Residence life testing additional open house hours


Photo courtesy Instagram user @calvinlifework.

Residence life leadership approved a proposal for a pilot program to increase open house hours in the dorms  following an initiative from student senate.

The program will add 4 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays to the dorm open house schedule after spring break. During open house hours, women and men may be inside each others’ dorms as long as room doors remain open.

“I think the success of this project indicates that when students are passionate about change and are ready to engage in a collaborative process, change does indeed happen,” said Andrew Oppong, student body president. “We’re grateful to residence life for partnering and collaborating with us to make this happen.”

Student senate proposed this pilot program to residence life leadership on Jan. 25. The leadership approved the proposal on March 2.

John Witte, dean of students, said residence life is intentional about the planning process with student senate:

“We discussed it with them and then followed that with making a plan to see how much of a positive or negative impact it had on students and staff after the spring semester is over.”

Katherine Niska, leader of the project for student senate, said that gauging how people might react negatively or positively towards these changes  was a very helpful part of the preparation process:

“In taking the time to walk through the questions that both senate and administration had, we were ready to respond to anyone who would have reservations about this change and make sure that we were doing everything possible to make a positive outcome.”

Lawrence Beamer, a first-year student, said he thinks the additional open house hours will help cultivate community:

“I’d be able to see my friends, both girls and guys, in a more personal setting for more time during the week.”

Residence life leadership and staff have carefully thought about the possible effects of the change.

“There is no magic formula for how to get the right balance of hours,” said Witte. “Adding new hours could be perfectly fine, but it could also potentially upset things such as floor community, roommate relationships and safety or security, which have turned into somewhat of a tradition at Calvin.”

When assessing how students, resident assistants (RAs) and resident directors (RDs) react to the new hours after the completion of the semester, Witte and other residence life staff will look at things such as sense of community and belonging and roommate conflicts. They will compare the data they collect this spring with data from previous spring datasets to see if there are significant differences. The results of those comparisons influence how permanent these extended hours could be.

Adding more open house hours may affect workloads for RDs and RAs. RDs, for example, have responsibilities that include counseling individual residents, promoting loyalty to dorm community expectations and supervising the operation of their residence hall communities.

“The more that you have, the more responsibility you have as well,” said Kasey Stevens, RD for Noordewier-VanderWerp. “There probably wouldn’t be too much more work for dorm leadership; however, policy violation meetings have potential to be more time consuming or frequent depending on students abiding by the policies in the dorms.”

Residence life leadership look forward to seeing the results of opening up community at Calvin and what the future could hold for Calvin’s student life.

“This could be a healthy opportunity for students to have relationships with the same or opposite gender and more community on the dorm floors,” said Witte. “The new hours added on will help us to better see the future of open hours at Calvin.”

Niska reflected on how she sees this impacting students during this semester and on into the future.

“My prayer would be that we will stand together to pursue a more collaborative approach to living out our mission to think deeply, [to] act justly and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.”