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Beyond the News

Seniors Stay for Furry Friends

University Business, September 2012
At move-in, local vet Rob Memmen made sure pets such as Kelli the beagle, here with owner Meghan O’Rourke, were up-to-date on shots. (Sarah Miesle/Saint Mary’s College)

Half of Saint Mary’s College (Ind.) seniors typically decide to live off campus, and officials predicted even fewer numbers would remain on campus this year, due to class size. But thanks in part to a new pet policy, 75 percent of seniors this year will stay in residence halls. “Students were choosing to move off campus because they were allowed to have a pet [there],” says Janielle Tchakerian, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life and community standards. “We looked at how we could accommodate that.”

Updates to one residence hall made 36 single rooms (some former quads or doubles) available to seniors, with a new visitation policy and a reduced meal plan requirement—plus the acceptance of pets weighing under 30 pounds. A courtyard is now a “bark park,” so pets can socialize along with their roommates. Of the 40 seniors living in the hall, 21 had at least expressed interest in rooming with cats, dogs, rabbits, or hedgehogs explains spokeswoman Gwen O’Brien. (Snakes need not slither in.)

Other institutions allowing pets on campus include Eckerd College (Fla.), Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.), Stetson University (Fla.), and Stephens College (Mo.). Stetson and Stephens established pet councils to deal with any hairy problems that may crop up. Stephens, which has welcomed pets since 2004, also has a Pet Fostering Program with a local no-kill rescue organization, so students without pets can foster and help prepare an animal for a forever home. Any student with preliminary questions on rooming with a pet can consult a page on Stephens’ website featuring all of “The Paw-ticulars.” ­­