Thursday, October 29, 2015
Beginning Fall 2016, Mercyhurst student-athletes will be required to live on campus, which is part of the administration’s vision to move nearly all of the university’s undergraduate students on campus within the next several years.
“Mercyhurst University prides itself on being a residential college and believes that living on campus promotes health and safety, facilitates diversity and inclusion, and integrates the residential, academic and social aspects of students’ lives,” said Mercyhurst President Michael T. Victor, who also enacted this same policy at Lake Erie College where he was president from 2006 to July 2015.
The undergraduate college culture is changing as many colleges and universities seek to increase the number of students living on campus to foster collaboration and to promote a sense of community. Studies have shown that students who live on campus are more likely to succeed academically and to have a more diverse and robust college experience.
Student-athletes, in particular, are an integral and high-profile population and, with 24 varsity sports at Mercyhurst, the camaraderie teams generate serves to heighten school spirit among themselves and the greater college community.
Senior graphic design major and varsity tennis player Travis Beck of Las Vegas is in his fourth year of living on the Mercyhurst campus. He said the new policy “makes total sense to me.” Particularly in winter, he says, not having to clean snow off a car or pay high heating bills and being able to walk to class on shoveled sidewalks are perks of living on campus.”
Campus life, especially this year, he said, is great. “People are really enjoying it more, whether it be the Chalk Walk or Hurst Day. It kind of makes me wish I got here a couple years earlier.”
Living on campus also provides a far safer environment for students, said Vice President for Student Life Laura Zirkle. The university believes that this new housing requirement will move much of the social life back on campus, where the environment will be better, safer and where the social scene will be more inclusive.
An added benefit, Zirkle said, is that it will help to improve the college-community relationship. The majority of the complaints from neighbors surrounding campus have been directed at “athletes’ houses,” she said.
For D-1 men’s hockey Coach Rick Gotkin, living on campus is a vital part of his players’ college experience.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years,” Gotkin said. “My players have always lived on campus. I imagine once or twice a couple of them may have asked to move off-campus but I said, ‘No, I don’t want you to,’ and they never complained.”
Gotkin said college is a special time in a young person’s life and that there’s no better way to get the total college experience than to live on campus. “The way I see it, for my guys, it’s the best thing,” he said.
Junior hockey player Jack Riley of West Point, New York, said he likes living on campus because of the unity it brings to his team.
“We don’t have to go off campus to meet up with some of our players or go downtown to hang out with others; we’re all together in one place and it helps us be a tightly-knit group,” said Riley, a business management major.
He also said he gets to interact with other students on campus that he might not if he was commuting.
For instance, he said, “There’s a student in the AIM (Autism Initiative) program that some of us know from the caf; if he’s sitting alone, we always ask him to join us.”
As a revenue-generating mechanism, maintaining residential capacity on campus and demonstrating growth will enable Mercyhurst to make future investments in existing housing, upperclassmen dining facilities, new residential buildings and renovations, and the addition of numerous other amenities, including those focused specifically on athletic facilities, Zirkle said.
The Mercyhurst housing structure is unique in that it offers traditional residence halls for freshmen but also apartments and townhouses that provide upperclassmen a greater sense of independence but within a structured framework.
While on campus, Riley has lived in Warde, the freshman residence hall; Duval Apartments, close to the heart of campus; and now is in the Wayne Street apartments, which are at the far east end of campus. So, he said, he’s had an assortment of positive housing experiences.
The university enrolls 650 student-athletes and, of those, approximately 150 live off-campus at any given time.
PHOTO: AIM student Marco Cicchino greets hockey players, from left, Tyler Enns, Jack Riley and Spencer Bacon.