A commitment to ‘residential education’: Commuter policy changes
Geneva College is changing their policy regarding off-campus living. Previously, students were allowed to live in the home of a faculty or staff member, but that option is now off the table for students wishing to commute to Geneva College.
“Geneva is a residential campus, and we have been for as long as I can remember,” said Bridgette Hinzman, residence life coordinator. “This has been a policy that we’ve been reviewing for a while.”
This is the second change to Geneva’s commuter policy in the last two years. Previously, students could live with the family of commuter students who lived with their parents. That policy was eliminated in 2017.
Financially, the implications of on-campus living are beneficial to the college. “The reason this decision was made as suddenly as it was does have financial implications,” said Hinzman. But the main goal of the policy, cited in a March 27 email to the student body, is Geneva’s commitment to “residential education and the community of discipleship that it creates.”
Geneva has had open beds in recent years due to lower enrollment, so getting students back on campus has been a priority. Currently, 23 students are living with a faculty or staff member and commuting to Geneva, and those students will be grandfathered in and allowed to continue doing so until they graduate.
In the letter sent to faculty and staff, both the educational/community component and the financial component of the decision were emphasized. However, in the email sent to students, only the educational/community element was mentioned. President Troup took responsibility for this communication oversight, acknowledging students’ suspicions of unspoken financial motives.
“We made a mistake. That I am responsible for,” said Troup. “There were mixed messages and we work really hard not to do that. . . we don’t always get that perfect.”
Dr. Joel Ward, a professor in the communication department, has had students live with him over the years while at Geneva. “We’ve always had students live with us because we want to support the ministry of the college,” said Ward, “and if this [new policy] is what’s necessary to support the ministry of the college, then we’re perfectly fine with it.”
Ward also cited the importance of Geneva’s goal in building a residential community. “It is really hard to build a campus culture when you have a large commuter base,” he said.
There have been some complaints from several students who were planning on taking advantage of this now defunct policy, and some faculty and staff have expressed dissatisfaction as well.
“There have been some faculty who have pushed back because this is good for the students they have been involved with and their families, and they’ve really enjoyed it,” said Hinzman. “But for the most part, they have been understanding of the position of the college.”
While this policy may be eliminated for now, it is not necessarily a permanent change. There have been some issues with the policy in the past that the college wants to address and clarify, and the hope is that temporarily putting it on hold will give them time to do so.
“There have been complaints over the years,” said Hinzman. “We had been wanting to tighten up [this policy], so this gives us time to review it a little bit more. This is probably not going to be forever. We would hope to open it back up.”
As far as other policies go regarding off-campus living, nothing else is currently under review. “I know of other colleges who do make freshmen live on campus,” said Hinzman. “As far as I know, that has not been discussed, and none of the other options available to those who want to commute are going to be cut.”