OSL revises housing appeals

The Office of Student Life (OSL) has replaced the Special Housing Request process with the Housing Appeal process. The main changes under this new process include an increased role for in-person conversations, a higher bar for request approval, a decrease in the number of automatic pull-ins and the removal of the ability to turn down a room assignment.

Rather than detailing the reason for a request online, as was done previously, students now only provide the type of request, including either disability/medical/psychological, discrimination/bias, religion, Title IX or something else. The discrimination/bias type of request is new for this year. Once a request is submitted, the student is put in contact with the staff member that oversees the relevant area, after which they meet to discuss the request.

According to OSL Director Doug Schiazza, in-person discussion of the request, as opposed to online forms,  is intended to ensure that students can receive “appropriate support and advocacy.”

Decisions are ultimately reviewed by the Housing Appeals Review Team, which meets weekly and includes Housing Systems Coordinator Gail Rondeau Hebert, Dean of First-Year Students Dave Johnson ’71 or Interim Assistant Director for Residential Life Madeline Polidoro, depending on the student’s class and the staff member with whom the initial conversation took place. If a student wishes to make a request in advance of a housing assignment process, it should be made a week before the application is available to allow adequate time for review.

With a jump in the number of requests last year to greater than 60 from a range of 30-35 the previous year, OSL felt that some students may have applied out of preference, rather than need. Furthermore, according to Schiazza, some assignments may have been approved without merit, including after initial rejection. Therefore, OSL will ensure that there is a high bar for approval of requests. For example, requests for close proximity to a campus resource will typically only be approved for significant mobility issues. Additionally, OSL decisions will be final.

“I can assure students that, just as we expect students not to request a housing appeal lightly, the individuals responsible for reviewing the appeals and making determinations on them will do so out of a high level of respect and concern for the appealing student and their situation,” Schiazza said.

OSL was also concerned about the impact a large number of requests may have on room availability in the General Room Draw. In response, the number of automatic pull-ins was reduced to one. If students can demonstrate the need for larger number of pull-ins to help serve as a support network, this number could increase.

Other changes implemented include review of appeals by the Director of Accessible Education instead of Health Center staff for disability/medical/psychological reasons and the ability to request a temporary housing change separate from this process. Students can request a temporary change by contacting Hebert during OSL business hours or by contacting Campus Safety and Security outside of this time period.

The revision of this process stemmed from research based on peer institutions by Assistant Director for Residential Life and Housing Patricia Leahey-Hays. It was then implemented following discussions with a variety of campus offices, in addition to the Upperclass Residential Life Advisory Committee.

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