week that they are probably not going to have the opportunity to work on campus this summer.”

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His job, he said, won’t be affected if Housing Services plans don’t change. An official announcement has not been made.

In 2007, four students were hired as resident advisers to provide social opportunities like barbecues, trips to ball games and summer programs.

He’s also worried about students who planned on living on campus, he said.

“Residence life programs help increase college students’ ability to be successful,” Votava said. “We add values to their experience, and that’s something that students are going to lose if we don’t have housing this summer.”

Housing services is a valuable part of Residence Life, he said, because it fills beds that students vacate during the summer and helps keep costs down during the school year.

A compromise needs to be reached, he said.

Holly McCune, resident adviser MAC One, said she was planning to live on campus next summer as a resident adviser.

“I was planning on applying for the summer position. I know it’s really competitive,” she said.

Without on-campus housing, her choices are few and include moving in with her boyfriend, or mother, who has a one-bedroom apartment, she said.

She thinks the housing situation is an unfortunate crisis.

“That, to me, is not making students a top priority,” she added.

She thinks the Residence Housing Association will be taking action to support other options than the one housing services is providing, she added.

Nick Zapata, president of Residence Hall Association, said he supports housing services and the installation of the fire sprinkler system, “and whatever renovations that they’re doing. That stuff needs to be done for sure for the safety of students.”

He’d like to see regular students accommodated during the summer by housing in the same manner as med school and nursing students, he said. To determine the resident majority opinion on summer housing, the association is conducting a survey.

The association will take action to fulfill student needs when the survey is complete, he said.

“Student housing should always be a top priority, all year round,” he said.

Lovaas said Residence Life student employment wouldn’t be affected unless it chooses to hire fewer resident advisers. Housing services would still employ the same number of student staff, 40, to help operate the summer conference program.

Like Votava, she noted that conferencing revenue offsets the costs of operating student housing, which enables them to keep rates lower for students.

In that way, student housing is their top priority, she said. Conference guests include church groups, staff programs and adventure groups.

The housing services mission statement reads, “We deliver high quality, cost effective, business support services to students, faculty, staff, and our community.”

Study shows students living on campus more likely to succeed

Michael Votava, associate director of Residence Life, said students want to live on campus because of the convenience it offers.

An appreciative inquiry study of residential students and staff performed in December 2006 shows students love living on campus for social relationships, planned events, the college life experience and the level of safety it provides, Votava said.

Dean of Students Bruce Schultz introduced the study last year, he added.

“What is most exciting about being a resident on campus?” the study asked 36 students randomly chosen to participate. “Please use a recent example from your time here in UAA’s Residential Community to describe what you mean.”

The results:

16 chose “convenience/proximity to location and services.”

10 chose “meeting new people.”

9 chose “spending time with friends and socialization.”

7 chose “participating in activities.”

3 chose “other.”

2 chose “safety.”

1 chose “independence.”

1 chose the “ability to study.”