OHRE looks for creative solutions after COVID-19 hinders housing selection process

The+ongoing+construction+on+Boylston+St.%2C+intended+to+expand+the+sidewalk+into+the+parking+lane+and+add+benches+and+planters%2C+has+been+delayed+until+at+least+the+end+of+the+2020-21+academic+year.

Media: Madison Goldberg

The ongoing construction on Boylston St., intended to expand the sidewalk into the parking lane and add benches and planters, has been delayed until at least the end of the 2020-21 academic year.

By Belen Dumont, News Editor

The Housing Operations team released an updated 2020-2021 housing selection process timeline in an email Friday afternoon after the initially scheduled process was delayed in the scramble to move students off campus two weeks ago.

“We put a pause on the selection process that should have started on [March] 16th, because of the need to have students leave the residence halls and so students could transition to online learning,” Kendra Stokes, associate director for housing operations, said in a phone interview with The Beacon.

The Office of Housing and Residential Education will continue emailing housing selection updates in the coming weeks, which will include open office hours and instructions for digital connection. Stokes said their team will decide this week how digital office hours will function for this semester’s housing selection process, and that they are considering using Zoom or Slack in some capacity to connect with any student in whatever way best benefits them.  

“We hope that we are fully digitally accessible in a way so students feel successful in connecting with us,” Stokes said in a phone interview with The Beacon. “We want to test that out on our end first.”

A notable difference in this year’s housing selection process is that students cannot go to OHRE in Walker 411 with questions or concerns, as they have in the past. The office has traditionally been busy during the selection process, like last year when students rushed to the office looking for answers after a website malfunction caused the college to freeze the housing application.

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“We’re going to get creative on how students can digitally walk in and talk to us,” Strokes said. “I don’t know what that will look like yet.”

Stokes added that OHRE normally assesses how the application will appear on different devices, however, this testing is more critical now that the college doesn’t know what technology students currently have access to. 

“We want to make sure that how you view something is accessible whether you’re on a phone, a laptop, or a computer screen,” Stokes said. “We always test that and we’ve been continuing to test that, particularly now.” 

Stokes confirmed the basic function of the selection process will remain the same as it has in previous years. 

“Everything will function the same,” Stokes said. “It is just that students will be selecting from wherever they are in the world versus the vast majority are traditionally on campus.”

Fortunately, OHRE normally factors in time differences during the selection process as the college consistently has students studying abroad, Stokes said. She added that students should start reaching out with any timing issues now that her team released the updated timeline. OHRE staff can register for students—by proxy—if necessary.

“We will definitely make sure communication stays moving forward,” Stokes said. “If there are connection concerns or timing concerns, let [housing] know and we’ll work with each student.”

Stokes and Housing Operations Coordinator Chris Muchata have not scheduled any staff or department meetings throughout the selection process in order to dedicate their time to assisting students.

“The biggest challenge is non-process related,” Stokes said. “It’s that students are feeling very stretched with everything that’s going on in the world—that’s been a challenge for everyone. We’ll figure out how to move forward together, myself as a staff member and the entire Emerson community.”