Some Have Gripes with New Housing SystemPosted: April 13, 2012
Laura Bakopolus, ’13, Staff Writer
We might not like the idea of doing something differently, but once in a while, change is good; it is a sign of growth and progress. And one of the improvements made to Merrimack this year is affecting the entire student body right now: housing.
As usual, students who paid their room reservation deposit have been randomly assigned a lottery number, indicating the round and sub-group during which they can select housing. However, there are two differences this year. For starters, students are allowed to pay a partial deposit based on the implication that the remainder will be paid by May 1. The second difference is slightly more ground-breaking: Instead of having to log onto MyMack and stare at a computer screen, refreshing the page constantly, the new housing selection process is being facilitated the old-fashioned way – by pen and paper.
Completed roommate and housing preference forms were due to the Residence Life Office by April 2. Rather than ask students to battle against the clock and try to claim rooms before their peers, the Residence Life Office will evaluate the handed-in forms and assign rooms based on availability at the time of students’ rounds and groups. Students will be notified of their housing assignment by receiving a Merrimack e-mail during the week of April 16 to 20.
Though Residence Life intended the process to run more smoothly and effectively, always keeping the students’ welfare in mind, there are many unsettled feelings in the student body regarding this year’s housing changes. Even prior to filling out the forms, many students have felt the process has wrought some confusion and frustration in terms of where they should choose to live and how they can go about living there.
Off-campus housing is a hot topic right now due to the growing number of accepted students. On campus, many rooms originally built for two are being forced into triples. Freshmen and sophomores are guaranteed on-campus housing, but incoming juniors and seniors must enter a lottery. They either fill out a form to participate in either the on-campus or off-campus housing lottery. The decision to disable students from participating in both lotteries has left some students concerned, since they originally thought they would be able to live near the campus and pay through Merrimack’s room and board plan. However, the recent acquisition of Franciscan-retreat-house-turned-college-dormitory, St. Francis Hall, located approximately 15 minutes from campus on River Road in Andover, left students feeling more frustrated than ever.
Like anything else, living in St. Francis Hall will have its advantages and disadvantages. Merrimack has been working with Sodexo to figure out a way to provide a daily continental breakfast for students living there. Mack cards will be accepted in more places in the area, laundry facilities will be free, wireless internet will be offered, the green space outside will be transformed into a social atmosphere complete with volleyball nets and picnic tables, and shuttle transportation will be provided.
However, cable will not be offered in student bedrooms due to cost. Students will be required to have a meal plan (19, 13, or 9) rather than given the option, and shuttle transportation may not be running at times convenient to everyone (since it is nearly impossible to accommodate every single student’s schedule). Also, the distance between St. Francis Hall may be farther away than students’ houses, so is it really worth it to live at school?
This question is being posed by many students, including junior Kayla Hennigan. Hennigan lives in Medford and works in her hometown three to four nights a week. She could not see any sense in living off-campus through Merrimack if she lives within a 30-minute drive.
However, if she were forced to live at home and commute for her last year rather than live with friends (since that would be the obvious choice in terms of financial and time concerns), she would miss out on the great social aspects of living at Merrimack that she got to enjoy this past year, she said.
She, like many other students graduating next year, is torn.
Since it will accommodate students who would otherwise not fit on campus, St. Francis Hall is the only option for college-leased off-campus property. Therefore, if you entered in the off-campus lottery through Merrimack (as opposed to finding an apartment on your own), you will be living in St. Francis Hall. The off-campus forms only pertain to students pursuing housing at St. Francis Hall, which students felt was not clearly explained.
Junior Stephen Francis said, “I would have appreciated more information about the off-campus housing situation before the deadline to file housing paperwork. Had I known the sole off-campus housing option was living in St. Francis Hall, I wouldn’t have applied for the off-campus housing selection. I know I’ll find an apartment one way or another, but the process has been frustrating.”
Sophomore Alycia Sullivan is not thrilled with the new rooming process either. She explained that “it really puts some serious pressure on the upcoming juniors” in particular. She craftily proposed that “the school could have easily developed a four-year plan where they could increase housing over the next four years, so that the school could accommodate the growing number of incoming students over the years rather than kicking out students who have been at the school for two or more years.”
Sullivan went on to say: “I think it’s great that Merrimack wants to grow, but Merrimack is not in an area where it can grow to be like a Northeastern University or an Emerson College. Students want to go to Merrimack because it is small and personal, not large and impersonal.”
Indeed, Merrimack’s close and warm atmosphere was a positive feature that initially attracted many of its current students; unfortunately, with the growing number of students and the forced off-campus housing, some students are no longer able to see the family-like community they thought Merrimack had achieved in previous years.
The general consensus is that the change is more bothersome than need be. And if that is the case, then why change at all? Upon hearing about the modification, alum Joän Mejia, a 2005 graduate, could only shake his head. “My parents did it the old-fashioned way and they turned out pretty good. I did it the old-fashioned way and it worked fine. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
However, even beyond the confusion regarding off-campus housing, not all students are sour about the new process as opposed to registering online. Junior Declan Geoffrion Scannell prefers the paper system: “It means that whether you get your spot is only based on your credits and the random draw, instead of being partially based on who’s willing to stare obsessively at a web page for hours or try to game the system. Plus, with the paper system, a real human can judge your preferences and give you something that’s kind of like what you wanted, even if you miss out on what you really wanted—unlike a computer which just tells you, ‘Nope, go find something else.’ Then, by the time you go find something else, everything’s been snatched up.”
There are pros and cons to each method, as there are always two sides to any argument. Students are entitled to prefer one tactic of registering to another, but the reality is that they must adapt to the growth and progress Merrimack is experiencing and will continue to undergo in the