Strangers on campus

“It’s because we had the beds”

Jack Polatcheck/Visual Editor/

At the end of last semester, rumors spread across St. Michael’s  College campus of how the college was going to deal with an excess of 700 open beds. 

   Rumors were confirmed over the summer when Dawn Ellinwood, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, emailed all returning students and staff to tell them that in light of open resident halls, housing would be offered to four different “mission-aligned institutions and organizations.”

    Ellinwood said there were going to be 47 University of Vermont Graduate students living in Hodson Hall, up to 50 hockey players aged 18-23 from the Vermont Lumberjack Junior Hockey Team in Ryan Hall, approximately 16 Rice Memorial High School students along with live-in staff members in Joyce Hall, and three Refugee Resettlement families in the 100 townhouses. 

Team photo of the 2022-23 Vermont Lumberjack’s Eastern Hockey Leah (EHL) team.

   Ellinwood said that both the University of Vermont and the Lumberjacks reached out to St. Michael’s for housing, knowing we had available rooms. However, the administration had been in conversations with Rice Memorial High School since 2019.

   “Imaginations can run wild,” said Ryan Buckley ‘25, a junior at St. Michael’s, referring to all these different groups conglomerated on a college campus. 

   “A lot of work was done with the administration of Rice around the code of conduct,” Ellinwood said. “Where students can go, where they can’t go, and what the expectations are from St. Michael’s.”

    In her email, Ellinwood said that the reason the groups were chosen was because of their association with local mission-aligned institutions. 

   On St. Michael’s website, it says, “It is the mission of St. Michael’s College to contribute through higher education to the enhancement of the human person and the advancement of human culture in the light of Catholic faith.”

    While the financial incentives of renting out avaiable housing are clear, “that’s not the top priority,” said Interim President Lewis Thayne, “it’s because we had the beds.”

   St. Michael’s College has prided itself on being part of the Colchester community. This is evident in ways such as an open campus, a public library, and a public church with sermons that welcome the wider community. 

   “St. Mike’s is about the community. It’s about giving back, and you want to demonstrate that,” Thayne said. 

    This attitude is reflected in St. Michael’s College willingness to open its doors to non-student members of the surrounding area. In her email to the school, Ellinwood said these actions by the college are “in line with our Edmundite tradition of hospitality and supporting those in need…”

  According to Ellinwood, all of these institutions, in one way or another, align themselves with what St. Michael’s identifies as its mission.

   Additionally, these groups are viewed as possible prospective students.

   “I see great recruitment possibilities for St. Mike’s with both groups,” Thayne said. 

Photo of the 3rd floor of Ryan Hall, where the Vermont Lumberjack’s are living on Sept. 19, 2023.

     All three of the organizations selected emphasize higher education. The hope is that by introducing them to St. Michael’s College campus early, they will continue their academic careers here.

   Though these institutions are aligned with St. Michael’s College mission statement, it is important to consider what the students think about all of this.

   “I remember in my freshman year having fears about the financial future of the school, and if this is an apt solution, then I’m okay with that,” said Patrick McGloine ’25. “It doesn’t really change my life, and if it’s the correct thing for the school financially then I support it.”

   “My immediate reaction was negative when I heard about this,” said Brandon Boris ‘24. “I just came to realize that it does really affect how I function and operate. If it’s the best business decision for the school then I support it, but there is still something about it that doesn’t sit right with me.” 

   While McGloine noted concerns about having minors on campus, as far as the rest of the non-St. Michael’s College groups go, he does not think their presence will make a difference. 

   “We’ve already had UVM kids come to our campus, whether it be to hang out with people or go to the threes [300s townhouses], McGloine said. “I don’t really see a difference between that and another stranger coming to hang out.”

    Concerns aside, the message is clear.

   “We’re a small institution.” Ellinwood said. “We always have to be creative and looking at opportunities to bring in more money. Right. We want to use our facilities in the best way to support our community, but also to have a financial impact on the betterment of our campus.”