Res Life, Senate hosts forum on student housing concerns


The student housing forum took place in the Moose on April 8. Photo courtesy Valentina Garcia.

Story by Valentina Garcia, News Editor
Photo courtesy Valentina Garcia 

During Aquinas College Student Senate meetings this year, housing was a regular topic. The conversation has left the Student Senate floor. On April 8 at The Moose, the Campus Engagement Committee of Senate hosted a housing forum. Its purpose was to bring students and administrators together to exchange perspectives and information.

Part of the event’s focus was helping students understand the implementation of previous policies and the creation of future policies. President Kevin Quinn, Chief Financial Officer Lisa VanDeWeert, Associate Vice-President for Student Affairs (transitioning into Associate Vice-President of Student Success) Brian Matzke and Dean of Students Lisa Hetzel were panelists.

Hetzel said student participation at this forum was unlike previous events. Senate hosts a forum per semester. About 50 people, both students and college staff, were present on April 8.

Evan Hile, former secretary of Student Senate and chairperson of the Campus Engagement Committee, facilitated the conversation. Hile began the event with questions prepared by Senate based on concerns brought to meetings throughout the year.

Those concerns arrived at Senate through word of mouth. “It’s not the best system, but we’ve had trouble implementing a more thorough information collection system. Once it comes to the floor through word of mouth like that, sometimes it just gets left there,” Hile said during an interview after the forum.

These issues kept surfacing. As a result, the Campus Engagement Committee was asked to consider housing as the topic for the forum. Hile said that a housing issue was brought to the floor in every meeting since October 2018. The minutes for Senate’s Oct. 17, 2018 meeting state mold should be reported so it can be investigated. 

All of the panelists agreed that the residence halls need renovating. “They’re outdated,” Quinn said. But updating them requires a process in the beginning stages.

“My impression of the residence halls is I think they are functional, but I won’t define functional,” Hetzel said. “Are they outdated? Yes, they’re outdated. Do we know they’re outdated? Yes, we know they’re outdated. So I think we need to spend some time and attention thinking about how can we renovate, refresh our buildings, and how do the buildings need to adapt to meet the needs of our students of today.”

In order to accomplish this, Chief Financial Officer Lisa VanDeWeert proposes a deferred maintenance plan. The plan would prioritize improvements. VanDeWeert brought the current, early draft of the plan with her to the forum; it includes over $15 million of improvements needed around campus, although she believes the final total will be higher — the plan has a lot of holes still.

“Unless you have a plan, you can’t take any action on it,” VanDeWeert said.  

The beginning steps for that plan are being taken. “Over the course of this month, we are going to be touring every single building and identifying every single item that needs to be maintained at some point in that building’s life, and then in early May we will be meeting with a few members of the finance committee to prioritize. Okay, what can we do this next fiscal year? What can we do the year after that? And begin to prioritize,” VanDeWeert said.

About the Writer:

IMG_4545Valentina Garcia is a fourth-year student who loves sunny days, Jane Austen, and preferred tea to coffee until she started college. 

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