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Articles: Residence Halls

A recent Boston Globe investigative series sparked national scrutiny of neighborhoods where some of the city’s college students are reportedly living in crowded, unsafe conditions. The allegations spawned a number of reactions from city officials.

Swipe for entry: Florida State and other  campuses are moving toward all buildings,  not just dorms, requiring a card key for access.

As violent crime has steadily increased on college campuses in the last three decades, institutional leaders have reacted by creating more stringent policies to restrict visitors from entering their academic, administrative and residential buildings.

One way to determine if a visitor management program is successful is to measure whether it has reduced crime on campus.

Since the University of Southern California in 2012 enclosed its campus with fencing and shut down access to visitors each night, the number of thefts occurring between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. has dropped by nearly 50 percent, says David Carlisle, deputy chief at the university’s Department of Public Safety.

 Now that  more housing has come online, students at Susquehanna University must abide by the live-on-campus policy.

Next fall, Susquehanna University will begin enforcing a long-standing policy requiring most students to live on campus all four years, officials at the Pennsylvania school say.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are a key part of safety systems.  Image courtesy of Siemens.

New York public and private colleges are now required to give every student written information about fire safety in residence halls and off-campus housing. Known as the Kerry Rose Fire Sprinkler Notification Act, it was named after one of three victims of the deadly fire that burned through a privately owned housing unit near the campus of Marist College in January 2012.

The future residence hall on Bryant Street at Howard U.

Campus Apartments broke ground on an estimated $107 million housing project at Howard University (D.C.). in March. The 1,360-bed project, slated for August 2014 completion, includes two on-campus facilities that will bring underclassmen closer to the campus core. The residences will offer two-person semisuites, social and study lounges, game rooms, and laundry facilities, as well as independent apartment units for faculty, staff, and guests.

For most colleges and universities, having students live on campus can provide a number of benefits, both in revenue and in classroom performance. So how can an institution maximize the benefits while creating an atmosphere that not only attracts a growing number of students, but also ensures that their experience is mutually beneficial? A comprehensive approach that emanates from the concept of providing improved value for the on-campus resident can have far reaching benefits for both student and school.

The $25.8 million New Central Residence Hall is scheduled for fall 2013 occupancy.

In all the understandable buzz about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and alternative models for delivering content, remember this: Residential campuses will continue to be critical to higher education and to preparing a competitive 21st-century workforce. Why? For starters, as MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, high quality online education and affordable residential campuses are intertwined.

Kutztown University (Pa.) was not as badly affected as places along the coast, but downed trees and extended power outages in the area were a challenge.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Atlantic City, NJ, at the end of October, creating devastation up and down the East Coast. Over 100 people in the U.S. died as a result of the storm and millions were without power for weeks. College and university campuses were not immune to the damage. Many institutions evacuated residential students as a precaution before the storm and were then forced to cancel classes for the rest of the week due to lack of power, as at the University of Hartford (Conn.) or hazardous conditions in their surrounding community, as at Fairfield University (Conn).

Campus safety inspections, which determined the type of environmental health and safety training needed for faculty, staff, students, and researchers, took three staffers four days followed by several days of data input. The school automated the process, cutting the number of hours in half and saving more than $49,000 in annual training and $8,000 in staff and travel costs.

With any campus building, what’s on the inside counts just as much—and probably more—than what’s on the outside. This is especially true with residence halls, which must include a balance of private and shared spaces. “The buildings need to promote interaction among students to encourage peer-to-peer learning in support of the institution’s academic mission,” says Jackson Kane, an associate and housing specialist at Lord, Aeck & Sargent. That’s no small order.

The Stockton Campus  Center at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Prior to 2011, the sports and events facilities at the University of Mary Washington (Va.) were nothing to write home about. The university’s Dodd Auditorium had a capacity of 1,300 for concerts and other special events, and the Woodard Campus Center gymnasium, which was built in the 1950s, could only seat 500 and couldn’t be used for anything but sporting events.

Students at Winthrop U sitting on a wall.

Before the economic downturn, there was a growing interest in higher ed in integrating active adult communities with campus life. Residents would benefit from the amenities provided by a college town, while campus constituents would benefit from the perspective another generation could offer, and possible revenue through rents or membership fees. Interest sagged along with the real estate market—but is starting to tick up again.

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.”

touchscreen energy dashboard at Middlebury College

Although taking steps to protect the environment is “the right thing to do,” it doesn’t stop people from wanting to know their efforts are making a difference. An energy dashboard can be the answer to communicating the results of campus initiatives.

“Real-time, web-based dashboards really take what’s happening in the boiler room to the dorm room,” says Mike Kempa,
senior marketing manager for the Energy and Environmental Solutions Group at Honeywell.

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