There have been echoes of frustration ringing through the halls as the little flashing lights on our WiFi towers fade to black. When asked about the positive sides of student housing you can expect a plethora of answers: the units being conveniently close to campus; the frequently visited pool and BBQ area; luxurious, beautiful, safe neighborhoods; the list goes on and on. But when stating the negative, you can unanimously hear nearly every student exclaim, “WIFI!”
The recent addition of school-mandated WiFi to the housing units has left a sour note with most students. I spoke to a few residents regarding their thoughts on the matter, and nearly all were negative, with many stating that they felt “powerless” and “discouraged,” and that it was “just completely unnecessary.”
Josh Blackman, a resident of two years, felt the WiFi was “Not meant for people who go to a tech school,” commenting on connection and bandwidth issues. Alex Garcia, a one-year resident, has a different view, arguing “I now have less to worry about when I have month to month payments . . . It’s way easier for me.”
Garcia’s worrying less about bills was one of several factors Brittany Bogle, the Dean of Students, took into consideration when implementing the WiFi on the units. However, some students, like 4-year resident Adam Krenz, disliked the policy. “I hate it so much, I want to choose my own service.” He feels the school is taking too much responsibility from its students, and that paying bills is a learning experience; his message to fellow residents was to “be an adult.”
I asked them if they had expressed their concerns about WiFi to the school, and I discovered that none of them had filed an official complaint or sent an email to Dean Bogle about their experience or concerns. During my interview with Brittany, I brought this issue to the table. “Once I got like the third or fourth email from students,” she says about complaints she received about the speed, “we went ahead and got it fixed. I heard a lot of it through the grapevine but very few people actually said something [directly] . . ."
A recurring problem seems to be a lack of communication. Blackman explains, “Sometimes you feel powerless, if no one is going to do it, or there hasn’t been a change yet, what’s the point?” But then goes on to say that if someone else rallied for a change, he would absolutely be on board. Krenz had the same outlook, “It’s almost discouraging to even let people know about your problems because it takes so long to actually take effect.”
A one-year resident, Piper Flores, had a more central proposal in mind. Why not have options when choosing your WiFi package and pay a little less or a little more depending on your choice? “If it can make my life a little easier, it’d be great.” When I explained to Flores that opting out or changing the WiFi speed wouldn’t affect the current cost of housing, the proposal seemed like less of a solution. After speaking with over two dozen residents I found this to be a common misconception. No one knew that the recent increase in housing cost was unrelated to the addition of WiFi into the units, and since the dollar amount had jumped from $4250 to $4500, for now seemingly no reason, this was quite a surprise.
Brittany explains the real reason for the increased cost: “We did a revision to the contract in January, which we do every year, for the upcoming fall semester . . . The fee this year was based on projected increases within the housing market. They expected a 6% increase in housing, so to compensate for that we increased the housing cost. It wasn’t until the end of April that we decided to also add in WiFi.”
Contrary to what many believe, the housing increase has nothing to do with the WiFi. But being introduced simultaneously, a many students are left with a “might as well since it’s here and I’m already paying more.” attitude, leading to frustrations between students and the staff. At the end of the day, the school simultaneously increased housing costs and included built-in Wi-Fi that the students found underwhelming, and even though the increased cost and Wi-Fi weren’t related, the lack of explanation and poor timing led students to naturally draw that conclusion, hence, the frustration.
However, despite that frustration, many of the students aren’t willing to voice their concerns about the issue, making it impossible for the school to know where the students stand on the issue.
From both sides arises a common issue: communication.
Because no one is talking to the other side clearly or directly, the views of both sides are completely disconnected. This is true not only for our problems with student housing, but also, with many issues that arise throughout the semester. While Cogswell is in charge of making executive decisions for the benefit of the entire academic community, they do indeed listen to what we have to say, especially if we band together and make our voice heard (remember #NoSpringBreak?) If you have concerns to bring up, then schedule a meeting with the person in charge. If a problem isn’t heard, it is not solved. As an entire student populace, we constantly come up with ideas and find areas of improvement in our community; but if it’s improvement we want to see, then we need to be willing to do something about it. In a situation like this, both sides must in constant communication to be clear with each other, with or without WiFi.