Construction work begins in Stewart, redefining residential life on-campus

Photos of Odell during dorm renovations
Leo Bernstein Newman / The Mossy Log

With the housing application launching on March 1, Campus Living has various updates regarding housing policies for the coming year.

Assistant Dean for Campus Life Benjamin Meoz, who started at Lewis & Clark last year, said students felt there was a lack of transparency in the process last academic year, as well as unusual circumstances due to the pandemic, Stewart and Odell construction and increased admissions.

“I think we are coming off of the year wanting to be responsive to student feedback as much as possible,” Meoz said. “So we’re leaning heavy into education this year.”

In addition to Meoz, many of the staff now working in Campus Living started last academic year. This was also when Platt-Howard Residential Experience Manager (REM) Serena Carubis ’24 started working as a residential advisor (RA).

“In general, the relationship between Campus Living and the student body wasn’t great before last year,” Carubis said. “Then last year, they had all the growing pains, basically, and even for an RA it was a complicated role just because there were so many growing pains and just a lot of change.”

Unlike in previous years, for the 2023-24 academic year, there will be no residency requirement exemptions. However, if students study abroad during their sophomore year, this will now count towards up to one semester of the requirement.

“The last couple of years, we have offered rising sophomores an opportunity to try and exit the residency requirements,” Meoz said. “Each of those years was for a different reason. That first year was due to that monster class that was coming in and needing the additional room; this year, we have the renovation of Stewart and Odell, reducing our housing and capacity, but there’s no intention to offer that path this year.”

Meoz said the goal for residency requirements is to provide a smooth transition for first years and sophomores and to encourage higher retention rates. Campus Living and Institutional Research analyzed enrollment retention data for that group from the 2021-22 academic year. This data is correlative, so it does not indicate a cause, given that lowerclassmen who chose to take advantage of the exemption may have already been more likely to drop out or feel less close to the LC community.

According to Institutional Research, “Though their average GPAs were comparable, students that lived off-campus (especially those who started at L&C in Fall 2021) reported drastically lower retention rates than those students that lived on campus. Depending on the population and term, the retention rate for off-campus students was less than half of the rate for on-campus students.”

In the coming year, there will also be an emphasized focus on Living Learning Communities (LLCs). According to Platt- Howard Area Director Julia Pacheco-Cole, the Global Village LLC will be renamed Global Languages and Cultures, the Career LLC will be renamed Launchpad and the the Multicultural Engagement LLC will also incorporate a social justice aspect in coordination with The Center for Social Change and Community Involvement. The multicultural LLC will also be renamed, though Campus Living is still taking suggestions.

“Another thing is that REMs are really focused on the Living Learning Communities, which are going through their renaissance right now,” Carubus said. “Behind the scenes, there’s a lot of LLC work going on (with) a lot of changes to make them better, more accessible, kind of more investment for the students — something that the students want to invest in and be a part of.”

The Travel Lounge LLC will continue in Stewart Hall when renovations are finished for all overseas participants. In general, all students who are applying for one semester on campus will be placed in Stewart. Exceptions to this include seniors graduating during the 2023-24 academic year and students with approved accommodations not feasible in Stewart. According to an email sent by Campus Living, “One-semester students assigned to Stewart will get advanced room selection for the following academic year (2024–25) in order to balance out this policy.”

According to Meoz, this change enables Campus Living to fill spring semester vacancies that had previously been unfilled because upperclassmen had moved out of areas that new students are not eligible to live in. Meoz anticipates this will help reduce overflow housing for the spring. Additionally, Stewart will be used for Winter Break temporary housing so Hartzfeld students will not have to consolidate between semesters.

However, Campus Living expects some degree of overflow housing to continue in the following years. This year, overflow rooms were also offered to returning students for a lower price in order to voluntarily fill overflow, especially because, according to Meoz, returning students with roommate groups are less likely to have conflict.

“It’s understandable for students to be concerned or worried about overflow housing, especially for our first years,” Pacheco-Cole said. “From our data and looking at student perspectives from this past semester, it seems like it’s tight quarters, it’s not the ideal living situation, (but) most are doing okay with it overall.”

For the coming year, Meoz said some overflow rooms will be reverted into communal spaces. However, there will also be some permanent reconfiguration of these spaces into quads that have functional kitchens, which will be a unique opportunity for underclassmen.

“Next year, our prime goal is to not have to take offline community spaces,” Meoz said. “I firmly believe that Stewart and Odell being offline for half a year really was a driving factor in how exceptional we had to be this year with creating new overflow.”

Some students have had gripes with remaining vacancies being unfilled while overflow housing was still in place. Part of this problem will be solved with the new one-semester housing policy.

However, Campus Living does need to retain some emergency housing spots for harmful roommates situations, high- risk students who have roommates with COVID-19, and structural issues, such as the recent basement flood in Ponderosa Hall, which led to six students being relocated. Next year, emergency housing levels will return to pre-pandemic levels of around five rooms, according to Meoz.

“Looking ahead to next year as the endemic – I mean, it’ll never come to a close, I guess will be permanently in (an) endemic – but we won’t have the need to carve out these blocks of rooms at the same scale, unless public health circumstances change and guidance changes,” Meoz said.

For students planning to live on campus next year, the priority deadline for applications and deposits is April 2. For those who submit their materials after this date, students who still have a residency requirement will be put in the latest room selection time slot and will not be able to build roommate groups. Students who do not have to live on campus will be put on a waitlist that will be addressed once all other applications are seen through.

For additional information, students can attend numerous info sessions hosted by Campus Living on Feb. 28. These sessions will be for on-campus housing (5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. in Templeton 350) and off-campus housing info (5:30, 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. in Templeton 353). Additionally, there will be a Living-Learning Community Fair from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in the Trail Room and individual and small group housing advising sessions from 5 to 9 p.m. in Templeton 352.

Once the application opens on March 1, Campus Living staff will hold weekly Zoom Q&A sessions on Fridays for the remainder of the semester. Meoz will also hold open hours on Fridays from 12 to 2 p.m. in the Trail Room. Two additional in-person information sessions will be held in April: a roommate finding and group creation session on April 4, as well as a room selection process session on April 18.

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