Posted by The Editorial Board
Complaints among Skidmore students directed at the College's Department of Residential Life are both incredibly frequent, and diverse in the aspects of residential life they address. Res Life is perhaps the most actively criticized sector of Skidmore's infrastructure for reasons spanning from poorly run housing selection to power-hungry RA's and unreasonable fines. Simply put, Res Life is marked by mediocrity. It offers us little that seems worthy of praise, which runs contrary to the glorified notion of "community" that the campus loves to publicly uphold. Our residential life here is what provides that sense of community - it is essentially the cultivator of our non-academic livelihood on this campus. Why, then, does it seem that the department is so far from satisfactory?
It seems that Res Life has neglected to improve with the rest of the College. Its methods seem outdated: from the room mate surveys to the RA on call logs to the slew of un-attended floor programs. As these things become useless on this campus, they shouldbe altered to fit the ever-evolving student body, however, no such thing seems to be occurring. Res life has an incredibly large central staff but it is fairly difficult to determine what exactly the majority of these hired professionals do. It is absolutely unclear what exactly is written into Don Hastings job description, or how exactly Anne-Marie Pryzwara goes about responding to student requests and complaints.
The most archaic, and perhaps most frustrating aspect of Res Life, however, is the process of housing selection. As we have all just received our lottery numbers for this semesters' housing selection, the uniquely aggravating structure to this method of distribution has become enormously prevalent in student conversation. Not only does Res Life give students an incredibly minimal amount of time to make their housing decisions, but they also make the process of finalizing those decisions unnecessarily difficult. Students are asked to decide not only where they would like to live but also with whom, in a matter of days. For students living in apartments or rows of rooms, this means accounting for several other students as well as themselves - not an easy task to accomplish while handling midterms and meetings and all of the other activities that occupy the daytime hours for Skidmore students. For transfer students, students returning from abroad, or even just the more shy members of the community, this can be an incredibly daunting task. As far as making this easier for the community, there is a bulletin board within the Res Life office in Howe Rounds that no one seems to even know is there. Students are meant to post and respond to posts when looking for roommates, but the lack of publicity as well as the inconvenience of this method negates its potential utility.
This is a perfect example of Skidmore's unwillingness to update the housing processes to an online forum rather than keeping endless antiquated records in pen and paper. Liberal arts schools of our general size within the area have all moved their housing selection processes online. Wesleyan provides each student with an e-portfolio, in which they organize their bidding slots, their holds, their potential room mates and any other relevant information, and it is via these online portfolio's that they submit their preferred housing. Colgate uses "Residence by Simplicity," where students submit their own work orders, late and early housing requests and their room selection all within the same convenient online database. Hamilton and Union both have similar online lottery processes, in which students register via a portfolio of their residential information, which is collected in a larger college database. Skidmore requires that we line up and register for our housing in person, which is admittedly annoying, but not the end of the world. We are required to draw our residential life information from several different sources and organize it ourselves rather than the collected e-portfolio that is utilized by most other schools. This simply leaves more room for error and thus more work for the Res Life staff on the other end of things (work that they seem to do very begrudgingly and slowly).
Further, there is no way to know ahead of time what housing has been occupied prior to arriving for your allotted time. This means you can arrive only to be told that your carefully constructed housing plans are no longer a possibility, leaving you to immediately reconfigure plans for yourself and possibly several other people. It seems that it would be so simple to put some apartment/floor plan of the college online and to X off housing as it is taken - even Google Drive could do the trick. This solution is so simple that it's difficult to understand why the changes have not been made already. This, however, is typical of Res Life style. They ignore the simple and modern solutions - they remain comfortable in their mediocrity.
It is crucial to the quality of life at a small liberal arts school, that the Department of Residential life is attentive, accessible, and well run. In its current incarnation, however, few students would agree that Res Life at Skidmore embodies these characteristics.