Forty percent of St. Thomas’ undergraduate students live on campus and a large percentage live in apartments and houses off campus.
Many think of St. Thomas as a “suitcase college,” and that students use their housing as a place to study and stay during the school week but then leave for home on the weekends.
Director of Residence Life Aaron Macke argued that this “suitcase college” tag that some students put on St. Thomas does not hold true from a housing perspective.
Macke said there is no indication that students are simply using their dormitories solely as a place to study and hang out between classes.
Ireland Hall resident adviser Steve Broszko disagreed saying that some men on his floor go home most weekends. Broszko added that he does think St. Thomas is more of a suitcase campus than other schools, but still less so than others.
“Based on what I have heard from friends from other universities it seems like it’s a much bigger issue at other universities,” Broszko said. “I have friends who go to more alienated colleges like St. John’s and they say that everyone stays there on the weekends but obviously it has a lot to do with location.”
Macke said that students are being “mobile” because St. Thomas is a college in the Twin Cities area.
“They keep jobs from their hometown, visit friends, attend high school events and take advantage of the amenities they are familiar with,” Macke said. “As a result, our resident students are not on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They float in and out of campus all week, including the weekends.”
To keep students on campus, St. Thomas uses its resident advisers as well as STAR to create events that encourage people to stick around on the weekends.
STAR Fanamaniac intern Miles Trump schedules events to promote attendance at sporting events as well as to heighten school spirit.
Fanamaniac sponsors events such as the opening cookout that was held before the first home football game. Students who attended got free T-shirts and could play lawn games and other activities.
“We do things like that, for one, because it boosts attendance and also just keeps school spirit up,” Trump said. “If we can get everyone in matching T-shirts it really boosts spirit up and people ask where to get them and it helps people hear about STAR who does all of these activities for students.”
STAR sponsors more than just sporting events. Activities range from concerts to on-campus movie showings and other activities.
Iowa native Cristen Bonz said that St. Thomas may seem like a suitcase school but that it is not as bad as it could be.
“Once you’re a sophomore people tend to move off-campus and stay there for a majority of the time instead of going home,” Bonz said. “So as time goes on I feel like people tend to stick around school during the weekends because of jobs and other things.”
As a freshman, Bonz said that there were a few times where she would go with friends to their hometown but said that she met a lot of friends that were also from out-of-state.
For students like Bonz, many activities and events that are offered on-campus are unappealing.
“There are a lot of things to do, but none of them really are things I was particularly interested in,” Bonz said. “I am not really sure how to make the activities more exciting, I think it was just hard to get involved freshman year because school is overwhelming to begin with, especially if you didn’t have people to get involved with.”
Brian Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org