[doortag]Dorms, residence halls, university housing. No matter what you call the housing options on campus, they suddenly become uncool and unpopular after you are here for a couple years.
“I always feel like I need to clarify why I’m living in the dorms. Otherwise I feel like I kind of get looked at weird.” said Nia Orvis, an advertising senior who, as a second-year resident mentor, still lives in the residence halls.
Of course, there are advantages to living off campus. Geology senior Tim Matthews said that living off campus is liberating. “There’s something about having a place to yourself where you can look around and say, ‘OK, this is my place,’ and not feel like it’s just a piece of property lent to you by this giant university,” he said.[goldblatt1]
But for some, the convenience of “living on” outweighs the negatives. “It’s a lot closer to classes, so you don’t have to worry about travel time,” said Gary Koskinen, a senior who, after living in an apartment for his junior year, moved back on campus to work as a resident mentor. “When I lived in an apartment it was a half-hour bus ride to every class.”
“I think there are advantages even for them [seniors], at that stage in their college career,” said Paul Goldblatt, Director of Residence Life. “Seniors tend to live in certain places. Shaw is a very popular place, and then there’s the northern part of campus. Shaw is clear because it’s so centrally located. I think students really like that it’s right there in the middle of everything. And then north campus is in terms of location and the attractiveness of it – the buildings are beautiful.”
There are even academic advantages to dorm life. “The seniors who live on campus have higher GPAs than those that live off campus. You have access to support and resources,” Goldblatt said. [girlatdesk]
However, there are some things like cooking and paying rent that students should leave college knowing, but that are not necessarily recreated on campus. “Before I got the mentor job I considered getting an apartment. I really feel like it’s a good learning experience. You get to have experience with having to pay rent and having to buy groceries. It isn’t always the most fun but a necessary thing you have to learn to do before you get to the world,” Orvis said.
“I think there are plenty of opportunities on campus to learn how to cook – there are apartments that come with kitchenettes or kitchens down the hall,” Matthews said. “But there’s a lot to be said for learning things financially – paying rent, not going through the university with all of your money. It’s a lot more learning fiscal responsibility.” [stairs2]
Matthews is right – there are a couple of ways to cook on campus. Holden added floor kitchens, and Williams Hall is popular for having residents cook their own food. Students living in Williams can even choose not to have meal plans with the university, so they do have to do things like buy groceries and cook. “I think one of the reasons [upperclassmen] live over there is they have the option of making their own food,” Orvis said.
But what makes dorms morph from hip, parent-free places to apparently lame dwellings toward the end of one’s education? For Matthews, a lot of it was the resident mentors. Now that he lives off-campus, “It’s like you’re off the little playground, and nobody’s going to blow their whistle at you if you’re going the wrong way up the slide.” In other words, you’re free to make your own mistakes, an arguably essential part of growing up.
Goldblatt is quick to point out that MSU’s resident mentors are actually tolerated more than RAs nationwide. “You know, it’s interesting. For students who lived off campus and cited rules and regulations as the reason they moved off campus, we are much lower than the national average,” he said.
In Orvis’s opinion, the problem lies more in the psychology involved in what people perceive as signs of maturation. “People know that as a freshman you have to live on campus, so they want everybody to know ‘I’ve been here for a while, I can live in an apartment.’ And having an apartment makes you seem older, more mature,” Orvis said. And Orvis made the point that requiring freshman to live on campus might not be as necessary as the university seems to think. “I think even if you weren’t required to live in the dorms, people would probably do it anyway. Because living in the dorms is that classic college experience that people want, at least for one year. I think people would still go through that,” Orvis said. [goldblatt2]
But from a business standpoint, it is advantageous to Housing and Food Services (HFS) to have both freshmen and upperclassmen “living on.” “The residence hall system is run completely on room and board rates. It gets no money from the state, no money from the university. So the more people who live off campus, the more loss of revenue,” Goldblatt said. And obviously, they can’t fill up every residence hall with just the freshmen required to live there.
Because of this, HFS does try to attract older students. Owen Hall is not just for graduates. It is for students 21 and over, and residents are free to host alcoholic events in the dorm. In addition, there is always the option of a university-owned apartment. These apartments still have support staff and programming but not a person in charge of keeping you in line. “I think my hope is in the future that we will have more apartments. If we can create the off-campus experience on campus, that’s the best of both worlds. And you’re dealing with cooking, all the issues that come with living in an apartment, but you’re on campus,” Goldblatt said. [frisbee]
Obviously, the first concern is what works for the individual. Some people are dying to get off campus, but there are seniors (and even graduate students) who live in a dorm and love it. But the general stigma surrounding whether or not a senior lives on campus is something that should disappear. Just because a senior lives on campus now may not mean they have lived there all four years, and it’s rarely the case that a senior just cannot find anybody to live with. In most cases the seniors that “live on” are consciously making the decision that they see as best. Immature? Think again.