- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NORFOLK (AP) — Old Dominion University is becoming more selective of who can live on campus, in an effort to create a more vibrant and engaged community.

That means some returning students hoping to live on campus won’t get a room this fall, which has sparked criticism among students.

The new system is the result, in part, of ODU’s increasing popularity.

More than 2,000 beds in 11 buildings or complexes were to be available for returning students this fall, but applications exceeded that number by almost 450. Because of the overwhelming demand, some upperclassmen were shut out and room selection ended last Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.

A housing lottery favors newer students to increase their chances of academic success, as well as those with better grades and memberships in college organizations.

Some students said they understood the rationale behind the lottery, but complained that it was unfair to upperclassmen and those who don’t have time for college activities because they have to work.

“I’m sorry, but a freshman who lives in Norfolk about 10 minutes away from school needs housing a lot less than a senior from Mechanicsville,” said Megan Hudgins, a junior from Suffolk. “I know a lot of people are worried about it.”

The lottery replaces a first-come, first-serve system. Under the lottery, returning sophomores, juniors and seniors are assessed on points awarded for the qualities the school wants in its residents.

For instance, students get extra points for good grades and being active in one or more of the 200 campus organizations. They lose points if they are sanctioned by the school conduct system.

The more points, the earlier an applicant could choose housing.

Newer students also have an edge because of research showing that the nurturing effect of dorm life helps younger students acclimate more readily to being on their own.

“I think we’ve tried to be creative with it and be as fair as possible,” said Christina Kaberline, interim director of student housing.

About 16 percent of ODU’s 20,800 students use university housing. President Roseann Runte has said the university’s long-range goal is for at least one-half of the student population to live on campus.

Adding to the campus housing strain is an increase of more than one-third in the number of freshman applications.

The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg and several other Virginia colleges require or guarantee on-campus housing to freshmen. Norfolk State University gives them priority.

“All the research says that students who live on campus at least the first year are more likely to graduate,” said Deb Boykin, William & Mary’s assistant vice president for student affairs and director of residence life.

“You’re connected; that freshmen-hall experience is significant.”

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