This year has brought an unexpected overflow of students living on campus. It has been a summer of adjustments for Residence Life.
Joseph Odenwald, director of Student Life, said that in fall 2012, MC had 1,518 students enroll, of which only 197 were freshman males. The numbers fell short of the projected housing budget.
“We have always had space issues with guys,” Odenwald said. Residence Life let seniors and juniors, about 309 people, live off campus fall 2012.
“To be in a safe zone we need to have about 95 percent full.” Odenwald said. “We went into 2013 trying to be conservative. Projections were based on the most freshman we’d had in housing and how many we had last year.”
This year a record number of 600 freshman are living on campus, and 289 of them are freshman males, a 22% increase from last year.
Due to the unexpected numbers, Residence Life decided to put 25 males on a waiting list. Odenwald said, “If we hadn’t split the Whitt, we would have had 40 girls on a waiting list instead.”
Jared Shannon, a sophomore psychology major, signed up for housing in the middle of this past summer. Residence Life told him he was number 24 on a waiting list. Two days before he moved in, he had moved up to number 13.
However, Shannon explained that the school offered him and others in his position $800 off the housing fee if he became a third roommate to those already living in New Men’s dorm. The only condition was that his tuition balance had to be paid off.
Rather than be forced to turn anyone away, Residence Life devoted the entire summer trying to find housing for the steadily increasing number of incoming students. In the middle of July, all of the male Resident Assistants were notified that they were going to have roommates in the fall.
Ratliff had some smaller rooms opened up to give more people places to live. Additionally, 11 new rooms, which used to be for guests, were opened up in New Men’s. Furniture from the unoccupied rooms on the girl’s side of the Whitt was used to furnish those in New Men’s. The guest rooms in New Men’s were filled up first with three to four guys per room.
In addition to on-campus efforts, Residence Life rented space out in Camp Garaywa. The cabins pack ten people to a room. There are currently still male students living at Garaywa, and the school is providing transportation to and from campus in vans.
Shannon said, “At Garaywa there is no internet, just living space. That’s it. That’s not where your friends are and it is ten minutes away.”
The football team brought in around 175 players who came to MC in early August for camp. Some of them stayed at Garaywa until rooms became available. Of the total group at Garaywa, there were nine or ten guys who were football and five or six who were not athletes at all.
Another result of the massive overflow problems this year deals with Whittington dorm. At the beginning of the summer, once everyone had moved out of the Whitt, Residence Life began the transition to a co-ed dorm. The two sides of the Whitt are now completely barricaded off from one another, complete with alarms, as well as hefty fines and threats of expulsion for anyone who attempts to cross them.
The lobby on the first floor is the only place where male and female residents can intermingle. New bathrooms and a kitchen were added to the girls’ side of Whittington, and security has been updated a good deal.
Odenwald said, “We have not had one complaint.” He believes it is because “people recognize that the institution did whatever they could to create residences for everybody . . . . We were very strategic with the Whitt. Without those freshman, Whitt would be a ghost town.”
In addition, plans for the construction of new dorms are underway. “I think both the location and the style of the new residence facilities are going to be very popular for students,” Odenwald said. “We need it for the capacity.”
Residence Life should be making an announcement around Thanksgiving to confirm this housing addition. Odenwald said students will be given at least a semester’s notice as to what that decision will be. “There’s a lot of volatility in it.”
Odenwald agreed that the situation is not ideal for everybody. However, he said, “We are glad to have this many students. It’s a good problem to have. I’m grateful for how flexible students have been. Admissions has done an excellent job. They have had an incredible year.”
“I want us to try to be as consistent in our practice as we can be as we go forward,” Odenwald added. “We have had an off year and then a record year back to back. It’s exciting to see so many students here. I wish it was a little more comfortable for everybody, but we’ve learned a lot too.”
While the record number of students has initially created inconvenience for some, MC is simply experiencing the growing pains everyone feels on their way to becoming bigger and better.