As the annual room draw approaches, Residential Life has made changes to incentivize on-campus housing for juniors and seniors and expand the number of all-gender living spaces next academic year.

Building on the progress that Residential Life has made to make all-gender living spaces available in the past three years, new developments include changes in facilities in Kirk as well as changes to gendered floor assignments in certain residential halls. Kirk will now have eleven all-gender bathroom facilities and six gender-designated bathrooms. In Bigelow Hall, the first floor will be all-gender while the basement will be an all-female floor. Further, Residential Life has made an all-gendered housing option available to first-year students.

The new moves by Residential Life are partly in response to both students’ requests for all-gendered living spaces and positive feedback that Residential Life has received about all-gendered housing. According to both Dean of Students Jim Hoppe and Dean of Campus Life Keith Edwards, students living in the all-gendered community space in Doty have been disproportionately represented in student leadership positions, which they describe as having a strong impact on the larger Macalester community.

Not that expanding all-gender living spaces on campus has been easy. This year’s developments relied on Residential Life maintaining a balance by “trying to figure out how to be inclusive given our facilities limitations,” Edwards said.

The room selection process itself will use the online room draw program implemented by Residential Life last year. The room draw system was moved online last year in order to make the process easier and more efficient for students. While there were some initial bumps in the program, “ninety percent of students found the online system most convenient,” Edwards said.

For those students who had trouble with the program, they were able to stop by the Residential Life offices in order to sort out their problems, Edwards said.

This year’s room draw will feature some notable changes, particularly in regards to upperclassmen. While close to a third of juniors and a quarter of seniors live on campus, there have been significant efforts to incentivize on campus living among those students. This year, upperclassmen will have the opportunity to take part in an open draw system. In addition to being able to live with roommates or suitemates of all genders, juniors and seniors will be allowed to explore all of the on-campus living options either in groups or individually. The open draw system means that students will be able to see all the options that are available to them in terms of singles, doubles or triples rather than having to wait their turn to pick and choose. Students can match themselves with the other students that they are interested in living with or choose to live in singles.

Residential Life has decided to try the open draw system because they have not run out of spaces for juniors and seniors to live in past years and do not anticipate running into any problems with space availability this time around.

Juniors and seniors also have the option to homestead their current on-campus living spaces. There are a few prerequisites, but students who wish to continue to live in their apartments or suites can choose to do so given that they will be occupying a majority of the available rooms and sign a contract earlier in the process.

New housing options for thematic living have also been introduced. Due to the success of the Veggie Co-op, a Food Justice living community has been established in the duplex apartments, which will be mainly open for juniors and seniors.

For students who will be studying abroad, there is a process separate from the upcoming online room draw. Students studying abroad in the fall do not select a room and are instead invited to make room selections via e-mail in early October of the fall semester. Students studying away in the spring are able to select a room and can cancel their room contract if necessary. The Summit House is also available as a community living space for students planning to study abroad and for students adjusting after their study abroad experiences.

There will be an official kick-off event hosted by the Residential life staff on Tuesday, Mar. 26 in the second floor atrium of the Campus Center between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to share details on new developments as well as to explain and answer any questions about the new process. The room draw process will take place between March 28 to April 7. There will be staff support throughout each day of the room draw process available in a variety of ways including e-mail, a live chat session and Twitter.

Ultimately, Hoppe and Edwards believe that on-campus living can play a key role in helping students make connections with one another. They hope that residential living can dispel the myth that students find certain friend groups during their first year and then stop making new connections. In their experiences, students often voice their wish to be able to meet more students, which becomes difficult as students move off campus. They hope to facilitate this process of making new connections through on-campus housing.

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