Dear Stonehill Community,
In response to a Strategic Plan directive, the Office of Residence Life was asked to conduct a formal review of the Merit Point Program administered through this office. For those who are not familiar, the Merit Point Program was created in the late 1990s as a way to highlight and reward attendance at five specifically approved programs on campus in order to gain preferred room selection times for housing lottery. Since that time, however, the awarding of merit points has evolved significantly to include the tracking of attendance and participation in hundreds of merit point opportunities throughout the academic year.
The formal and comprehensive review of the Merit Point Program began in the fall of 2013 and concluded in January of 2015. The review was comprised of several components, the first being a series of faculty, staff, and student focus groups that were both publicized to the entire community as well as to specific audiences who interact regularly with the merit point system. A second method included survey research with students utilizing different survey instruments including a specific merit point survey as well as the annual quality of life survey that is collected each year. Lastly, a formal review of internal data on merit points also informed our study. This included how many students participate in events, the average merit point total for all students, and the average merit point number per building.
Some of the most salient findings from this study are:
- Faculty, staff, and students consistently communicated dissatisfaction with the merit point system. Common issues surrounding merit point programs were varied but most commonly included concerns of: inaccurate attendance and false advertising of programs, a systematic exclusion of seniors, commuters, and students with significant work and/or family obligations, and the inflexibility of students with time intensive majors to participate as often as their peers.
- Community members felt that the system incentivizes attending programs or joining student organizations for the purpose of accumulating points rather than for interest and academic and/or personal growth.
- Students, especially those responsible for running events, articulated a sense of frustration that many of their peers attend events just to get a merit point and do not actively engage or participate when there. This devalues the event for those who are participating out of interest and greatly disrespects the event sponsors and presenters, many of whom are guests on our campus.
- Data from the past three housing lottery and merit point cycles clearly indicates that merit points did not significantly impact a student’s ability to select the housing of their choice. An average of 13 merit points remains consistent throughout all class years. From 2013 to 2014, only two buildings housed residents whose merit points averaged higher, New Hall and Corr Hall. This only accounted for approximately 300 students out of the more than 2,100 that live on-campus.
After reviewing the aforementioned findings and sharing them with Father John, Division Heads, the Academic Leadership Team, the Housing Lottery Committee, Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association, it has been determined that the merit point system is not serving our students as originally intended. Not only does the program not have an impact on student room choice, but it is not needed to incentivize participation in clubs/organizations/activities on campus. Therefore, following the conclusion of the current merit point year ending on February 28, 2015, the Office of Residence Life will discontinue the use of the current merit point system.
We recognize this will be a culture shift for the College. However, we are open to and excited about having conversations with students, faculty, and staff about collaborative and innovative approaches we can take when it comes to engaging students in co-curricular programming on campus. We also plan to partner with students to develop a housing lottery system that aligns with the current strategic plan, ongoing student needs, and best practices in the field of residence life and higher education.
In conclusion and as a point of clarification, this change does not take effect until after the current merit point cycle has concluded. Merit Points earned up until February 28th, 2015 will be utilized in the Housing Lottery process scheduled to take place next month. Programs and activities that would normally submit merit point lists to our office should still do so. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Director of Residence Life