By Christian Stark
Each year, all residential Malone students, excluding seniors, join together in the Johnson Center for the annual room draw. However, due to COVID-19, last year’s room draw was canceled and residents were able to request their rooming accommodations and roommates and suitemates. This year, “squatting” has been introduced to students in order to prevent the large crowds at a typical room draw.
The idea behind squatting is that students are able to have priority over their current room or suite as long as they can fill it as much as possible. Students that currently have a single are able to keep it, but if they introduce more members to the suite, they have to fill all current spots, not just another student with a single.
“The main focus is always to try to get as many of our people who are currently here in spaces where they want to be,” Tony Schnyders, dean of community life and student engagement, said.
The idea for squatting grew after Schnyders and Emily Deinert, housing coordinator, asked the COVID-19 task force if a normal room draw would be possible. The task force turned this idea down, so Deinert began reaching out to several other universities facing similar problems and determined that a squatting program would be the best decision to remain COVID-19-safe.
In the past, incoming freshmen have had reserved parts of floors or buildings, which then requires the current residents there to choose a new space to live.
“Typically, what might happen on room draw night is if you’re signing up for Haviland or Heritage or something like that, we wouldn’t allow you to sign up for certain rooms because we’re reserving them for freshmen,” Schnyders said. “When you don’t run a squatting program but you’re reserving space for freshmen, students who are already at the university feel like they’ve been passed over [in favor of] freshmen.
“We’ll still be able to have freshmen in those spaces, but rather than reserving the spaces on the front end, we’ve decided to meet the desires for most of our students to be in the buildings where they want to be,” Schnyders said. “Our goal is to get as many people to squat as possible.”
“Room draw this year will still look similar to what it’s looked like in the past, but our hope is that 80 to 90% of our population who is returning will already have a spot through the squatting process,” Schnyders said.
Kaylyn Jones, a resident assistant in Blossom Hall, believes that squatting this year will offer more community building to her floor.
“[The squatting process is] actually kind of cool. You build this really good community and you’re able to keep developing it for the next year,” Jones said. “The same people can live on your floor and you can still develop your relationships with them and the culture of the floor stays the same. You can just keep on making it better and better.”
Max Maline, a resident assistant in Haviland Hall, says that room squatting offers the opportunity for another chapter for residents on a floor.
“It’ll have that same atmosphere, but it will just be like another year,” Maline said. “It’s almost turning the next page.”
Because of COVID-19, residential students for this year were asked for their preferences on roommates or suitemates and floors on campus.
“When there’s this random aspect you get to get people out [of] their shells,” Maline said. “I feel like in a place where people are going to be calling this their home for the majority of a year, that’s a nice thing to be able to pick out yourself, so I do think that this is a nice change.”
Although room squatting will appear at Malone this year, no one knows whether this system will remain in future housing processes.
“We feel like, for this year only, we can commit to squatting, and then next year we might be back to a room draw situation where we’re gathering together or sharing food or snacks together,” Schnyders said. “Every year, we’re going to reevaluate what’s best for our community … At this point, we’re kind of viewing [squatting] as a one-year option.”
Because of how new the squatting process is, Schnyders asks for grace and feedback. “I would just exercise patience with the whole process because it’s a new process.”
Squatting forms were due on March 26, but room draw will be held on April 14 in the Stewart Room for any student that was denied the opportunity to squat or wants to change rooms.