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Hubs: Survey Looks at Common Spaces

Alert ACUHO-I Editorial Intern Bridget Cunningham found this article and passed it on for blog consideration. It discusses a survey conducted by Herman Miller (the chair people) about “hubs,” in this context, a common space, such as a lounge, in a residence hall, classroom building, student union or library.

The results can be viewed here, but there are tidbits I find especially interesting:

• 21-30% of a residence hall’s square footage is typically allocated to hub spaces, agreed
41% of respondents

• 54% of respondents said they usually design hub spaces for 20 people or fewer

• Design trends include: Flexible (multi-use) furniture and other items; multiple seating
options, multi-media plug-in capability, and cozy touches.

• A loved hub has many names, including: Study Nodes, Flex Spaces, and Touch-Down Spaces.

What’s a Service Animal? ADA Regulations Are Clarified

Much to the relief of college and university housing officers everywhere, the Americans with Disabilities Act regulations regarding the definition of a service animal have been clarified. The ADA makes a clear distinction between animals that assist physically disabled people–by picking up objects, opening doors, seeing or hearing on behalf of the master–and animals that provide emotional comfort. The latter are not covered under the ADA regulations, states the Department of Justice.

There are other additions to the regulations which address college and university housing facilities. Until recently, the regulations did not specifically address housing at educational institutions, now they do. In buildings with at least 25 beds, at least 5% must have the floorspace necessary to accommodate people with mobility limitations; 2% must be accessible to people with communicative impairments. Facilities with an occupancy of 50 or more must provide a roll-in shower with a seat. If a kitchen or other public areas are provided, these must be accessible as well. Regarding apartments or suites, all units with an accessible room must be wholly accessible throughout. In other words, a student with a disability living in a four-bedroom apartment with three friends should be able to visit each of her friends’ rooms and move freely about the apartment.

For more details, see this excellent summary provided by the Scion Group, or the ADA website.

Read All About It

Bedbugs, bedbugs, bedbugs! As if you didn’t hear enough about them…Also, a library without books and an enrollment boom at community colleges.

FEAR UNDER THE SHEETS: As some colleges face bedbug infestations in dormitories, many others consider ways to prevent such outbreaks.

MOMENTUM FOR NON-COGNITIVE REVIEWS: ETS — rebuffed by College Board– pilots standardized letters of recommendation for undergraduate admissions; Notre Dame’s MBA program is first to require this kind of recommendation; law school group adopts own approach.

A TRULY BOOKLESS LIBRARY: The new engineering and technology library at U. of Texas at San Antonio holds no printed volumes — a realization of a goal many libraries have set as a vision for the future.

THE QUEST TO GET INTO CLASS: Community colleges around the country try to accommodate fall’s enrollment boom with waiting lists, more adjunct faculty and creative advising.

STAGNANT SAT SCORES: Total average is unchanged while some racial gaps grow — and ACT gains in market share on admissions testing.

“The Perfect Parasite” …Except When They’re In Your Halls!

Bedbugs are the “perfect” parasite…perfect if you’re a bedbug, that is. If you’re one of its victims, or operating a residence hall, the bedbug’s annoying abilities to avoid quick detection, thrive in all sorts of environments and survive attempts at eradication are perfectly maddening.

Thanks to a nationwide “epidemic” of infestations, bedbugs are now mainstream news. However, there’s a silver lining to this problem (the silver lining isn’t dotted with bedbugs; I checked). Greater public awareness of bedbugs will assist considerably in the fight against them. Helping in the education effort is pieces such as this fascinating interview with a pest management expert on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Acessible Housing, and a Sweet Story

I just had to share. This story about the University of Illinois’ new super-accessible residence hall and dining hall for students with disabilities is inspiring, and if you’re like me, it will make you a little weepy too. You’re probably seeing a lot of emotionally overwhelmed parents and students lately, but let this story introduce you to two more.

Kelsey Rozema, best of luck at the University of Illinois!

‘Maid’ Service: Cleanliness or Luxury?

