Since UB was rated #1 for "dorms like dungeons" by the Princeton
The Spectrum reviewed information and interviewed staff from UB's sister
This is the second piece in a three-part series examining six aspects of that report.
On-Campus Residency Requirements
Out of the six universities contacted, including the four SUNY centers and two private universities, UB was the only higher-education institution that does not require its first- or second-year students to live on campus.
According to Joseph Krakowiak, director of University Residence Halls and Apartments, there are two reasons UB has not implemented such residency requirements: first, UB cannot accommodate the number of students such a requirement would generate and second, the university believes students should have the right to choose where they wish to reside.
"If [living on campus] is not mandatory, that means we have to try harder instead of saying 'no matter what you want, you have to be here,'" said Krakowiak. "We want students to want to be here."
Vice President for Student Affairs Dennis Black concurred, adding that giving students the choice of living on or off campus forces the university to make living in the residence halls or university apartments the more appealing option.
"We think it's better for people to make that choice instead of forcing that choice," said Black.
Eileen Simmons, coordinator of housing at Syracuse University, said the requirement helps SU ensure a safe living environment for its students and builds a stronger, more connected on-campus community. Considering 65 percent of SU students live on campus, Simmons said students usually choose to remain in the university's residence halls, even after the two-year housing requirement has expired.
"We want students to say, 'I'm not just living in this dorm, I'm a member of a community and I should be active in that community'," she said.
According to Charles Lamb, director of SUNY Binghamton's university residence halls and apartments, freshmen at SUNY Binghamton are required to live on campus due to a shortage of low-cost student housing in close proximity to the university.
UB students, in contrast, have a wide range of apartment selections in University Heights or in the suburbs surrounding North Campus. While UB is trying to attract students to on-campus apartments, SUNY Binghamton is forced to discourage additional on-campus residents due to increased population and a lack of space.
"We need to have more students move off campus," said Lamb.
Bryn Mawr College, home to 90 percent of its comparably small student body of approximately 1,200 students, also has a freshman residency requirement. Assistant Director Lauren Hoyt of Residential Life believes such a large number of students live on campus because most of the college's programming and social activities, such as weekly resident-advisor-sponsored "hall teas," are centered in the residence halls.
"Very few upperclassmen choose to live off campus, which really points to their enjoyment of living in the dorms," said Hoyt.
Bryn Mawr's residence halls topped the Princeton Review's 2001 rankings, earning the "Dorms Like Palaces" distinction.
When planning their annual budget, UB residence hall staff rely heavily on the Residence Hall Association, a student organization funded by a portion of the housing fee which develops residence hall programming and activities, to gauge student opinion on housing at UB.
"RHA asks what [students] would like to see and studies what students would be satisfied with and we see where we would need to be improved," said Krakowiak.
But, according to RHA President Timothy Roberts, this system is not always effective.
"This campus is notoriously apathetic," said Roberts. "We do not get as much of a response as we want ... but if there is a major issue that students are worried about, we get good feedback."
The most common complaints RHA receives from students are about poor food quality, unsatisfactory busing service, inadequate room lighting and the recurring plight of parking.
These complaints are similar to those expressed by resident students at SUNY Albany, according to Kristi Peacock, office manager of ResLife for UAlbany. Peacock said the university is "always getting blasted for the food" and students do not get involved as much as residential staff would like them to, but she believes poor ratings are sometimes just a symptom of students trying to adjust to life on campus.
"I think a lot of students just aren't used to sharing space with someone else," said Peacock.
While RHA previously conducted surveys regularly - something they have not done in the past year - Roberts said the organization frequently accesses surveys conducted by University Residence Halls and Apartments which he described as "very comprehensive."
Simmons said Syracuse students are frequently surveyed and consulted when changes are being made in the residence halls, particularly concerning the purchase of new furniture. For example, students are given the opportunity to try out a series of desk chairs and lounge couches and assess which pieces are most comfortable and visually appealing.
"We're not the ones living there, so we want students to tell us what they want," said Simmons.