The news that the new residence hall wouldn’t be ready for the start of next school year hit selected emails on March 12, an unwelcome way to end spring breaks for a number of students.
The email was sent by Associate Director for Residence Services Loretta Sexton to rising upperclassmen who currently live in university housing nearly two weeks after university officials became aware that there would probably be a delay. It began with the almost delightful—if it wasn’t quite so infuriating—understatement that there has been an “unusual development” in next semester’s housing. Following that was the news that the new residence hall’s opening will be pushed back until mid-September.
The email’s explanation for this was that this winter has had “more days than anyone could have imagined when temperatures were too low for construction to proceed.” It’s almost ironic how students are urged at every turn to “think beyond the possible,” yet our university finds cold temperatures in winter to be beyond the limits of imagination.
But we digress, and do, up to a point, understand. Sometimes the best-laid plans can go awry, and the cold this winter broke all sorts of records.
However the best way we can describe the response to this situation is “ridiculous.”
The first aspect of this towards which The Observer staff would like to direct your anger is how the information was disseminated: late and incompletely. It was sent out, as mentioned above, in a single email, to only a select number of students.
If you were a junior who didn’t live on campus this year, no email for you, even if you might move back onto campus for senior year.
There was no announcement in The Daily. There was no whole-student-body email.
Even the email that was sent out included far less information than students needed. There was no word of what discounts would include, if storage would be provided, if transportation would be provided from off-campus hotels and the like. It was great that university officials were willing to work with our news team later this week, but much of that initial information should have been sent out in the original email.
From how this was handled, it seems like protecting egos and careers was more important than student interests. We all should have been given complete information and given it a lot sooner than we were. Even just a warning that this might happen would have been appreciated. Students should have been able to look for other housing options. Let’s remember that this email was sent out a mere two days before the housing deadline. Sexton saw no problem with not delaying it; she hadn’t heard any complaints about it impacting students decision to live on- or off-campus.
But just because she hadn’t heard them, does not mean that they are not there. RHA President Victoria Robinson mentioned fielding student complaints on the new residence hall (and let’s not forget, university officials did not involve that group in any decision-making; great job getting students involved, CWRU).
What tops this complete fiasco is that the university at the point of initial contact didn’t feel like they did anything wrong. Sexton’s email did not include a single apology. Do a search; the words “apology,” “apologize”,“sorry” and “regret” are not mentioned. This delay creates difficulty for students, and its mismanagement even more so, so an apology would be both reasonable and expected.
Where many would have ended the email with a sincere apology and some humble pie, Sexton instead thanked students for their “patience and understanding.” While perhaps students will choose to be charitable towards the university, which has concealed important information from them, university officials are really in no place to assume this. They messed up, and it is not our job to be understanding.
Apart from displacing and displeasing students, this situation is also problematic from a financial perspective. There was a $1 million contingency built into this project’s budget, a million dollars which will surely be eaten up quickly by hotels, extra shuttles and housing cost cuts for affected students. The Observer’s staff lacks the university’s apparent optimism that this million will be enough, and we would like to remind students: We are the ones paying for this. And if the university can afford to so cavalierly declare this price reduction, then maybe we are the ones overpaying for this with our incredibly expensive room and board.
The blundered management of this situation, while it certainly made for an interesting news week, is not something that CWRU should accept. Our top officials need to look at the current structure and the people who control and subsequently relay construction and housing decisions. From the top down, we need a reversal of our philosophy to one which actually supports students.
If changes can’t be made in the current system, then that system, or the people in it, should be replaced.