“Civil Interactions, the truth behind enhanced occupancy”

An Example of Enhanced Occupancy
An Example of Enhanced Occupancy

The term Residential “Res” Life is a familiar name on many collegiate and university campuses. For the University of Southern Maine’s branch, their goal is to provide “A collaborative, inclusive community that engages, educates, and supports students,” in their quest for higher education and success. Their office is accessible Monday through Friday, 8:00 Am to 4:30 Pm. The Office of Residential Life for the university is centrally located at 125 Upton-Hastings hall. Just down the hall from the Office of the Dean of Students and Health and Counseling Services.

The Director of Residential Life on campus is Christina Lowery, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master’s degree in Student Development in Higher Education at the University of Maine in Orono. In 2016, Lowery joined the Universities Residential team upon embarking from previous employment at a university in Massachusetts.

Residential Life Director, Christina Lowery
Residential Life Director, Christina Lowery

A Senior student at the University, Bryson Bouffard is well over ninety credit hours into his major. This previous semester he resided in Woodward hall. However, this semester is different, Bouffard feels that he has been “forgotten about” and “downgraded,” in a time when there wasn’t really “much of a plan” in place for the overflow of Residential students. Currently, he is residing in a triple in Upton-Hastings hall. Feeling much better about the predicament Bouffard still “wishes it was different.” 

One student with the University of Southern Maine, whose name is undisclosed, feels that having two roommates is “definitely an adjustment,” something they are still adapting to. They find it difficult to have a roommate that is consistently in and out of the room at varying times of the night with random strangers to be intense and nerve-racking. Whereas with their other roommates they feel that the other roommate is “pretty chill,” because they keep to themselves. This student informed me that there isn’t enough room or privacy in their dorm for three people, calling their space a “little corner” in a little room. 

Students from around campus chimed in with their thoughts on Enhanced Occupancy. 

Two USM students informed me about the living conditions they are currently in. Initially, when Student 1 found out they were pretty annoyed, this student vented their frustration to their friend group. Explaining how they felt a little prepared coming onto campus knowing they’d share a room with not just one person, but two. Currently, this student is fine with the accommodation. They get along with their roommates, though they feel there is “not enough 

room for three people” in such a packed room. Whereas Student 2 wasn’t sure what to think, explaining that their first thought was “how big is the room? Will there be enough space?” However, when they moved in their feelings changed. They weren’t impressed by the bunk bed though were surprised to see how big the room really is. Even after a month they have adjusted to the situation and feel it is ok and they get along with their roommates really well. 

Three USM students, all roommates, all upper-class students who live in Upton Hastings Hall. Student 1: Is fine with the change, though remarks that they did “apply for a single room, though everything was taken.” Though they don’t care too much about it because for starters they get along well with each other, though also “it is much cheaper for me. I could go either way.” the idea of the price difference being there, and the twenty percent discount, is a seller for many students.

One of their roommates, Student 2: is joyful with the price difference and immediately went to ask their USM friends who’ve been in Enhanced Occupancy before just how big the room is. Noting, “I feel really good about it now.”

Their final roommate, Student 3: is irritated and “quite annoyed” about the situation. This last semester they had been residing in Upperclass hall, “so being demoted to a lower class dorm irritated me.” With less space and no say in who they get dormed with, finally, the difference in environment is vastly different to that of Upperclass hall. However, they remark how they are doing better with the change, noting “we are all on the same wavelength.” 

As the reader, have you ever had to share a room with someone else; If so, ask yourself how that experience was. Did you have a choice and was it memorable? The idea of sharing a room with anyone that isn’t family or a friend can be incredibly nerve-racking. With an amplification on your feeling when you find out you have to apportion the same size room for another person. Now imagine how you’d feel when you find out you are sharing a room with not one stranger but two; or not three friends but three friends and two strangers. 

Transfer students Meylinde Cortes and Bianca Crandall are upper-class students residing in Upton-Hastings hall this semester, both students suffer from anxiety especially when it comes to meeting new people. Student 1: When Meylinde Cortes initially found out that she had been placed in a triple, she panicked and instantly became worried.

Her family recalls her having a panic attack the moment she was informed. Now Meylinde is doing much better, “I am feeling fine about it,” she mentioned to Bianca, one of her roommates. Meylinde now gets along really well with her roommates, “they are pretty nice so I don’t feel so worried about it anymore.” This is a feeling that many feel after meeting their roommate(s).

Student 2: For the other roommate, Bianca Crandall immediately overthought the situation, “I had to think two people’s thoughts instead of one,” with panic ensuing and her anxiety peaking she immediately went to her mother to rant. Even now on campus, Bianca is still a little ”weary” and “anxious,” though she has gotten better at handling the anxiety, “I think it helps that we all agree that as long as there is mutual respect we can get along better.”

However, both Bianca and Meylinde agree that there isn’t enough space for the three of them. 

With the liberty to speak to an upper-class student, who resides in Upperclass hall with five other university students, spoke their mind to this pencil pusher. Initially, when this student was informed of this by residential life, they were frustrated. Practically angry that the university and res life “would accept so many housing applications,” despite knowing how it has gone in the past.

In addition to a friend and roommate who struggles with their mental health from time to time. Initially, when they found out, they felt awkward meeting two complete strangers for the first time. Granted these are two strangers they’d be living with for the semester. Though they felt relieved knowing that they could decorate their space, knowing that everyone’s schedules were different ultimately allowing everyone to have personal time and space within the comforts of their suite. 

After almost a month of being on campus with their roommates, this student has come to enjoy these two strangers. Noting that they all get along incredibly well, with the exception of one student who is having difficulty adapting to the differences of Enhanced Occupancy. Later on in the interview, this student called the university out for doing anything just to make a quick buck. Pointing out that the university pulls in about $14,400 for a regular suite in the upper-class hall, approximately four people, whereas for a suite of six they pull in a total of $17,280. It isn’t much better for the Enhanced Occupancy rooms in the other dorm halls. A regular double pulls in $5,678 for two people, whereas a room of three pulls in $6,810. 

After speaking with residential life, it became clear that all students in an enhanced occupancy dorm or suite get 20% off of the total cost of the room. However, the price difference didn’t amuse this student. They asked me to answer this question, who is really making it out with the win? 

So what exactly is Enhanced Occupancy? 

It is any room that holds more than it is designed to house; for a dorm that is three people and for a suite in Upper Class or Philippe a room that holds five or more students. 

Residential director Christina Lowery mentioned how “Research shows living on campus is one of the biggest impacts on a student’s college experience. It positively impacts GPA, retention, and sense of belonging to their institution.” The ideology behind Enhanced Occupancy allows a greater number of students the opportunity for an equal chance at higher education without the barrier of traveling impeding their success plan. 

In Lowery’s professional opinion, the Portland Commons residence hall which will house 577 students in the fall semester of 2023; will primarily house Graduate and Law students. Any excess beds going to follow the hierarchy list of upperclassmen who have lived on campus for a minimum of two years. Nevertheless, she doesn’t anticipate the need for a vast amount of Enhanced Occupancy rooms in the fall of 2023 as they had this semester.


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