The Undergraduate Council of Students hosted a town hall meeting focused on residential life Wednesday, which included staff from the Office of Residential Life addressing student questions on the recently announced updates to the housing lottery.
In the town hall — which was hosted by UCS Chair of Campus Life Giordana Fiorentino ’24 — Senior Associate Dean and Senior Director of Residential Life Brenda Ice, Residential Life Coordinator Sue Vieira and Area Coordinator Tariq Jamal engaged in an open discussion with students.
Regarding a question about the new dorms on Brook Street set to finish construction in fall 2023, which are intended to be oriented around “themes,” Ice explained that ResLife is “partnering with units that have an institutional commitment” to create residential communities for the buildings. Social justice and diversity, for example, are institutional commitments, even though they are not the specific housing themes, Ice said.
ResLife is moving away from using student interests, such as environmentalism and technology, as themes because those are already present in “the residential life program operations,” she added. According to Ice, “students who want to build a program house (and) want to collectively live together still have that pathway.”
Thematic housing ensures that “even if student interest wanes, the institutional commitment is still there,” she said.
Specific thematic communities will hopefully be announced with more details on Nov. 1 when ResLife allows rising seniors to indicate their general housing preferences for the following year, she said — though all special interest housing selections will still happen at the same time for all students in the spring.
Ice also mentioned how ResLife is working “in partnership with facilities (with) large scale budgeting” to think about dorm renovations. “We’re working to revisit our housing master plan and reorder and prioritize what buildings need attention, both from a structural standpoint, but also meeting the needs of residential life, which is really about building community,” she added.
Referencing the fact that some students were not placed into gender inclusive housing despite requesting it in the spring, Ice said that ResLife is “recognizing where (their) shortfalls were in that last particular process, particularly with (the) incoming class.”
“We’re working with our campus partners, specifically the LGBTQ Center and the Sarah Doyle (Center for Women and Gender), (to) actually think more broadly about what we in fact should be asking (and) what we shouldn’t be asking so that the modifications (match) the needs and the expectations of their offices,” Ice said.
A meeting attendee voiced concerns about the role of Community Coordinators as essentially “COVID police” in the dorms, which they felt was insufficient considering the concerns of students who are worried about exposure or are immunocompromised.
“That is always a consideration (of) mine,” Ice siad, “I do recognize that maybe a … neighborhood approach and (decentralization of mask) distribution might help.” Currently, Community Coordinators have the responsibility of handing out masks to their dorm residents.
Ice noted that ResLife is working with the “overall enrollment management team” to speed up the placement process for incoming first-year students next year.
She also responded to a question about the difficulties of international students navigating Student Accessibility Services applications and obtaining U.S. medical documents, explaining that ResLife does not review any medical documents students submit for their SAS application.
“I do know that (SAS has) resources available that could actually help” international students in applying for SAS, she said.
Kathy Wang is the senior editor of community of The Brown Daily Herald's 134th Editorial Board. She previously covered student government and international student life as a University News editor. When she's not at The Herald, you can find her watching cooking videos or writing creative nonfiction.