George Washington University used to provide cleaning services for its freshmen students in suites; no more. Now students must clean their personal spaces; common spaces are still cleaned by staff, of course. A few other institutions offer cleaning services for private student spaces–most often bathrooms. Some cite the basic cleanliness issue: dirty bathrooms are nasty things, and can spread illnesses–such as staph infections–which already burden campuses. Some students find the maid services a selling point; others are neutral on the issue. In addition to the expense, some institutions have had complications with maid services; sometimes students’ rooms or bathrooms are too dirty to be cleaned. What then?

But wait…I have a disclaimer.  I didn’t have a maid in college. Or any other time. I actually worked as a maid, for a little while, between other jobs. All things considered, it was a nice job. I listened to music on headphones and I cleaned private homes, which were usually not particularly dirty. But still, the idea of having a maid is foreign to me, especially having a maid in college.

I’m probably just saying this as an Old Grumpy Person, but I think it was useful to see how appallingly dirty a space can get without enough cleaning. I realized, sometime during my junior year while evaluating my bathroom before a parental visit, that there was nothing inherently clean about precious me.  The bathroom was disgusting, it reflected badly on me, and I had to do something about it, lest I make my mother cry. In my late-teens and early 20s, I gradually became a tidier person. When I had to clean my own space, I tended to be more respectful of it and more careful not to mess it up again. I’m far from a tidy person right now (just ask my ACUHO-I colleagues, who have seen my office), and my husband and I have a dog whose primary avocation is shedding hairs that corkscrew themselves into our rugs and clothing. But I think learning to clean, by learning about not cleaning, was useful.

That said, I understand about the staph infections. My housemates and I are probably fortunate we were not killed by our own bathroom, though we found our ancient and thunderous washer quite fearsome. Our worries were probably misplaced.

Is Your Hall as Cool as an iPad?

Okay. Part of this post is due to the fact that we didn’t want to be the only blog in the blogisphere to NOT have a post about the iPad. But it also came to mind as I was reading this post in the all-things-tech blog Gizmodo. In the story (as well as this one here) the authors discuss what constitutes “good” design and whether or not the iPad conforms to those rules.

The writers go back to the principles of designer Dieter Rams — who is famous for his Braun product designs of the 1950s and ’60s — who had 10 rules for good design. According to Rams:

  • Good design is innovative.
  • Good design makes a product useful.
  • Good design is aesthetic.
  • Good design helps us to understand a product.
  • Good design is unobtrusive.
  • Good design is honest.
  • Good design is durable.
  • Good design is consequent to the last detail.
  • Good design is concerned with the environment.
  • Good design is as little design as possible.

Read more

Sniffing Out Bedbugs

The New York Times ran a story about Cruiser, an adorable puggle who earns his keep in the bedbug-detecting business. Handler Jeremy Ecker and Cruiser have busy days, since bedbugs  have made a comeback in New York City. Once wiped out by now-illegal pesticides such as DDT, the bedbug population is surging, thanks to more common and frequent international travel and two generations of unfamiliarity with bedbugs and their habits. Some article commentators wonder if bedbugs aren’t a sign of a badly-kept home, or if the bugs can’t be killed by a brief stay inside a plastic-wrapped mattress. As many readers here know, cleanliness doesn’t prevent a bedbug infestation, and the critters (and their eggs) can stay viable for a long time without food.

Ahem. So while Cruiser is most certainly adept, we would like to point out that the Talking Stick, and ACUHO-I in general, scooped The New York Times on this topic. Take that, Gray Lady! In our story, bedbug sniffer Jack–just as adorable and proficient as Cruiser, by the way–was the star. Jack demonstrated his talents at our Business Operations conference last October. See Wayne Walker’s October 2009 presentation on the subject in our library.

For yet another take on bedbugs, listen to the Fear of Sleep This American Life episode. Act two discusses bedbugs, and how intractable they are.

People Come and Go, Knowledge Stays

…At least, that’s the plan. Boomers have started to retire, and many more will do so in the next 5 to 10 years. When they leave, these professionals will take years of experience and institutional knowledge with them. (The economic downturn has at least one, bittersweet upside, as it likely delayed some of these retirements.)

