There's no place like res

Queen’s expands its residence accommodations to account for higher enrolment

Construction of two new campus residences will commence shortly, impacting students living in Chown, Leggett, Watts, McNeill and Morris. Demolition work will take place on Stuart St. between Albert St. and St. Lawrence Ave.
Construction of two new campus residences will commence shortly, impacting students living in Chown, Leggett, Watts, McNeill and Morris. Demolition work will take place on Stuart St. between Albert St. and St. Lawrence Ave.

Soaring first-year enrolment may be preventing Queen’s students from getting the residence experience they desire.

With construction set to begin on two new residences and enrolment steadily increasing, questions are circulating regarding the future of residence for upper-years.

These concerns were addressed in the AMS’s recent enrolment policy paper, which was ratified at a special Assembly meeting on Sept. 21 and contained recommendations to the University, regarding enrolment planning.

One section of the paper addressed residence spaces, recommending that the University “ensure a considerable portion of the beds being added to the system through the opening of the new residences are committed to housing upper-year students.”

The University has also recently released a paper on enrolment. On Sept. 18, the Queen’s Strategic Enrolment Management Group (SEMG) published its updated White Paper on Long-term Enrolment Planning, inviting the Queen’s community to provide feedback on it until Oct. 23.

The paper states that since 2002-03, enrolment at Ontario universities and colleges has increased by 36 per cent, while applications to Queen’s increased by two per cent overall last year.

The greater demand for university education has inevitably caused a greater demand for residence beds, meaning Queen’s institutional capacity must expand.

Last Tuesday, Kingston City Council passed zoning bylaw amendments for the two new proposed residence buildings, which are set to open in 2015 and will be constructed on Stuart and Albert Streets.

According to Hasina Daya, president and CEO of the Residence Society at Queen’s, the new residences, which will accommodate 550 students, will provide more beds for first-year students, but are also expected to open up on-campus living for upper-years.

The buildings will allow the residences originally made for upper-year and graduate students, such as Watts Hall and the JDUC, respectively, to revert to their original purposes.

“The intention is that Watts will return to an upper-year residence and these new residences will accommodate first-year students,” Daya told the Journal via email.

The hope, she said, is that the JDUC will once again house graduate students.

This year is the second consecutive year the JDUC’s residence has been home to first-year students, a ramification of rising first-year enrolment and the overflow from other residences. Accommodating all first-year students in residence is the primary goal, according to Daya; however, SEMG’s recent plan highlights the intention of appealing to both upper-year and graduate students who wish to live in residence.

There are currently 4,089 places in the 13 on-campus residences at Queen’s. This year, upper-year students occupy just under three per cent of these available spots.

“Priority is given to full-time, first year students,” Daya said.

According to Daya, as long as first-years abide by registration and payment deadlines, they are guaranteed a spot in residence. Late submission, though, removes this guarantee – such was the case this year, as first-year enrolment filled residences to their maximum capacity.

The conditional guarantee of residence means the rate at which enrolment increases determines how many spots the University reserves for upper-years.

According to Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of Student Affairs, Queen’s is similar to most other Ontario universities in prioritizing first-year accommodation.

This year, the University was unable to meet the demand of 15 upper-year students who applied for residence.

“Queen's hasn't built a new residence for a decade,” Tierney told the Journal via email. “The current residence system is currently beyond capacity. We want to ensure we can meet first-year demand as well as respond to a potential increase in upper-year demand.”

Though residence placement for upper-years may be sparse, there are several reasons why some students may opt to return to live in residence beyond first year.

According to Tierney, living in residence provides numerous benefits, including a safe, secure environment and access to numerous supports, both personal and academic.

Tierney said Queen’s residences are recognized for delivering a high caliber of student living. In the most recent student satisfaction survey by the Globe and Mail, the residences received an A-, the highest score for a mid-size university.

In addition to the high quality of residence at Queen’s, there are also circumstantial reasons for choosing to remain in residence beyond first year.

Valerie Timlin, ArtSci ’14, said her decision to live in residence in second year was perfect. As she’d just completed her first year at Herstmonceux Castle in England, she knew she’d benefit from living in residence a second time.

“I don’t know if I would have been ready [to live off-campus],” Timlin said. “I wasn’t ready to pick who I wanted to live with outside of residence yet.” Living in Harkness Hall, Timlin experienced Queen’s residence whilst familiarizing herself with the city of Kingston.

“Coming back, being in Harkness, I made a lot of really good friends … I got to meet people I wouldn’t have gotten to meet otherwise,” she said.

Despite having a good experience, she felt there was more to be had outside of this realm, and moved into off-campus housing in her third year.

For the majority of Queen’s students, this migration to student housing is a natural progression.

According to Joan Jones, student liaison at Queen’s Town-Gown Relations, the experience of living off-campus during one’s time at Queen’s often provides students with some of the most valuable lessons they learn at university. While Jones acknowledged the benefits of living in residence, especially in first year, she stressed the advantages of living off-campus.

“You start to practice some of those important skills that have to do with autonomy – cooking for yourself, shopping for yourself, managing … going to school – with social life, with cleaning,” Jones said.

Tackling everything from negotiating with businesses, such as internet-service providers, landlords and the City of Kingston, to shopping for groceries and mediating disagreements between housemates – living in a house provides valuable lessons, Jones said.

Jones said the majority of upper-year students genuinely enjoy the life experience they cultivate while living in off-campus housing. There are, however, several caveats to the experience.

“You’re managing relationships with other people, without having somebody to mediate – a parent, a don … I think that’s really, really challenging, especially as students are finding themselves,” Jones said.

Furthermore, looking out for one another, and caring for the well-being of housemates, is integral while at University – especially as living independently means missing some of the resources that residence offers, such as dons, residence staff and discipline facilitators.

“[In residence], the expectation is your don may be looking after you … wondering why you’re not there for three or four days, if you haven’t told anybody where you’re going,” Jones said. “But [living off-campus], you’re looking out for other people and sometimes they’re doing stuff that’s risky,” she said.

“Everybody has to keep each other safe.”

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