Housing changes to give priority to rising sophomores, increase specialized floors

Upperclassmen know the shortcuts around campus, receive priority during class registration appointments and are allowed first dibs on housing sign-up- or so they thought.

Starting this semester, the university is planning to change the “first year experience” by giving housing sign-up priority to rising sophomores and reserving Stanford, Hecht and two floors of Mahoney for incoming freshman, said Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia A. Whitely.

Current apartment area and University Village residents will be the only continuing campus residents who will be able to retain their current room assignments.

Upperclassmen may also apply to be freshmen mentors. These students would be living in the singles in the towers and giving guidance to new students in addition to that provided by the Residence Assistants.

Some students think reserving the towers for incoming students will help limit disconnect between freshmen living in different residential colleges.

“I felt really separated my freshmen year,” said Jessica Johnson, a sophomore who lived in Pearson for one semester as a freshmen before transferring to Hecht. “You think communal bathrooms sound bad so you choose the suites, but then you realize how cut off you are when you get here.”

Housing sign-up priority will now be based on a lottery number that will determine the date and time of a student’s room selection appointment.

Whitely said that these housing updates are experimental and will take about two years to tweak and evaluate. But the overall goal is to increase the number of students living in on-campus housing from 44 percent to 60 percent of the student body by 2013.

“The feeling of freshmen being disenfranchised will be over,” Whitely said. “We want to make UM as successful as possible by improving retention and providing housing for everyone that wants to have housing.”

Gilbert Arias, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, noted that in previous years, students on the housing waitlist usually were not placed because slots went immediately to freshmen. This year, freshmen housing will already be blocked out, so Arias expects that all students will receive a room assignment before the start of fall semester.

Arias also noted that the university is putting forth new efforts towards off-campus housing and he said the university plans to have a full-time housing coordinator in the Department of Residence Halls before April.

Besides sign-up changes, there will be four new special-interest floors in addition to STRIVE, or students Serving Together Reaching Integrity, Values & Engagement in the apartment area, and La Casa Cultural, which is geared towards international students on the first floor of Pearson.

Each special-interest floor will accommodate 15 to 30 students, and the special interests may be anything from politics to culinary arts. Applications for special-interest floors are due Feb. 12 and students will be notified on Mar. 5, about three weeks before the campus-wide housing sign-up.

Although Whitely said she would parallel these changes to “the exciting time when the residential colleges were first beginning,” some students feel that some efforts are unnecessary.

“Most of us have been brought up in really social environments outside of America, and that’s why we like this floor,” said Rodolfo Lewy, a sophomore living in La Casa. “I’m not sure about the other special interest floors though. La Casa is who we are, not things that we do.”

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at k.meshbane@umiami.edu.

Students signing up before their roommates will still be able to request their roommates

There will be four new special-interest floors in addition to STRIVE and La Casa in Pearson

Upperclassmen mentors will be in the singles in Hecht/Stanford

Order of priority: rising sophomores; rising juniors; rising seniors; wait listed students

Each floor in Stanford and Hecht will have a lounge/study by the elevator lobby