—This editorial by UH Mānoa Interim Vice Chancellor for Students Lori M. Ideta was originally published in the October 16, 2016 edition of the Star Advertiser.
Living on campus is an important part of the college experience. For the vast majority of student residents, it is the first time they are living away from home and taking care of themselves. They are meeting peers from diverse backgrounds, learning to resolve conflicts and developing friendships that last a lifetime.
At the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Student Housing Services is responsible for creating the best possible environment for our student residents. Our operations and maintenance are fully funded without tax dollars, and we accommodate nearly 4,000 students in 10 residence halls and two apartment complexes. We also employ and train hundreds of students who serve as peer mentors to our residents.
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Our goal is to bring students together in an environment that fosters personal growth and unimpeded learning. We strive for a home-away-from-home experience through community development, academic initiatives and support. In fall 2015, 93 percent of the students surveyed in our residence halls said that they would recommend or strongly recommend living on campus to a new student.
This is a huge improvement from a 2005 national student survey where our residence halls were second in the nation in the “dorms like dungeons” category. We have made immense positive changes by investing $140 million on facilities improvements since 2008 that include:
- New Frear Hall construction
- Gateway Dining facility renovation
- Six residence hall renovations
- New card key system for front entries and student room doors
- New LED exterior lighting
- New furniture for student rooms and common areas
- Wi-Fi in residence halls
- Security screens installed throughout the buildings
These projects transformed 60 percent of the bed spaces on campus. They are part of a dynamic, long-range development plan that will also improve the remaining 40 percent.
We are dedicated to ensuring that our residents are provided with the services necessary for their healthy development. Our student and full-time staff are trained in key areas including conflict resolution, behavior intervention, alcohol and drug education and Title IX issues—sexual and gender based harassment and violence. The training is constantly reviewed and updated. The staff, in turn, train the residents thus creating an educational environment of support.
The Counselor-In-Residence program serves as a link between the Student Housing Office and the Counseling and Student Development Center. These counselors live and work in the residence halls and provide students with on-site counseling, crisis intervention and training–24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In 2016, the program received the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators Region VI Innovative Award. This honor is presented to a program that pursues the growth of students and staff, is dedicated to community development, enriches life on campus, demonstrates innovation and creativity and contributes immensely to the university.
We are proud of our progress and continually strive to improve the residential experience. The recent audit of Student Housing Services by the university made several recommendations to improve the management of our on-campus residence facilities. We always welcome the opportunity to review our processes and procedures and appreciate this important feedback. We are actively working to address the findings.
The Student Housing Services leadership and staff strive for excellence in all that we do and are committed to our students. This is a life calling for those of us who are dedicated to student affairs and to our mission of providing a quality experience at UH Mānoa.