So you’ve finally done it. You put away the ratty stuffed animals and high school paraphernalia, packed up the rest of your belongings and moved out of your parents’ house. Like many 20-somethings, your first “place” is nothing more than a 10-by-20-foot rectangle of space in one of Kent State’s more than 30 residence halls, but it’s still yours.
You’ve settled in and gotten your stuff just the way you like it when a slip of paper shows up under your door. It’s for a mandatory hall meeting this Thursday at 7 p.m. No sweat, you think to yourself. We’re all adults here. This meeting should be over and done long before “The Office” starts, leaving you enough time to cram for Friday’s quiz and make plans for later.
Flash forward to Thursday at 7:42 p.m. You and your hallmates are still in the lounge, sharing small talk just as uncomfortable as the ancient couch you’re sitting on. In a moment eerily reminiscent of kindergarten, you name your favorite Nick at Nite show when the “talking stick” is passed to you – the RA insisted you stayed for the ice breaker after signing the hall contract (which is, coincidentally, written with Day-Glo markers on a large sheet of construction paper as if it’s made for 5 year olds).
Wait a second, you think. Didn’t I move out so I could be treated like an adult, instead of a high school kid? Instead, you’re being treated more like a 1st grader at sleep-away camp than a freshman in college.
Sound familiar? Anyone who has lived in the residence halls at Kent State is sure to sympathize. Whether you were a freshman in Small Group or a senior in Centennial D, if you’ve lived in the dorms, you’ve experienced the mandatory meetings and, likely, the forced attempt at “community.”
Creating a community where students feel welcome and accepted is an important factor in retention, something Kent State administrators are very interested in. The more connected students feel, the less likely they are to leave.
But forcing students to take time from their already busy schedules for elementary activities is no way to create a community. For starters, different students want different things from their residence hall. For some, it’s a place to meet life-long friends. For others, it’s just a place to rest their heads and books while they work toward an education. For those seeking friendship, it’s going to take more than a game of Scattergories; for those who want to get in and get out, it’s just a hassle.
Residence services could do a lot more for students by trying to figure out what kind of experience students want from their hall life. A simple survey at the beginning of the year or, even better, on the room applications the semester before could make a world of difference. Students could explain their expectations to their RAs, and the hall programs could be based on that. Rather than creating a stock set of boring lectures and ill-timed pizza parties, hall activities could be geared toward their particular community.
Got a hall filled with bookworms? The RAs could fill the lounges with comfy pillows and a coffee pot. A floor of active freshman eager to meet new people could benefit from a group trip to the Rec for some dodge ball.
Imagine students actually wanting to live on campus – if we were treated more like adults and less like preschoolers, that could be a reality. We plan our own nap times now; it’s about time Kent State lets us have a say in how we learn and play, as well.
The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.