By Cassondra Kirby/Editor
When Catherine Haven packed for her first year at Eastern, she was excited about the new life she was about to begin and couldn’t wait to see her new dorm room. She made more than a dozen trips to the local Wal-Mart, and bought everything from a Linkin Park poster to decorative photo albums.”I was excited because I was going to be living out on my own,” Haven said.
During freshmen move-in day she was anxious to rush up to her room and begin decorating her new home.
When she opened the door, her excitement vanished.
Like some students who come to Eastern, Haven was dreaming of freshly painted walls, new furniture and a space she could personalize. Instead, she said she got ugly tiled floors, dull painted walls that wouldn’t allow anything to stick to them – including her Linkin Park poster – and a room that couldn’t be re-arranged to her taste because of the electrical outlet placements.
She was disappointed.
James Conneely, vice president of student affairs, and the housing staff at Eastern are working on a plan that, among other things, could make students’ dorm room dreams a reality and improve overall residence hall living on campus – a plan that could make on-campus housing more desirable to students.
“We are looking at a 10-year plan to address the challenges that university housing faces, not just here but other institutions as well,” said Conneely at a special Board of Regents meeting Tuesday.
“The days of the tile floors and the institutional one-color walls and no carpet has changed. Students today are looking for facilities that represent more of a residential nature – something they can sink their teethes in.”
Conneely said the master housing plan also addresses creating a fresh look throughout the residence halls – including some carpet throughout the building, different types of paint jobs and new computer labs.
He said the residence halls have computers in them, but each building only has four computers, no matter what size the building is.
“Really, computers need to represent how many students are living in the building and how many are using the network,” Conneely said. “I think ITDS and housing have done a good job to try to get computers in the residence halls, but computers in the main lobby is not what students need.”
He said students need a quiet area where they can sit down and work. Along these same lines, Conneely said students also need study and conference rooms in the residence halls as well – areas that are well lit, comfortable and promote student interaction.
Some of the other major housing changes that are being discussed in the draft plan are the addition of apartments and suites at Eastern, special interest floors for students and the integration of the academic mission in the residence halls.
Conneely also hopes to eventually make housing self-supporting – meaning all money made by room fees would be put back into housing instead of using the money other places in the university or the university giving money to housing to support it. He said the housing office at Eastern should be a resource to the school, not a financial drain on it.
Conneely realizes these changes and updates at Eastern will not come without a cost.
Eastern currently has the lowest housing rate of all state university colleges. Although Conneely said to remain competitive, Eastern’s housing rates need to be updated to align the university with benchmark schools, he could not comment further.
“I have not had the opportunity to sit down with the president and review that information, and so I am very uncomfortable with sharing it,” he said. “We cannot look at living rates in isolation without the big picture of the situation and some of those factors are still being considered, so I am not going to be able to share specific increase information or rate change information.”
Although Conneely noted that the plan is only a draft and a work in progress, he said it is heading Eastern’s housing in the right direction – and he hopes, after the plan has been finalized and implemented, students will agree.
“A residence hall is not just a bed where you sleep, it’s not just a place to hang your clothes,” he said. “We want the residence hall to be a true integrated living and learning environment.”
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