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Letter to Students, Faculty and Staff on the New Housing Policy

By Mark Fischler
On November 30, 2018

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Building a world class university at PSU, as is our intention, requires collaboration, teamwork, and transparency. The way this new campus policy that requires all students to live on campus until they are 21 came about, does not reflect a commitment to these three elements of a high-functioning organization. Let me share with you why with some potential solutions. 


1. This policy is very much about financial stability, but that very fact was not the main message conveyed to our students in the President’s recent letter reiterating his reasons for the policy change (finances are mentioned toward end of note but not emphasized). In my short time as interim VP for Student Affairs I learned firsthand that revenue generated by residential life has been used in the past to help cover financial gaps in other areas. Our institution is significantly dependent on residential life’s ability to fill beds. When we were working together in my prior role, President Birx directly communicated to me, and I shared with our staff that he didn’t believe we ought to keep students on campus beyond 2 years unless they wanted to be here. He encouraged the res life team to create a world class learning environment where folks would want to potentially stay but never be forced to stay beyond 2 years. His previously stated policy appears to have changed. It’s important that we be transparent with our students, faculty and staff about why we must do this at this point in our history, and how we hope to make the best of it.

2. Creating a vision of what a world class living learning community looks like requires collaboration. We must listen to voices across the campus community. For example, the 2014 Master plan was created by a cross section of our campus community. Within it are suggestions for fixing the dilapidated student apartments, and relocating to a new dining complex to Merrill Street to help us compete with comparator schools with better dining space.  If we are serious about creating a world class living learning environment then we must come together to create a vision, and take concrete steps that truly enhance our students’ experience. We just had a town hall meeting where this dramatic change of the live on requirement wasn’t even mentioned. Sharing anticipated changes with the community demonstrates partnership and trust.

3. A world class university will also be a good neighbor to the town it inhabits. I am concerned about the impact this move will have on the town of Plymouth and the property managers who make a living relying on a sustainable student population.  The potential impact in the lowering of revenue from less students living off campus could impact tax revenues in the town, thus impacting taxes of all Plymouth residents. Residential Life worked very hard over the years to build a positive relationship with the property managers and it's my fear that relationship is broken. 


I share this letter because it’s important to be transparent in our decision making. We keep talking about a culture that values transparency, collaboration and accountability. That behavior starts at the top. If it doesn’t then we need to demand it and start to live it ourselves for the betterment of our precious community. I might suggest that we survey our students to find out how they would like to be engaged and collaborate with us. It would be helpful to hear from them what ways we can improve to create a world class living and learning community. I suggest we have directive meetings involving the whole campus community to talk about what a world class living and learning community might look like (I recognize that our Director of Residential Life Amanda Grazioso is taking steps in that direction based on the campus wide e-mail I received). We can bring in campus leaders from other places that have different models that we can consider. A task force with concrete plans for implementation might be a positive result. 

I would also suggest that we have campus wide meetings where we inform each other of what is happening in our particular areas. We all meet separately but it would make sense to me to have folks come together periodically. The town hall approach has some of that but is very administratively driven. We need to build structures where natural collaboration and open dialogue are the norm. For example in Student Affairs toward the end of my tenure we invited professor's to our meetings to build a sense of understanding of the work being done along with allowing opportunities for collaboration to naturally come forward. Having students be a part of something like that would be a way to make that experience even more effective. 

It is my hope that this note is a catalyst for real positive change. Our students, faculty and staff deserve no less.




Mark J. Fischler, J.D. 

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice

Justice and Security Cluster

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