By Nathan Ress
With Canisius’ enrollment steadily declining over the last four years from 3,000 undergraduates to 2,300, the College has been looking for ways to more efficiently fit its student body. As a result of this, Matt Mulville, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life, confirmed that the College has recently sold former residential building Campion Hall in an effort to reduce cost and consolidate facilities.
“We hadn’t used it for a year and I think it’s one of those outlying buildings that we could probably do without,” said Mulville on the building located across from Sisters Hospital. Although in previous years, Campion has been rented out by Buffalo State College, it has become a less than desirable housing choice for Canisius students due to its location past the Humboldt intersection and no parking offered on-site.
“When you’re in a declining enrollment, you have all the buildings for 3,000 when we’re really going to end up being at 2,300,” explained Mulville. He sees the selling of Campion as an appropriate move for the school and a way for Canisius to better fit its student population.
According to Mulville, the resimuter population has shrunk as well. Mulville shared that a few landlords expressed that their houses weren’t full or leased out.
Canisius has been downsizing its housing in other ways by eliminating certain housing options, effective next year. Canisius will now be offering only two- and five-person suites in the Village Townhouses, eliminating the four-person option. Mulville explained that this move is another way to make housing more suited to the student population, noting that the two person suites are historically more popular. However, this does also result in a price increase for students who had previously lived in the four-person option.
However, this trend of downsizing, or “rightsizing,” as Mulville describes, extends much further from just student housing.
“I think we’re going to be a smaller campus everywhere – faculty, staff, it’s all gonna be a smaller campus,” Mulville said. “And that’s all partly driven by the North East – the number of students graduating high school dropped by 15-percent… As the pool to recruit gets smaller, I think that’s why we’re getting smaller.”
In addition to consolidating on housing, Mulville feels that student programming and events could be reevaluated, as well.
“I think we have to think differently about how we do all of Student Life related to housing, commuters, and the programming, given that we have less students,” said Mulville. “I’ve been talking to SPB (Student Programming Board) and RHA (Residence Hall Association) and asking them how we think we can program differently and I get a lot of resistance… I do think that as the number of students shrink, maybe so should the number of programs.”
One example Mulville cited of the over-programming for the shrinking population was the weekend of Friday, April 7, in which Relay for Life, Community Day, and Canisius Royals were all held on the same weekend, spreading attendance thinner than in previous years across all three. This concept puts lacking student attendance as a result of several overarching factors within the College.
“Just because the room is open doesn’t mean you should have the program. Because that’s how we end up with all these things, and then you get three people to your event, because there’s four events and everybody’s spread out – but that is a cultural change,” said Mulville.
He believes that this problem could be fixed if various administrative organizations such as SPB and Student Life changed the way they operated. For example, Mulville suggested lowering the total number of events weekly to prevent conflict and allow for higher attendance. He also recognized that this may pose a problem for smaller clubs who may be trying to schedule events and may impose limitations on the overall selection of events. Mulville speculated that this compromise may be for the best, keeping in mind the goal of student attendance.
Another aspect that Mulville feels Canisius needs to discuss as a smaller campus is the number of dining services offered.
“We have all these venues based on a campus of 3,000 and now we’re down to 2,300, should we look at it differently, specifically related to duplication of services,” Mulville explained in regards to too many dining locations open at one time.
Overall, Mulville stressed that the actions and policies of the school are very heavily dictated by the population of students in attendance. This population has been declining for the past four years, and as such demands a change be made in the structure of the school. “I think it’s hard for people sometimes to think that we need to be smaller,” said Mulville, himself using the word “rightsizing” over “downsizing.” Despite this, it may be necessary on the whole and, long-term, better for the school to cater itself to a smaller population.
The reality of Canisius is a shrinking student population, and this in turn is causing a great deal of difficulty across a variety of administrative fronts. This trend may continue with the passing of Governor Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship, which provides tuition assistance to students attending SUNY schools and draws them away from Canisius. This remains to be seen, however.
Mulville recognizes the changes in student enrollment, and looks for a change in student culture to be the driving force in future. He believes that if new organization and planning can make the school and its events more accessible and streamlined, a lower student population will not be a hindrance.
“From my standpoint in Student Life, we need to listen to what the students want to do, and do it better and more efficiently,” said Mulville. He sees any way to fit the size of the school to its current student body as a step in the right direction and a service to both the school and its students.