Letters to the Editor

The key issue in the St. John’s resident community that caused the most fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the resident population wasn’t the move to a poorly-documented points system that was, at best, a lottery, nor even the uncertainty caused by a visitor policy that’s both constantly-changing and inconsistently-enforced. The root cause of the discontent over the last semester has been the lack of effort by the school in making their processes transparent to the student population. If the administrators of the resident community were to adopt a different attitude regarding the communication of policies and decisions to students, resident students would no doubt feel that more of their concerns were being addressed.
The glaring issue in the spring semester that demonstrated the lack of transparency in the school’s process was the lack of accountability in the points-based system that was instituted to replace the housing lottery. The policy, arguably one of the most important to many residents’ decisions for how to plan for the coming year, garnered only a half-page explanation in the housing mailing; when the scores were finally mailed out, many students I know were concerned about apparent inconsistencies. Because there was no dispute process documented, most importantly a specific point of contact for disputes and a timeline for resolution, several people sat and worried about their housing scores instead of taking action to resolve their concerns. Moreover, because the housing mailings mentioned no specific aspects of the housing points system, apparent inconsistencies that cropped up remain unaddressed in a public way (such as how a pair of students with perfect housing points scores failed to get housing, while students with scores that could best be described as dubious were given housing).
Residence Life should institute more transparent processes in the coming year. In the case of the housing policy, the housing acceptance or rejection letters should come with the student’s housing score, the decision to accept or reject, and the numerical threshold which the student would have had to meet to gain housing, as well as the dispute process to follow if there is an inconsistency in these numbers. Every student should be able to easily comprehend by what margin they were accepted or rejected; the current system is no better (from the student perspective) than a lottery, due to the complete lack of any quantitative measures available. For a decision as major and financially important to many students as housing, it is surprising that so many would be allowed to wonder whether the decision was a mistake or whether the process is flawed, simply because the numbers that should be easily accessible are concealed from students.
If St. John’s were a neighborhood landlord, perhaps giving the appearance of accepting or rejecting students based on favoritism or gut feeling would be an acceptable practice. But St. John’s is both a business and an institution that should be preparing students for the real world; encouraging students to take on faith what could be backed up with numbers is both unnecessary and counterproductive, and could lead to an attitude among students that this sort of decision-making process is the standard, an attitude that could encourage poor choices by students when they become professionals in their fields. When a student in what was described as a merit-based, quantitative system has to ask why a decision was made, it is baffling that they would get no response, and a sign that the system has failed.

Kurt Yungel
College of Professional Studies