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Will living conditions improve?
By Michael Cossey - The Pow Wow - March 23, 2001
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There is a quote near the beginning of Jacob Power’s front page article this week that really caught my attention. Charles McDonald, dean of student affairs, said, “I think we are able to put our students in fewer halls but give them more options for living and probably better living conditions.”

Dean McDonald is, by far, one of the “nice guys” in this university’s administration. However, I think he has just made a promise that is going to be tough to keep.

I have been a resident of one ULM dorm or another since the fall of 1998. In that time, I’ve never felt as though the folks running the residential life system wanted to give me better living conditions. To be honest, there were many times in which it felt like they were trying to make living on campus the most hellacious experience possible.

If the university is having trouble making campus a nice place to live now, I really don’t see how closing a dorm or two will help. The biggest problem residents face has been around as long as I have and is yet to be addressed. I’m talking about customer service and satisfaction (or, rather, the lack of both).

• While living on the first floor of Sherrouse Hall, the folks living above me decided to turn their shower on and leave it running for a few days. The result of their actions was a flood in my suite that I had to endure for an entire weekend.

When I first noticed the problem, I reported it to the RA. He said there was nothing he could do. When the problem got worse, I went back to the RA and he said there was nobody he could call. So, we had to spend an entire weekend with standing water in our bathroom and in part of our room before maintenance people could be summoned.

My roommate and I attempted to go above the RA’s head and report the problem (we considered it a health risk) to the hall director. Unfortunately, our attempts were futile as hall directors at ULM are about as accessible as the President of the United States.

What’s wrong with this picture? It certainly does not sound like good living conditions to me.

• Temperatures this weekend dipped down to the neighborhood of 40 degrees and the door to my room in Sherrouse Hall is anything but airtight. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem because the heaters in the dorms stay on until the last possible moment. However, as I cranked up the heater in my room this weekend, cold air was the only thing that came out.

Every semester, students complain about the lack of heat or AC (depending on the season). And every semester, the only response the university can manage is some notice about them monitoring long term weather patterns before adjusting the system to heat or air.

If it’s 40 degrees outside, there is no reason a student should not have heat in his room. If it’s 80 degrees outside, there is no reason a student should have to endure without air conditioning. Unfortunately, students at ULM have to do both every year.

What’s wrong with this picture? It certainly does not sound like good living conditions to me.

In my college career, I have spent time as both a commuter and as a dorm dweller. I know that living on campus generates a bit more school spirit, it makes being involved in campus activities easier and it promotes better class attendance. Unfortunately, many people are missing out on these benefits because they would rather live off campus than endure the headaches living in a dorm causes.

I have many friends that live off campus. Most of those people enjoy having landlords or property managers that respond to their needs within a reasonable period of time. I wish students could expect the same. Perhaps the saying, “you get what you pay for” is especially true at ULM.

Sure, I hope Dean McDonald is right. I hope living conditions on campus get better in the fall. But the number of dorm residents isn’t increasing (if it were, dorms wouldn’t be closing) and with even fewer customers to please, I don’t expect the service I’ve received to get any better.

THE REAL SOLUTION:
Before anyone can complain that I am only highlighting the problems on our campus, I want to offer a solution.

The annual Big Switch is just around the corner. Each year, students get to trade places with members of the faculty and administration. This year, I think we should take it a step further and make it a 24-hour event.

Administrators would have to give up their homes with central heat and air in exchange for a dorm without climate controls. Preferably, this experiment could take place on one Olin Hall’s upper floors with participants banned from using the elevators. Administrators will be required to pay for a meal card and use the entire sum (or else forfeit their money). Finally, each participant will encounter at least one problem that can not be handled by an RA.

Letting administrators experience dorm life can only benefit all involved. If my plan were used, I’m willing to bet that the level of customer service and satisfaction would improve immediately.

  

Copyright © 2004, Michael Cossey. All rights reserved. - Need to know more? Take the microphone.