Higher education and student housing are experiencing the same trends. Especially vulnerable is the facilities department; the longtime employees there know the quirks of each building; where lines are buried, the unwritten details of the university’s history with a specific contractor. This knowledge isn’t written down; it’s in the facilities’ professionals’ heads, and if they leave, it goes with them. Compounding the issue is a paucity of young professionals in facilities-related fields and trades. For example, The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the job market will be wide open for electricians, physical plant operators, and HVAC mechanics in the near future, as longtime professionals retire and not enough young professionals are on track to replace them.

What to do? Knowledge databases, mentoring and shadowing are among the solutions institutions are trying. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on the topic, and The Talking Stick discussed the subject in 2007: “Replacement Parts” by Dave Sagaser.

What’s happening on your campus? Are succession plans in place? Is there active mentoring taking place already? Share in the comments section.

Community Colleges Getting A Student Life

Community colleges are quite popular lately, as more conventional-age (17-24) students seek them out for a bachelor’s degree–or the first two years toward that goal–and older applicants are using the down economy as an opportunity to bulk up their job skills. (Unfortunately, as the article linked above attests, popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to increased funding.)

Some institutions have noticed a greater percentage of their applicants are in the younger age group. These students often want more of the “student life” opportunities that they would get at a four-year institution, and some community colleges are responding, according to an article in Inside HigherEd. We already have heard about community colleges building residence halls; now there’s at least one building a student center, to better facilitate student group meetings, study groups and the like. The construction was inspired by the administration’s conversations with students regarding what would improve their experience at the school. Student centers are not unheard of at community colleges, but they aren’t common, either.


New York University is building a new campus in Washington D.C.

In this lot.

See? It’ll be in that narrow, 60-foot-wide area just behind the streetlight, between the tan building and the dark brown building. The campus will occupy a 75,000 square foot building (to be constructed) and will be known to the acronym-happy as NYU-D.C. The campus will include five floors of student living space and classroom space. The living area will house 200 students, whose classes will be through the College of Arts & Sciences. History, journalism, politics, art history and economics will be the initial offerings when the campus opens in the fall of 2012. Nesting all the functions for daytime learning and nighttime living was quite a trick for the architects, according to a story in the Washington Business Journal: “It was like putting a little Swiss watch together, but we got it to work,” said architect Laurence Caudle.

How Green Was My Roof?

We’ve all heard of green roofs. Well, a new photo feature by National Geographic magazine takes a look at exactly how much room for growth (pun fully intended) there is in this practice. These sprawling images show buildings like Chicago’s City Hall or the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo that are oases in their urban deserts as well as more rural scenes in Switzerland and Germany.

Check out the full photo gallery and then use the comment section to discuss if you’ve implemented green roofs on any of your campus buildings.

Gophers are Shovel Ready

Those Golden Gophers from Minnesota are the the first college in the country to use Build America Bonds to help fund new campus constrution projects. According to, these bonds were created to help state and local governments raise money for building projects by making it significantly cheaper for them to issue taxable bonds.

Among the intended projects listed in the official release from the school, was a new residence hall on the university’s Crookston campus. The article also discusses how the University of West Florida is taking advantage of additional changes in tax law that will open more funding options for their much-needed new residence hall; receiving a $15 million loan that would not have been possible just three months ago.

Pinch-Hit Leasing

According to a New York Times article, the School of Visual Arts in the Lower East Side of Manhattan is offering up its freshly-built residence hall for renters until full-time students arrive in August. Since the building wasn’t finished in time for spring classes, the school found itself with an empty hall and some time. Starting at $1,600 a month (this is New York, remember), renters get 24-hour security, utilities, internet, shared bathroom and kitchen facilities, and a continuing education class: specifically Background Essentials for Film History.

There haven’t been any takers yet but it’s still early (and this is New York). The school hopes the renters will consider pursuing a degree after their on-campus experience.