Heights suites moved to application based process for room draw

In an attempt to change the culture of Heights dormitory, Heights suites are now application based. 

Jess Manno, director of Campus Life, explained in an interview with the Echo what the impetus behind this new process was.

“[The new application system] came about because of turnover in residence life and the staffing area, as the person who used to be in charge of the housing process is gone,” Manno said. “This meant that we have divided that work up amongst other folks until we can hire someone permanently. In the meantime, we have a chance to look at all of the housing processes from a fresh set of eyes and see what can be changed.”

Multiple issues, including dorm vandalism, prompted a desire to change the way Heights suites were assigned. 

“Vandalism is a big problem in Heights,” Manno said. “I think about the excessive amount of trash, I think about the screens that are taken out of windows, soot damage, painting damage, all of the stuff that the custodian has to clean up after a weekend. I want to reset that culture.”

Incidents in 2019 led to over $8,000 worth of damage, according to the Residence Hall Damage view on MyColby. 

Professor of Biology Russell Johnson, a Faculty in Residence in Heights, explained the consequences of dorm damage. 

“As residents of Heights, [Russell and his family] are impacted by damage to (and theft of) common room furniture, as that affects the ability of everyone to use those rooms for events and community building. I’d say that all Heights residents (including myself) are affected by the negative tone and lack of good community that comes from the pattern of dorm vandalism.”

“Adding an accountability measure,” Manno said, was the goal of the application process. Campus Life hopes to “create a better living environment for folks” that isn’t based on a random room draw number.

While the decision to switch to applications came about through conversations between select Community Advisors, Area Residential Directors, and Manno, they were not the only ones discussing the need for a change. 

In the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on, Feb. 23, Kara Petronio `21 talked about her education course. While the course was not a catalyst for the change, the discussions reflected the sentiments of some students regarding the process. 

“I was in an education class during room draw, and a lot of people were upset because they thought that their room picks were getting rigged,” Petronio said. “I work for housing so I asked them if they had any suggestions. Their biggest suggestion was to do an application for students, also to combat against buying room picks in heights suites.”

When asked in the SGA meeting why only Heights suites were application based this year, and not suites in other dorms, Manno said “we could not have managed to do all of the buildings this year.” 

Students looking to apply to the Heights suites fill out an application that opens with an explanation of the desire to “creating a culture of leadership, belonging, inclusivity and respect” through the new process. 

Manno said “the Heights application that reframes living in Heights suites as a privilege, and asking people how they would use that privilege to create an inclusive and respectful community.” 

The one question on the application asks students to explain how they will “shift the Heights culture” in an attempt to create an environment that “enthusiastically embraces inclusivity and ensures safety for all.” 

The applications are read solely on merit; seniority is not taken into account until after people are accepted for the randomization of room picks. Manno explained that this decision was made to give sophomores access to communal living that is otherwise difficult to come by through the general rooming application process.

Manno also emphasized that the application process is in a trial phase. 

“This year is about seeing how it works, and if we can create some sort of tangible change. We wanted to start small, with one of the more historically problems areas, and see what kind of difference it made next year before we reevaluated.” 

Johnson is optimistic about the change.

 “I hope that it will lead to the suites being occupied by students who want to be good neighbors and help to build a healthy community in Heights,” he said.

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