Making sure Housing doesn't fall on its face
The university rankings released yesterday in The Globe and
Mail were perhaps flawed but nonetheless insightful. Students
who responded to the online survey said Western was tops when
it came to providing a quality on-campus living environment
and most students that have lived in residence would certainly
With the picture so seemingly rosy, it’s rather easy
to rest on our laurels and be comfortable with Housing’s
strategic direction. But this belies a complacent climate,
one which students and staff alike should strive to avoid in
order to maintain and excel in our status as Canada’s
premier residential university.
So where do we go from here if here is where we aimed to
The relationship between Housing and Ancillary Services — the
body in charge of residence life — and other groups and
individuals on campus is often perceived as complex, difficult
and stodgy. To Housing’s credit, they often have to deal
with thorny students who see litigation as an automatic recourse
for anything and everything. But fighting fire with more fire
is a counter-productive approach at best and more likely detrimental
to Housing’s reputation.
As a current residence advisor, I observed Housing scrambling
this summer to find students to fill vacated residence staff
positions, with some spots even being filled during August’s
training period. Whether this was a result of students’ fears
of dealing with the double cohort crowd or students detesting
their previous year in residence is not the main issue.
Housing’s inability to attract and retain interested
students — both sophs and rez staff — is indicative
of the overall deficiency of the department to create an enjoyable
and supportive environment, especially for upper-year students.
Housing needs to start by being more “in-touch” and
realistic in appearance. Generic, feel-good statements have
their place, but empowering and encouraging residence staff
to speak their mind is always well-received by residents, as
they will reciprocate in kind. Just ask my residents of 6 South
in Essex Hall.
Though Housing maintains tight organization over most of
its operations, it often falls flat on its face when branching
out into the community, as witnessed in past attempts to
bring in clubs or other outside groups. Also, many groups
still prefer working the residence system through illegal
means (i.e. flyering rooms at off-times). In both cases,
dialogue needs to start to find a common solution.
Upper-year students need to feel welcome and not alienated.
An upper-year or graduate student residence should be seriously
considered and such students should be able to envision what
it might look like through an open process.
Lastly, an anonymous survey should be distributed to current
and past residents asking them where Housing screwed up and
where it did good. Listen to them, act on their concerns and
then look for another first place in next year’s university