The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


RLSH struggles to keep sophomores in halls

It seems to get earlier and earlier – this year apartment hunting started before the first leaf fell. With the number of students reapplying for housing after their first year showing significant decreases since 2001, SMU students know this process can never be too premature and the competition is fierce.

If the trend continues, students could start signing up for leases before they sign up for classes. Residence Life and Student Housing has been monitoring the trend and wants to do something about it.

Beginning next semester, four buildings – Shuttles, Boaz, Mary Hay and Peyton – will begin renovations. According to Leasa Kowalski, RLSH assistant director for Residential Life, North Area and Academic Initiatives, the renovations should finish in 2008 or 2009.

RLSH has held several roundtable discussions with students about what is appealing with regards to dorm living and are applying those suggestions to the remodeled residence halls. The renovated Mary Hay for example, will have a significantly increased number of singles, something students requested.

After the renovations, SMU’s housing will undergo the long-rumored change concerning sophomore housing.

The requirement for sophomores to live on campus will most likely apply to students who are currently 9th graders, according to Doug Hallenbeck, the director of RLSH.

“The sophomore requirement proposal was presented two and a half years ago and will take time to put in effect.

We know we need about 1,500 more beds and we are still deciding on where they will be built,” said Hallenbeck. RLSH Assistant Director of Assignments and Marketing Susan Strobel-Hogan collaborated with other RLSH officials to confirm that SMU would benefit from the proposal. “We looked to peer institutions and aspiration schools when considering the sophomore requirement.

Colleges like Duke and Vanderbilt require upperclassmen to live on campus, so we researched how that helped their academic and social communities,” she said.

“RLSH currently provides around 700 spaces for upper class students to live on campus, which is filled every year,” said Hallenbeck.

According to Hallenbeck, “We want the sophomore proposal not to be a requirement but more of an opportunity.

We know that in order to make the requirement attractive and exciting for students, we have to increase the quality of their living and we are really listening to what the students have to say.”

There are resources surrounding students who are open and ready to do what they can to make SMU better and make the few years of undergraduate education unique.

“I’m not ready to grow up yet – it’s college,” said sophomore Taylor Thornley. Thornley chose to live in an apartment after her first year, and wished her scenario was different.

“I didn’t want to live on campus because I didn’t want to be the only one of my immediate friends not living together in apartments,” she said.

Though she enjoys living with her friends, Thornley said she feels disconnected from campus.

“The attraction to living in an apartment is you have your own space, more independence. But I’ve realized there is still a way to grow up and continue to be on campus.”

Brand-new and state of the art dorms are desirable, but personality and character also help enforce the transition between a first-year dorm and apartment.

“No white walls and heavy doors,” said Thornley.

Sophomore Van Winter lives on campus and enjoys it.

“Classes are all within walking distance, [and] cafeterias, in both the north and south quad, are within sight,” he said.

“You can also walk to numerous restaurants and convenience stores, which is great because of the terrible parking in Dallas,” he said. “I love not worrying about paying utilities; I can keep my room as cold as I want all the time … and use as much electricity as I want.”

Hallenbeck said living on campus helps promote the university community.

“We do a good job of welcoming first year students and involving them in the community. But this connection is lost when they move off-campus as sophomores. They are less likely to stop by a Tate Lecture, Brown-Bag, etc.,” he said. “Living on campus increases activity level and helps to create that ideal liberal arts community.”

Kowalski said RLSH promotes on campus living “not to gain monetary profit but to promote student success … students who live on campus, as a whole, have higher grades and more involvement than commuters.”

Winter agrees the social environment is right there for you.

“It helps you meet new people and all the frat house parties and bus parties are walking distance,” he said.

“This trend of second years moving off-campus isn’t necessarily recent,” said Strobel-Hogan.

“In the last two years or so we did change our housing priority sign-up process,” she said.

“We went from a very selective approach to a more open process that really lets students work with what they want.” Yet it seems students moving off-campus their sophomore year has become a “natural student trend” said to Kowalski.

“There seems to be an independence factor that students feel they need to gain. We aren’t telling them that. We do everything we can to get them to possibly stay,” she said.

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