University Housing is asking for students’ input in a new survey sent to Cal Poly students via email this week.
The survey is one of the first steps University Housing is taking to improve the on-campus experience for students, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs and Director of University Housing Preston Allen said. Currently, University Housing offers both residence hall and apartment experiences for freshmen, and the goal is to improve that, Allen said.
“It’s kind of a mixed bag and we want to make everyone happy,” Allen said.
Making everyone happy is a challenge though, with growing freshman enrollment and a room count that remains static.
University Housing has been struggling in the past few years to house growing numbers of incoming freshmen, and resorted to solutions such as converting double-occupancy rooms into triple-occupancy rooms, Allen said.
Nonetheless, University Housing is committed to accommodating all incoming freshmen and helping them adapt to life away from home, Allen said.
“We are very excited to offer more housing to all incoming students because we think they deserve the best,” Allen said.
Last year, Cal Poly saw the largest incoming freshman class yet, meaning many students were living in lots of tight spaces, Assistant Director of Housing June Serjeant said.
“We had freshmen living in all kinds of crazy places,” Serjeant said.
Even this year, with the numbers of on-campus freshmen down from more than 4,000 in 2011 to 3,647 in 2012, nearly half (1,744) of freshmen are currently living in triples.
The goal is to provide freshmen with a residence hall community experience, and still allow them space to develop their independence, Allen said.
“Beyond the first year we really want students to be completely independent,” Allen said.
To that end, University Housing developed the survey with independent consulting firm Brailsford & Dunlavey to assess what students look for in on-campus housing, Allen said.
The survey responses could result in new housing developments on campus for freshmen, as well as clubs and greek organizations, Allen said.
While University Housing is committed to housing all first-time freshmen, Cal Poly is also looking into “themed housing,” or on-campus accommodations for specific clubs and groups, Allen said.
While many club members and greek members live together off campus, the themed housing would be designed to help these groups improve their members’ experience, as well as show Cal Poly’s support, Allen said.
“Cal Poly is so connected and grounded in the student experience being attached to a club or organization,” Allen said.
Cal Poly is not the first school to propose the idea of themed housing. Northern Arizona University (NAU) created its Mountain View Hall to house greek members, with 18 of 23 social greek organizations at NAU housed in Mountain View.
Creating themed residence halls like NAU would help residents feel even more involved in the university, as well as closer with members of their organization, Student Life and Leadership greek life director Diego Silva said.
“I think the sense of connection between fraternities and sororities would surely be one thing that would increase,” Silva said.
Greek life has yet to seriously discuss the possibility with University Housing, though, Silva said, and was surprised when a poll about themed housing appeared on the Cal Poly Portal.
Any themed housing development needs to be designed to be attractive to members of campus clubs, Silva said.
“The question is, ‘Would the on-campus housing be more attractive than the off-campus housing?’” Silva said.
Finally, University Housing is looking to accommodate more than just undergrads. The survey is also designed to assess graduate students’ housing needs, Allen said.
Graduate student housing has not been a concern for University Housing until now, but Allen intends to look into helping graduate students as well as new students, he said.
“I’d love to offer the option … It’s real expensive to live on campus as a graduate student,” Allen said.