Housing diversity proposal absent from 10-year plan

Jamie Williams

As honors students prepare to move into their new home in Southwest Hall, a housing diversity resolution put forth by the SGA last semester seems to have been forgotten by Housing and Residence Life.

The resolution, which was approved by the SGA last semester, supported the integration of Honors and international student housing in order to give each group a more diverse college experience.

Under HRL’s current 10-year housing plan, Southwest Hall will become honors student housing during the Fall 2017 semester, and Northeast Hall will become international student housing during the Fall 2018 semester.

“Instead of having them compartmentalized into one solely for international students and one solely for honors students, [the resolution is] combining them together to make a more diverse living situation for honors students and for international students,” SGA Senator Jody Dahmer, who helped author the bill, said.

During an SGA meeting last October, a resolution was put forth to improve on-campus diversity. The resolution proposed that instead of separating the honors and international students, they would be combined and would live throughout Southwest and Northeast halls.

Andi Dahmer, another author of the resolution, believed the integration of both student groups would allow them to have a more enriching and diverse college experience.

According to the 2015 WKU Student Profile, WKU consists of 76 percent white students, and the Honors College consists of 90 percent white students. Additionally, international students often live in the same dorm and only interact with fellow international students — not American students.

“This limited interaction between residence halls causes limited contact between students of different racial backgrounds and lifestyles,” according to the resolution.

Jody Dahmer said the resolution purposefully lacked extensive detail in order to let HRL work on the specifics.

“What would happen if we added too many details on this bill is HRL would look at it and scrap whatever details they didn’t want or thought were too superfluous, and then they would do it themselves,” Jody Dahmer said.

In a Twitter poll conducted by the SGA, approximately 83 percent of respondents supported the merge while 17 percent did not.

The resolution passed with 27 senators in favor and one against, meaning that the SGA showed its support for the new plan. However, as HRL rolls out its 10-year housing plan, there has been no mention of integrating honors and international students.

Andi Dahmer said she and other SGA members met with Kit Tolbert, the director of HRL at the time, along with Brian Kuster, executive director of the WKU Student Life Foundation. According to Andi Dahmer, the meeting with Tolbert lasted all of 15 minutes before they were told to talk to other Honors College and international administrators.

“It was a little bit frustrating from the standpoint of the authors because we had worked a lot on it,” she said.

Andi Dahmer said that during the meeting Tolbert showed concern the integration would require more desk clerks and would therefore cost more money. Presumably this would be due to the fact that Northeast offers extended living and is open during Winter term while Southwest is not.

Though Tolbert and Kuster heard the resolution, it is unclear if anyone else in HRL was aware of its existence. Even Lana Kunkel, who is overseeing new assignments in Northeast and Southwest halls, was unaware of the resolution. Additionally, Kuster said he did not know anything about the resolution and that it would be better to speak to HRL about it directly.

Allison Smith, assistant director of recruiting and administrations at the Honors College, said the Honors College was approached by the SGA about the resolution and its ideas to diversify Honors residence halls.

“We are certainly supportive of efforts to both diversify the Honors community as well as the WKU campus community as a whole,” Smith said in an email. “The Honors College is very excited about the upcoming plans to make Southwest and Northeast halls Honors and International focused, respectively, as it furthers the community currently existing in the Honors College International Center [HCIC] building.”

Kunkel clarified that while Southwest will now be one option for Honors student housing, Honors upperclassmen may still choose to live elsewhere and will not be confined to the single dorm. The same goes for international students who can choose whether or not they want to live in Northeast Hall. Additionally, Kunkel said American students will still have the option of renewing to Northeast Hall if they desire.

“When we get to the point of making an international global community at Northeast — which we’re not there yet — [Honors students] will have the opportunity to try to renew to that building as well,” Kunkel said.

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].