By Jonathan Meilaender
Saint Vincent College’s controversial housing system is dead. Starting this semester, the Office of Student Affairs is introducing a new, online version with SGA sponsorship.
Under the old system, students drew a physical lottery ticket. Seniors and juniors went first, then sophomores, and finally, freshmen. Students were then able to select a room according to the number on the ticket received; that is, number one went first, number 30th, and so on. Students with poor tickets could form a block with a student who drew an advantageous number in order to guarantee better housing options.
Last year, when The Review wrote on the system, there were no plans for a change. But student discontent with the process impelled Bob Baum, dean of students and head of Student Affairs, to look into modifications.
“The desire was student-driven […] our priority is to support the students. We were pleased to find this solution to the student requests we’ve heard through the years to make housing selection more convenient,” Baum stated.
The new system will be similar to the old one in various ways; for example, upperclassmen still have precedence, Baum explained. The main difference is that it’s online.
“It will likely be similar to the prior housing process, but with the benefit of being able to complete it from the comfort of your room or apartment,” he said.
The new system will cost $13,200 upfront and $6000 to maintain annually, explained Joel Santoro, SGA executive council president.
Santoro stated that the Residence Life office did extensive research into programs like this; the chosen program was the least expensive one.
“Another college similar to Saint Vincent uses this software and recommended that we use it if we are in the market for a housing program. The next software was much more expensive, adding up to around $20,000,” he said.
While SGA is sponsoring the program, it isn’t paying the entire cost. Student government will merely pay $7000 of the upfront cost. In return, SGA’s name will be on the software for the duration of its use. Student Affairs had sufficient funds for the program but offered SGA the opportunity to contribute since the new system directly benefits students.
Nevertheless, the decision to contribute the funds was controversial, with debate spanning three SGA Senate meetings. Senior Cullen Higgins was among those opposed to providing the funds, suggesting that the funding was not consistent with SGA’s purpose.
“I’ve been on SGA for a few semesters, now,” Higgins said, “and the school has asked for a lot of these one-time payments. It’s tough, within our budget, to find money to go to the school for things that really should be covered with our tuition. Our funds should go to clubs, other organizations and our capital project.”
There was also confusion within the Senate, concerning what would happen if funding were withheld.
“The senators assumed that they needed that money this semester, or else, that the housing program wouldn’t be implemented until next year. I was okay with giving them the money if they wouldn’t implement it this year otherwise,” Higgins said.
At the final meeting, however, it turned out that the program would have been implemented this semester regardless, and Student Affairs was merely giving SGA a chance to contribute. That, to Higgins, made the funding unnecessary. He was surprised that the measure passed.
Despite his objections, Higgins thinks the new program will benefit students, and is confident that his fellow senators had that objective in mind.
“I do respect the Senate’s decision,” he said, “and I think that the housing program will be a huge benefit to our student body.”