Housing officials trying to improve dorm life

Students at Florida A&M University come from all over the world, hoping to adjust to the place they will call home for at least their freshman year.

Now that FAMU students staying on campus have been given the opportunity to become accustomed to their places of residence over the past month, some have realized dorm life is not as bad as they thought.

Students like Kojeck Jules, 19, said although living in a dorm may have its downfalls, there is a positive side to living on campus.

“My dorm room is small,” said Jules, a freshman business administration student from Orlando. “But I like the social aspect of campus life.”

The university assigns Resident Advisers to dorms to alleviate issues and concerns within the dormitories. According to the FAMU Housing Department, RAs are available to provide guidance to the residents.

Not to be confused with dorm mothers, RAs serve as another means for the housing department to create a comfortable environment for dorm residents.

However, dorm mothers have not been a crucial factor in dorm life for most residents. Many students say the RAs have been doing a good job of managing the issues that arise among dorm residents.

Cara Aska, a RA unfamiliar with the term dorm mother, said the middle-aged women who once oversaw RAs and delegated responsibilities were simply called clerks.

The 20-year-old junior nursing student from Tampa said, “I disagree with the university’s decision to get rid of these clerks. We don’t get compensated enough for what we do.”

Other RAs said the removal of clerks means a greater workload and an increase in responsibilities for RAs without an increase in wages or benefits.

While the conditions of the dormitories may not be ideal, the housing department said they are doing all they can to accommodate students living on campus.

Director of residence LaMar Coleman said the department is quite passionate about taking the necessary measures to ensure comfortable living arrangements on campus.

“I think we need to do a full assessment of the situation,” said Coleman, who expressed his desire to facilitate a greater level of student involvement in the decision making process. “What we need to do is show there is truly a benefit to living on campus.”

The housing department seems to have a lot in store for residents this year, including a residence hall government, which will serve as the voice of the students, dealing with issues such as programs and activities, equipment in housing facilities and dorm regulations.

Another initiative is the Battle of the Halls, a competition between dorms for the fastest accumulation of points.

Points will be awarded based on room inspections, overall cleanliness of dorms, activities held, the number of students with grade point averages above 3.0 and intramural games between halls.

The winning hall will receive certificates, trophies and possibly a trip, although the destination has not yet been determined. Educational programming with emphasis on cultural events, guest speakers and life skills awareness will serve as a positive way for students to interact and be informed about real-life issues.

Peer Academic Support Service will be a peer tutoring program that will allow students to receive help within their dorm.

At the end of the school year, a catered awards ceremony, Recognizing Our Achieving Residents, will seek to give credit to all individuals who have made a significant contribution within their dorm.

The recent changes with RAs and clerks have been the primary issue in the housing department.

“One of the most major changes we’ve had is we’ve moved to a live-in model for resident directors,” Coleman said, stating that the model is for a greater sense of supervision, guidance and leadership.

Resident director Yeharar Vielot said, “I know parents and students feel more comfortable with me here.”

Her goals for the housing department seem to be in alignment with those of Coleman’s. In addition to wanting more activities, Vielot would like to begin a recycling program.

She also wants residents have the best of both worlds in the dorm – two separate areas for studying and socializing.

“We’re moving in a very positive direction; the FAMU Housing Department is working diligently towards progression,” Coleman said.