VCU President Michael Rao answered student questions regarding upperclassmen on-campus housing, university expansion, branding and other topics at a Sept. 17 roundtable.
Hosted by the Student Government Association, about 20 students attended the hour-long event. Rao, in addition to student government members, expressed a desire to attract more students to the semesterly event, which SGA president Vivek Kuruvilla said started last year.
“There’s nothing that [SGA] can do if the student body isn’t coming out to talk to these administrators and talk to us about what they want or what questions they might have,” Kuruvilla said.
Several students posed questions regarding on-campus housing for upperclassmen, alluding to the fact that few students are able to garner a spot in the housing lottery beyond their freshman year. Following the construction of the new Gladding Residence Center, six residence halls provide a capacity of about 2,500 beds for non-freshman students.
Freshmen, Rao said, are the university’s priority for on-campus housing, followed by sophomores and upperclassmen.
“Freshmen are your biggest risk if they live off campus for getting into trouble or not coming to class,” Rao said. “We know when they live on campus, they do better. Their grades are better by at least one letter grade.”
Rao said he believes more upperclassmen will want to live on campus in the future due to the nature of a city campus, where rents in surrounding areas are rising. This is in part because of VCU’s heightened presence in the city, though Rao said the university has played a role in improving the area.
“I can tell you that there are two different voices in communities, there are voices of people who say, ‘Thank you for coming into our community, because you’ve actually made it a better place and you’ve made it safer,” Rao said. “Then there are other people who say, ‘We just don’t think the university should be here at all.’”
Expansion is inevitable with a rising student population, but Rao said it’s better — and more economical — for the university to “go up in the air” in the form of high-rise buildings.
To international relations and economics student Cameron Luster who attended the roundtable, VCU has already taken steps toward the future in the form of “social competency,” which encompasses racial and economic diversity in addition to projects like all-gender bathrooms.
“The people here are very socially intelligent and socially competent,” Luster said. “When you have somebody who stands up and represents what the future needs to look like, you’re really being a leader and you’re making a statement.”