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Thursday, April 17, 2014


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The Dorm Decision




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Nursing senior Tia Sharp studies in her room located in Williams Hall. Katie Stiefel/The State News



Hundreds of millions of dollars in renovations. Revamped dorm rooms, more comfortable study spaces and shiny new cafeterias. Free laundry. Tutors and clinics minutes away.

In the last several years, MSU has redone much of campus, from Brody Square to the Union to Shaw Hall.

Ashley Chaney, the assistant director of communications for Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, said the university wants to keep students living on campus partially because of its academic benefits.

“Studies show that students who live on-campus have higher grade point averages, graduate sooner and are more engaged in the campus community,” Chaney said.

“We know that providing on-campus housing for as many students as possible contributes greatly to that.”

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Williams Hall pictured from the early 1900's originally located near the MSU Museum. The Hall later burned down in 1919 and has since been rebuilt. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives

But for some students, being convinced to live on campus goes beyond the renovations. Living on means convenience, living off means independence.

“At this point, I wouldn’t move back onto campus for the new services,” said Chris Ross, a social relations and policy junior. “I like the independence I have off campus and ability to make changes and control the atmosphere of the place that I’m residing in.”

An on-campus living experience

Plenty of students want to live on campus — enough that several hundred students found themselves in transitional housing last fall, which puts three students in a dorm room that is intended only to occupy two students.

Last fall, 14,941 students were living in the dorms, a small increase from the 14,908 who lived there in fall 2006.

But the number of seniors living in MSU housing increased during that time period from 670 seniors in 2006 to 1,136 in 2009, before falling to 922 this year.

For upperclassmen seeking independence, Chaney said REHS provides various of options to cater to their needs.

She said the apartment communities of Spartan Village and University Village provide students with the independence of living in an apartment, with added on-campus convenience.

Chaney also said returning students can sign up to live with their friends by reserving blocks of rooms on the same floors, more commonly known as “Rock the Block.”

“We will work with students and make it easy and convenient for them to focus on what they came to MSU to do, and that’s to graduate and to have what we call an outstanding Spartan experience,” she said.

She added the university did not plan the renovations to increase profit, although the cost of room and board was increased 4.95 percent in 2011.

But for Lindsay Wilkinson, an interdisciplinary studies in social science and health studies senior who lives in Emmons Hall, staying on campus for four years had nothing to do with the renovations. She stayed on campus despite them.

“Before the renovations, the study lounges had doors and were better,” Wilkinson said. “There was a basketball court and volleyball court in the courtyard, and now there’s an amphitheater that no one uses.”

She said she thinks the university forgets about the wants and needs of students already living on campus.

“The renovations, I feel like, are just for looks to attract potential students,” she said. “Not for the students that actually live in the renovated dorms.”

A student’s choice

For Chris Ross, a social relations and policy junior, the services and renovations occurring on campus were not enough to keep him from moving off.

Ross, who lived in Case Hall during his freshman and sophomore years, said although he enjoyed the convenience of living on-campus during his first two years at MSU, he moved off campus to become more independent. He now lives on Gunson Street.

“I thought it was an important part of my life to learn how to provide more for myself and take care of myself without someone providing services like the dorms do,” he said.

Ross said it was this independence and his ability to make changes and control the atmosphere of the place he’s living that kept him from living in a residence hall this year and from moving back on campus his senior year.

Even though the off-campus living is not always perfect, it’s given Ross the freedom he wanted.
Although Wilkinson said she wasn’t impressed with her residence hall’s renovation, Dhruv Alexander, a social relations and policy and economics sophomore, said the new Case Hall cafeteria, South Pointe, was part of the reason he decided to stay on campus his sophomore year.

“(The cafeteria) is pretty convenient because it’s relatively close to all of my classes as well,” Alexander said.

But it wasn’t enough to keep him for another year, as Alexander said he is doubtful he’ll remain on campus for the rest of his college career.

“A lot of my friends are moving off campus next year,” Alexander said. “I want to experience not living on campus.”

Regardless of her disappointment with the renovations, Wilkinson said living on campus all four years was the right choice for her.

“Living in the dorms is so convenient and, being as extroverted as I am, it’s great meeting tons of new people each year,” Wilkinson said.

“The convenience of the cafeteria and how close my classes are to me is the main reason I stayed in the dorms.”


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