Coddling the Millennials or Just Trying to Compete?

Via this weeks’ Carnival of Education, I read a post at Number 2 Pencil. The main jist of the post is that places of higher learning shouldn’t be building new residence halls and higher tech classrooms just because the incoming students expect it.

My question is, why not? If the school has the money available, higher tech classrooms can be beneficial to the learning experience of every student that gets to use them. But the high tech classrooms part isn’t what got my hackles up, the better quality res halls is.

Guess what? I hadn’t ever shared a bathroom or a bedroom when I went to college, nor had I ever lived without central AC. Did that stop USC from putting me, an Honors College student, into an all-female dorm with hall bathrooms and no AC whatsoever? No, it did not.

Well, guess what? (At least where I work) Housing is a self supported business, meaning we have to attract and retain customers to pay the salaries of the people that work here and to continue to provide the services that we do. This means we have to compete with an ever changing, ever upgrading market of apartment complexes and smaller landlords that are going the extra mile to get students to move out of the res halls and into their properties. While we do have somewhat of a captured market with our freshman certified housing rules, there are private facilities that are in that market as well so we can’t be too complacent.

I’m not saying that every one of our residence halls should be like a penthouse suite at a Vegas casino, but don’t you think laundry facilities should be accessible without walking to some large central laundromat? Maybe air conditioning and some carpet instead of tile floors? Remember, we are trying to increase return customers here, offering these types of amenities is just one carrot out there on the end of the stick. When was the last time you saw a Studebaker or Yugo dealership? Innovate, update, evolve or get pushed out of the market.

I lived in our facilities for 4 years as an undergraduate, and I’m happy to say that, yes, I’m probably a better person for the experience, but did I really need to sweat through those 4 or 5 weeks a year that we needed AC to get the temp down? Do our incoming students need to use a networking infrastructure (the physical wiring) that was installed in the late 1980s, well before they were born?

Mini-vacation, Days 3 & 4

Day 3 was colder, but we still hit several local parks.
First up was Muskegon State Park which is right along Lake Michigan. The roads were essentially drifted with sand in places, but still passable. We hiked on the dunes and hiked out to the luge track at the Winter Sports Complex. Farther up US-31 was Duck Lake State Park.
(That’s literally a duck on Duck Lake.) We walked along a paved sidewalk that ran from the parking area to the lake front beach area.
Since the temp was starting to drop, we spent some more time driving around western Michigan, but didn’t do much other than eat lunch and return to the hotel.
Friday night we were looking for someplace to eat within walking distance. We were going to settle for the resturant in the hotel, but we realized the City Cafe was in the Frauenthal Center just across the street. All I can say is wow. The food was great and the service was excellent, I’d recommend it to anyone who is in the Muskegon area, especially if you are staying at the Holiday Inn.
With snow and colder weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, we decided to come home a day early. After driving through Gary and Chicago, we’re glad to be back in central Illinois.

Mini-vacation, Day 2

After our free continental breakfast at Holiday Inn Express and a short drive to Battle Creek, we spent an hour or so at Kelloggs Cereal City.
Cereal City logo
This really isn’t an attraction for adults, but if we were 10, it would have been really cool. Lots of interactive exhibits, with loud noises and flashing lights. And a free box of Fruit Loops for each person at the end.
Next, after some interesting driving around downtown Battle Creek, we took off towards Muskegon on a nice little 2 lane highway. Driving across western Michigan is kind of nice, but they have some screwed up roads. The next stop was in Grand Haven, at a small state park that really isn’t much more than a pier/lighthouse/breakwater, a strip of beach along Lake Michigan and a camper parking area. We walked out to the end of the pier, ignoring the warning signs about the danger of (non-existant) heavy surf washing us off and out into the lake.
Grand Haven lighthouse
(Other pictures)

Tomorrow, we’re hoping to hit a couple of local state parks, but the forecast isn’t looking good, so we may just be wandering around looking for indoor things to do. And there’s a chance of snow tomorrow night and for the rest of the weekend, good thing we brought the truck.

Mini-vacation, Day 1

Day 1 has been quite a bit of driving, but it wasn’t bad. I-57 north to US-24 east to US-31 north to South Bend to some random state roads to I-94 to Kalamazoo. The Holiday Inn Express was easy to find, right off the interstate, and has free wireless (woohoo!). The wife worked last night and still hasn’t slept, so I’m expecting her to fall over pretty soon and not wake up until late tommorrow.

Day 2? Kelloggs Cereal City USA in Battle Creek and then a drive up to Muskegon. Hopefully they have wireless also.

More Orchard Downs

Typical University methods. We’ve been talking, internally to Housing, about what to do with Orchard Downs for several years now, and now someone from higher up says this:

Dempsey said that a final decision about graduate housing would not be made until two to four years from now, and any decision about commercial or retail development would come after that.

Oh well, just as I like to tell everyone at work every time some major project comes up: “Don’t worry, we’ll all be retired before they even get started.”