Campus housing switches to mixed grade approach

The university will shift to mixed grade housing in the 2022-2023 academic year, with Bergsaker, Tuve and the new Wagoner Hall being open to any student from any grade.

Some dorms will be exclusive to some class years. East will remain available only for juniors and seniors, Stavig will be a freshmen-only building and Granskou will be for upperclassmen. Solberg will undergo renovations this coming academic year and will not be available.

“We have so many different styles of residence halls now, and they come at different price points,” said Jenna Bump, the director of housing operations. “Instead of forcing students to be like ‘this is your only option or these are your only two options,’ we’ve kind of opened it up to have all students choose whatever option will work best for them, for their living style, for their price point.”

A double room in Wagoner Hall will cost $4,912 for an academic year and $2,456 for a semester. A double room in Bergsaker will cost $4,520 for an academic year and $2,260 for a semester. Double rooms in Tuve, Stavig and Granskou will cost $4,048 for an academic year and $2,024 for a semester.

Prices per academic year for the dorms available next semester. Graph by Andrew Kronaizl.

The decision to make Augustana a more mixed-housing campus came from ASA’s and administration’s desire to make Wagoner Hall available to all grade levels. Additionally, space constraints due to Solberg’s renovation played a role.

“There was no other option,” Dean of Students Mark Blackburn said. “It was either have all first year students live [in Wagoner], or, the equitable, smart, way is having everybody.”

Grades will still be separated by floor levels in residence halls. Wagoner Hall, for instance, will have freshmen on the first floor and upperclassmen on the remaining two floors. 

Roommates will still be based on student choice and will likely not be mixed unless a student specifically requests to live with someone from a different grade.

Floors would become mixed with freshmen and upperclassmen only if there is an overwhelming amount of incoming freshmen. So far, Blackburn and Bump say the incoming freshman class will be around 500.

There were no concerns among administration about having enough room for all students who want to live on campus according to both Blackburn and Bump.

The success of mixed housing in Stavig has also influenced next year’s change. 

Students were never polled or asked what they thought of living in a mixed grade building.

“We haven’t heard anything, which is good news most of the time,” Bump said.

The order of students choosing their rooms will depend on the lottery system Augustana uses to distribute housing registration times. Rising sophomores are prioritized in the lottery system because of the two-year on campus residency requirement. After rising sophomores, seniors and then juniors will receive later selection times. Incoming freshmen use a different registration system.

Bump plans to hold some rooms in each building for each grade level, but did not know exactly how many rooms would be reserved yet. Bump said a higher portion of rooms would likely be reserved for rising sophomores than for other grades, though.

According to Blackburn, student opinions on mixed grade housing were informed by conversations with Viking Advisers and ASA. 

ASA President Courtney Chrystal said mixed housing was only brought up during informal, closed meetings with Blackburn in the context of giving tours of Wagoner Hall, as well as in conversations about VAs’ workloads. 

A major part of the decision to move Augustana toward mixed housing is the potential for mentorship opportunities among different grade levels, according to Bump, Blackburn and Chrystal.

Chrystal hopes that mixed housing will ease VAs’ supervising burdens by having upperclassmen contribute to communal behavior checking.

“Our [residence] life team is planning on leaning into this programming aspect of having this mentorship,” Bump said. “Having those older students show you the way. The maturity level of the buildings may go up having the mixed grades there.”

Chrystal could not have any formal conversations to gather student opinions about mixed housing, as her meetings with Blackburn were closed and the information discussed was not always shareable. In informal conversations, however, Chrystal gathered that the general sentiment about mixed housing was positive.

Bianca Rojo, the residence hall director in Tuve, said she liked the idea of mixed housing and said she knew of many VAs who were excited for next year.

“I think it’s going to be a really good opportunity,” Rojo said. “I was in Tuve this year, and we have the flex housing floor. I think there was a really good mix of students. They got to see different perspectives because they’re all different years.”

Neil Peltier, a VA in Granskou, currently an upperclassmen building, said VAs were not involved in the decision to move toward mixed housing.

“I think the VAs this year already had some trouble with input, and there were some issues where people felt they were not being heard,” Peltier said. “I think they’re going to do what they’re going to do no matter what.”

As a student and a VA, Peltier said he could foresee issues with upperclassmen being frustrated with freshmen living in the same building for things such as noise, laundry, mess, drinking and parking issues.

Student discontent could also be an issue for VAs and make their jobs more stressful, he said. 

“The residents’ problems become the VAs’ problems,” Peltier said.

Michael Schepp, a VA in Granskou, did not know about the plan to move Augustana into mixed housing until the mid-year update.

“We were not consulted for this year’s setup so I don’t imagine VAs were consulted about [next year’s],” Schepp said.

Schepp said he thinks mixed housing could make VAs’ jobs more difficult. Historically, VAs request a building according to their preference of which grade they want to oversee. Freshmen tend to demand more from VAs while upperclassmen tend to be more settled.

Schepp also disliked the idea of living in a mixed grade building as a student, not just as a VA.

“If I were living in the dorms I might be a little annoyed if I were in mixed housing because the freshmen don’t know how to act yet,” Schepp said. “I would prefer not to be the person that has to teach them how to act as a resident there.”

However, Schepp also said he did think mixed housing could improve the campus community by mixing up people from different grade levels.

Chrystal has been advocating for mixed housing since her freshman year. She sees a lot of advantages in informal mentoring and advising that can happen when freshmen live with upperclassmen. She thinks mixed housing will also fill in a gap of connecting students with peers from other grades and create a more cohesive community.

For Chrystal, another big part of mixed housing is equity and accessibility. 

“Mixed housing for a lot of people just looks like accessibility because the reality is that [Wagoner] will be our most accessible, wheelchair friendly dorm, and there are students who need and deserve that who are not going to be just first-year students,” Chrystal said.

As for student opinions, Blackburn said that he hadn’t heard of any upperclassmen who were concerned about being able to live on campus or in the dorm of their choice next year.

“People are really, actually, demanding Bergsaker,” Blackburn said. “I’m excited to see the excitement that people have for Bergsaker right now.”

Some upperclassmen are also looking forward to living in Wagoner.

Jessica Blachowske, a sophomore living in Granskou, said she hopes to live in Wagoner Hall next year. She said she liked the idea of mixing freshmen and upperclassmen and is glad to get to know more people and have more variety in housing options.

Some students have expressed a different opinion. Peltier said he doesn’t want to live in Bergsaker as an upperclassman. 

“I don’t want to get stuck over there,” Peltier said. “All the fun stuff is on the North side. I will still always think of Bergsaker as a freshman dorm.”

Going forward, Bump is anticipating keeping mixed housing along with a first-year only building in the future after renovations and construction of new buildings are complete.

Blackburn, however, said administration would be willing to remodify housing if needed once Solberg’s renovation is completed in fall 2023.

SEE NEXT: First-year students inhabit north-side

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