New WCU Residential Living practice sparks controversy among students

The Department of Residential Living. Photo by Haley Smith

The Department of Residential Living. Photo by Haley Smith

The Department of Residential Living has implemented several new “operational practices” that will impact the upcoming 2016-2017 room selection process.

One of the most prominent changes to room selection affects any student currently living in a room connected to a Resident Assistant (RA) suite. These students will no longer be eligible for the Premier Level Selection, and therefore unable to reserve their current room.

“In years past, RAs have been able to pull in their suitemate,” said Laura Allison, the assistant director of the Department of Residential Living. “This year, a decision was made for all buildings to make sure that we have the flexibility to hire the most qualified students regardless of gender.”

Essentially, since RA rooms are unable to be relocated, the entire suite will be ineligible for room selection until the sex of the RA has been determined. After the RA has been given a chance to pull in suite-mates of his or her choosing, any unclaimed rooms will become available to the general student population at a currently undetermined date.

“In general, we displace about 1,000 students annually due to various reasons,” explained Allison in an email message.

It should be noted that this number includes freshmen students who are unable to reserve their current room in Scott or Walker for the upcoming semester.

“I’m a rising senior, so it was kind of frustrating being told that I’ll be kicked out of my room since I’ve been there for two years,” said WCU student and current Central Drive Hall resident, Cassandra Mancari.

Another student,Katie Endsley, is in a similar situation.

“I am very upset about it because it is kicking me out of my room and I want to stay there next year,” said Endsley. “Now I have to wait until the very last selection, so there’s a chance that I might not get [back] into Central, which is where I want to live. “

Students being displaced from their rooms will be able to participate in all other selection levels that they meet the requirements for, according to Allison.

Although other selection levels will be available to these displaced students, without a friend to pull them in as a roommate or suite-mate, their ability to remain in the same residence hall relies largely on the Honors Level Selection exclusive to honors students and the Gold Level Selection for the general student population.

“I’m going to try to get into Noble Hall,” said Mancari. “I was going to try to get into Central again, but I’m not sure how well it’s going to work out because I’ll be put in the Gold Level Selection and a lot of people like to try to get into Central.”

Another change to the 2016-2017 room selection process is the inclusion of a new ‘Group Level Selection’ for three or more students planning to live together in their own suite. Displaced students are also eligible for this selection level.

Endsley said she was informed about the change at the beginning of the spring semester, but it was “not enough time to plan for finding a new room.”

Email received by a student on Jan. 10 from Lisa Surber telling them that they will not be able to keep their current room in the upcoming room selection

Email received by a student on Jan. 10 from Lisa Surber telling them that they will not be able to keep their current room in the upcoming room selection

Allison says it “isn’t feasible” to guarantee these displaced students a space in their same residence hall for the following semester because of the number of students being displaced.

Allison said Residential Living did not conduct any sort of survey to determine student or RA opinion before putting this “operational practice” into effect.

“We made a decision allowing us the most effective use of staff and efficiency of space,” said Allison.

“I understand why they displace some people. I just don’t think RAs should be able to pick their own residents because I feel like there’s bias in that,” said Mancari. “I told Lisa [Surber] that and she said that she trusts her RAs. You want to trust your RAs, but sometimes people can abuse the system. As an RA you already have a lot of power and if you let your friends come in, you’re going to be less willing to write them up for anything because they’re your friends.”

Allison said she hasn’t “necessarily heard a lot of students complaining.”

Harrill Hall will be specifically impacted during the 2016-2017 room selection process. Although Harrill will not become a freshman dorm, it will be the home of three freshman learning communities.

Some students have expressed concern over the availability of upperclassmen housing in coming years. Allison is confident that this will never be an issue, stating that housing for upperclassmen will always be available.

Currently, there are over 4,000 bed spaces available to students who want to live on the campus.

RAs have declined to comment on the subject and one of them stated that their Graduate Community Coordinator has instructed them not to speak with anyone about it.