This fall, 665 students began attending Clark University, becoming the largest first-year class in a decade. The large quantity of students has had a variety of implications for the entire student body along with the first-year class, particularly impacting residence halls and students living on campus.
When asked about the housing situation, Residential Life and Housing (RLH) explained their biggest point of concern was providing housing to all first years as well as all upperclassmen who wanted on-campus housing. Additionally, they stated they were unable to stick to their usual timeline for assigning housing due to the size of the class.
“First year residence halls filled up immediately,” wrote Taylor Anderson, Coordinator for Campus Life Operations at Clark University.
To create additional rooms, RLH worked with facilities management to convert some lounge spaces into rooms. Additionally, five double rooms were converted into triples.
During the summer, RLH was unable to offer as many room changes as it has in previous summers. Anderson explained, the “priority was to ensure that all students who needed a housing assignment had one,” so fewer room changes were offered because of limited space. All the room swaps were able to be processed, but not as many could be accomodated.
Anderson further explained that RLH “worked with other colleges in the area to purchase additional furniture to furnish these newly-created spaces.” RLH also offered upperclass students living in mixed halls the option of room changes and housing preferences that may not have initially been available. This compensated for running out of first-year housing assignments. Rooms offered to upperclassmen were the same price to ensure students did not spend additional money on housing.
Because of the limited ability to accommodate room changes, RLH anticipates that “there will be more need for mediation in roommate conflicts on campus,” said Anderson, adding that there are “less opportunities for room changes,” so students will need to rely more on mediations and problem solving when faced with roommate conflicts.
Additional challenges for students will be available parking and increasing amounts of trash and recycling in the residence halls. Furthermore, for the 2020-2021 school year, “the most desired spaces on campus (Blackstone Hall and single rooms) will be selected even faster than what is considered normal,” as there will be more participants than ever before, Anderson noted.
The University’s administration, not RLH, is responsible for the changes to the residence halls and houses, so RLH did not provide any information on what changes may be made to the residence halls and houses. However, Anderson explained that RLH is currently focusing on adjusting mattresses and bed frames in the rooms.
When asked if there was any benefit to having a large group of students in a residence hall, Anderson enthusiastically explained that “a full residence hall helps to create a real sense of community” for students. She maintains that a full residence hall provides more opportunities to meet new people, engage in conversations with all types of people, and make connections.
One first-year student living in Wright Hall said she had no complaints about housing and liked the hall. Another first-year student said it was difficult to change rooms, further emphasizing Anderson’s point, and an additional first-year said the common rooms can get very loud because of how many people are in them. Other comments from students included smelly common rooms and hair in the bathroom, but it is unclear if those problems are unique to this class.
Anderson also emphasized that RLH is currently short-staffed. Though everyone is committed to making this a good year, she noted there are specific challenges and limitations related to their smaller-than-usual staff. She also credited the Resident Advisors for their contribution in creating a positive environment within the residence halls.