By Brendan Monahan
The College has announced that after over 20 years of use, it will be phasing out its merit point system. The announcement came on Feb. 18 via an e-mail to the entire campus community.
The merit point system provides points to students based on their level of participation in campus organizations and attendance at campus events. The more points a student accrues, the more likely they are to gain preferred room selection times in the College’s housing lottery. The system was being assessed under a strategic plan directive by the Office of Residence Life.
Residence Life’s review of the program began in 2013, and just finished in January. Using community forums where Stonehill students, faculty and staff could voice their opinion on the system, as well as data gathered from student surveys and the Office of Residence Life, a comprehensive review of the system was conducted.
One of the most important findings of the review were the difficulties and frustration faculty and students had with the way the merit point system incentivized attendance at campus events and participation in student run organizations to get a preferred housing selection time slot, rather than out of personal interest.
The review also found that the system put certain students with major time commitments off campus at a disadvantage, as they were often unable to participate in evening activities that would allow them to accrue points. It was also clear that often merit point data turned in by student organizations or from campus events was not reflective of actual attendance, and that based off of student point totals in multiple merit point cycles, only one seventh of all students on campus actually received a preferential time slot based of their merit point totals.
Noting the College community’s dissatisfaction with the system and its lack of impact, Residence Life has chosen to phase out the system, with the final merit point cycle ending on Feb. 28. This means merit points will only affect the housing lottery time slots once more, for housing selection for the Fall semester of 2015.
Director of the Office of Residence Life, Kristen Pierce, said the College community’s reaction to the news has been good.
“The reactions to our decision have been overwhelmingly positive. There are some community members who are worried about how this will impact attendance at programs and events but other than that it seems like the majority of folks believe this is a good decision,” she said.
Patrick Kennedy, a member of the Class of 2016, shared these positive sentiments. “I am completely in favor of the abolition of the merit point system. The system was unfair to student athletes, students abroad, and students with heavy course loads,” Kennedy said.
Sophomore Alissa Onofrio agreed. “The whole system of merit points and housing has always been a bit of a headache to deal with. The merit points that I had earned over the course of a semester never showed up on MyHill correctly and merit points made the whole race for “good housing” that much more stressful. I totally support…Residence Life’s decision.”
Hannah Kilday, another sophomore, said the system should have been changed, rather than eliminated:
“I don’t know if getting rid of the merit point system entirely is the best course of action to solve the problems addressed in the merit point program review,” she said. “With only five points to gain, in the old system everyone was more than capable of getting 14 or 15 points total, putting everyone on the same level again. Maybe if we started with 6 or 7 points instead of 10, but could still get up to 15, it would be more difficult for students to max out on points, and there would be a more definitive way to determine who would be getting better time slots.”
Going forward, the College will work with community members to find a new system to inform the assignment of Housing Lottery times, but after preliminary talks some alternative systems are already being explored:
“Moving forward, best practices suggest that utilizing a random lottery number system is what should be implemented,” Pierce said. “However, our own student feedback suggests that Residence Life should implement a demerit system to determine housing lottery priority. Students have also asked for us to investigate the possibility of incorporating blocking into our model and that is something we are extremely open to. Towards the end of March, beginning of April we will look to the Residence Hall Association and Student Government Association to assist with gathering student input and if there are any other students interested in providing feedback, they are encouraged to contact our Associate Director Andy Anderson.”