TO: Mr. Curt Heuring, Vice President for Administration
Dr. Vicky Triponey, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs
Mr. Sean Stallings, Executive Director of Residential Education and Housing Residence Hall Association
Dear Vice President Heuring,
The closing of Cromwell Hall for the 2012-13 academic year poses a number of challenges for The College of New Jersey. Demand for on-campus housing consistently outpaces supply, and the size of the current freshman and sophomore classes promises to stretch the College’s ability to provide a significant portion of its upperclassmen with on-campus housing options. In addition, the prolonged period of insufficient state aid and the current economic climate underscore the need for stable revenue, a significant portion of which is derived from room-and board fees. Mindful of these challenges, the College has clearly worked to provide reasonable housing alternatives for students in light of Cromwell’s closing. We value the diligent efforts of the administrators and staff members who were involved in those decision-making processes.
We are concerned, however, by the College’s lack of timely communication with students regarding next year’s housing situation. An email sent to students on November 22, 2011 stated that Student Affairs and Administration expected to conclude the bidding process for an alternative housing arrangement by the “middle of December,” and that they would report on their progress “shortly thereafter.” Students were therefore left with the impression that a solution was nearing and that they would be informed of more details over Winter Break. This information did not come until February 1, 2012, by which time most students would have expected a greater understanding of their housing options for the upcoming year.
At the end of the fall semester, we respectfully requested to the administration that the process of finalizing alternative housing arrangements be made more transparent. We recognized the sensitivity of the competitive bidding process, but we were disappointed by the College’s lack of communication with students to that point. As the spring semester approached, students became increasingly anxious over their housing prospects. At the start of the semester, we again requested that the College be more proactive in communicating with students, if only to report that progress was being made and that an outcome would be announced shortly. The first two weeks of the spring semester then passed before students received official communication from the College.
In addition, we were surprised to learn via this week’s Signal article that the College had finalized an agreement with the residents of Centennial Hall to increase the residents’ chances of obtaining a housing lottery timeslot. We certainly appreciate the College’s efforts to address the concerns of Centennial’s residents. However, we are disappointed that the decision to increase those residents’ chances of obtaining a timeslot did not involve consultation with a wider variety of students—particularly those sophomores not living in Centennial, whose chances of receiving a timeslot could have decreased. Furthermore, the College’s decision was officially communicated only to the residents of Centennial, in an email on February 16. We believe that it would have been appropriate for this decision to be communicated to the cohort of on-campus rising juniors and seniors.
We are pleased that all rising juniors and seniors who applied for housing on time received a lottery timeslot. However, it is likely that the number of applicants decreased from years past— in large part because students were so unsure of their options that they resorted to finding offcampus arrangements before the housing lottery process began.
We continue to believe that transparency is integral to the shared-governance model that distinguishes TCNJ as an institution that values equally all of its stakeholder groups. Moving forward, we urge the College to ensure that its decisions regarding housing options are made in inclusive and transparent processes, and that the timeliness of its communications to students reflect the importance of residence life to the overall student experience.
The General Body of the Student Government