From that first week stuck in the cramped double in Gulick, freshmen begin to dream about the luxury of senior housing.
Living in the senior suites or townhouses are goals and aspirations students set the minute they step onto campus that first weekend.
The senior living arrangements provide Springfield’s upper classmen with the apartment style living they crave, with luxuries such are personal kitchens and bathrooms and air conditioning.
No one would blame a student for jumping on the opportunity to live in the senior village before their turn in line. That is why when the Office of Finance and Administration sent out an email saying they moved summer housing, traditionally held in the senior suites, to Gulick the student body was in an uproar.
The proposal was for the summer semester students, mostly those in the health science department, to live in Gulick for $95 per week while the senior suites were under renovation.
“We have really tried to make a commitment to our residence halls over the last decade,” stated John Mailhot, Senior VP for Finance and Administration. “We were in a position where our townhouses, senior suites and living center all had similar renovation needs. It is always more cost effective when we do them together and that was the strategy.“
“Retrospectively, we made a decision and the [original] decision was later than what we would have liked. Many of our students felt the timing was right and they disagreed with it.”
Students spoke out with frustration stemming mostly from confusion and not understanding how such a decision could be made without their knowledge.
The outrage stemmed from two major sources; pricing and location. Switching from the senior suites to Gulik meant trading in personal apartments, with kitchens and bathrooms, to shared living spaces.
The pricing however seemed to be the biggest surprise. Having consistently been $50 since the early 1990’s the sudden jump to $95 dollars took students aback.
“If you think about it, in the summer, the rooms are the same with the same services (cable, internet, RDs, laundry, etc.),” said Mailhot. “If you’re here in the summer there really isn’t a reason why the price for a room in the summer shouldn’t be the same as in the fall or spring ($135 a week).”
Mailhot went on to state that the gradual rise in price is to eventually get close to that $135 a week in order to not lose money over the summer. At $50 a week for the summer housing Springfield College is actually at a loss, which is fine since the campus has less traffic but a loss is a loss.
“Having said that we understood that it was a really late notice for such an increase,” continued Mailhot, who’s Financial and Administration staff came up with a way for them to hear the student’s voices.
With an open forum held for students to speak their mind and voice their concerns, John and the rest of the Financial and Administration staff were ready to listen.
“The panel started off by explaining what the living situations were going to be and we all had questions and concerns that we wanted to express,” said Eric Del Negro a student planning to stay on campus during the summer.
“Both side were very professional and we [the students] were thankful enough to have our voices be heard.”
And heard they were.
“The Students in that room did a very good job of articulating their concerns and their needs,” continued Mailhot. “When all was said and done they did a nice job”
Within days, Mailhot said, the Financial and Administration staff and the president were working on ways to accommodate to the student’s needs and by the end of March they had their answer.
This time the email stated that summer hosuing will be held in the senior suites with the price dropping to $75. Reform was made and the students and staff could breath a sigh of relief and start looking forward to the summer yet again. This time the students agreed.
“I fully believe they heard us,” commented Del Negro. “They made the changes that we advocated for.”
“We understood what [the students] wanted but we also know that they have to give and take with us too,” said Mailhot.
With the students voicing their opinion and being heard, many on campus are chalking it down as a win for the student body. However, as reform was made that evidently did side with the students, its not all that hard to see how the administration won too.
Listening to students, understanding their view point and putting that into reform are things the administration staff do on an every day basis so the students concern did not come as a surprise.
However the way the staff handled the student concerns, holding an open form and listening, is commendable. It shows that they are willing to change and morph their plans in order to adhere to the student body.
With the concern cleared and spring here, its time to start looking towards the future. For some that means roasting marshmallows over a fire or lying on a beach. For those staying here it means staying in a well deserved and earned air-conditioned senior suite.