Western announced yesterday it will build a new residence on University Drive which will eventually house 400 students. The construction is part of Western's resolve to provide an on-campus residence space to all first-year students. Although this was the goal this school year, there were more Frosh enrolled than expected and some had to be shipped to the King's Inn, located downtown.
Offering on-campus housing is a smart recruitment tool for new students. For students who have never lived on their own before, residences can help with the adjustment period by providing a small community right outside the classroom door. Western has actually been behind in this area, as universities like Guelph are able to provide a higher percentage of student housing on-campus.
But while this goal is being accomplished, residence councils and Sophs are still left wondering what will become of their roles in student housing.
Earlier this month, students were told the university will not be able to provide guaranteed housing for Sophs and upper-year students. First-year students are being given first priority. Student groups have complained that by eliminating Sophs, the administration is cutting off a vital source of support for Frosh in residence.
It appears the administration still does not recognize the role a Soph plays in residence life as no guarantees have been made that the policy will change after the new residence is built.
There is a fear too, that residence councils will become appointed committees, something which could drastically change the way rez life functions. The councils, in conjunction with Sophs, organize first-year activities throughout the year. Without them, social gatherings like pubs and charity events would be a thing of chance.
An outside appointed council would not be aware of everything going on within the residence because members would not live there. It would be making decisions about residence operations without feeling the heartbeat. It would also be difficult to continue to mentor students.
It is important to have elected representatives because students should know and trust those who will be making decisions on their behalf. Students need to have a say in who they think will do the best job putting forth their interests. And for representatives to be accountable to their residence, they should be elected democratically.
But perhaps it is best that no promises have been made by the administration in this matter. After all, promises are meant to be broken, as they say.