Student hostels: more than a place to study and to sleep

Regina Lau

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The student hostels in
Cornwall Street
will receive their first batch of undergraduate students in August this year. What will life be like in the hostels? What effort will be made to turn hostel life into a memorable and enriching experience for its residents? What are people's expectations of the halls of residence culture that will gradually evolve out of this unique community? Linkage talked to a number of dedicated staff members who are working to turn the hostels into more than just a place for students to study and sleep and to live on campus.

OLess government in better government," said Dr K K Leung, Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies, one of the newly appointed residence masters for the

Cornwall Street
hostels. "I assume residents at the hostels will be rational adults able to learn from their experience and to take responsibility for their actions. I don't want to impose on them a set of regulations to follow but I will encourage the future resident associations to draft their own." He regards the role of a residence master more as a facilitator of events and functions than a warden.

"APOLL"

Dr Leung, also a member of the Student Residence Committee, envisions a highly autonomous community able to govern itself under the principles of liberty, equality, democracy and fraternity. He has coined the acronym APOLL" to describe his mission and vision: Academic excellence, Personal growth, Organizational effectiveness, Learning with thought, Leadership competence, and Outreaching development.

Dr Leung has been a Residence Master of the two on-campus residences for research and exchange students: the Jockey Club House and To Yuen Building, for a year. He enjoyed the informal contact with students as a residence master. "I want to understand these young people better in my role as a residence master living in the same hostel with them. As a teacher, I only have limited contact with them."

Residence management

Three hostels blocks with accommodation for more than 800 students will begin operation this August. Three residence masters have been appointed on a three-year term to manage and enhance hostel life. A Residence Office, comprising two student life co-ordinators and a few clerical staff under the Student Development Services, has been set up to lay out ground work for administration and support to the residence masters. The Residence Office is currently recruiting 19 residence tutors, who are either full-time postgraduate students or senior undergraduate students, to assist residence masters in providing care to the new residents. All the residence masters, student life co-ordinators and residence tutors will have to live in the hostels.

A Student Residence Committee that formulates policies on residence admission and allocation, and lays down philosophy on the management of student residence, will report directly to the Management Board. The committee is chaired by Dean of Students and Vice-President (Education), Professor Edmond Ko, and comprises senior staff members and three student representatives.

A unique hall culture

"At CityU, we have no historical burden. It is up to us to develop a unique hall culture," Dr Leung said. Ideally, the 11 hostel blocks will develop their individual identities through building names, hall curriculum and distinct house themes. Eventually, one hall might turn out to be known for its commitment to environmental awareness, and another might develop a reputation for participation in community service, or cross cultural exchange.

Hall life will be used as a focal point to introduce meaningful activities to the entire CityU community. House theme related forums and seminars, high table dinners, inter-hall visits, parties and contests, and outreach community services will be organized to enhance hostel life and to build up collaboration among hall residents. Dr Leung also said that residents would have their non-academic activities recorded in order to encourage participation.

Respect for diversity

Another residence master, Dr Michael Wong, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Finance, emphasized multi-cultural interaction as an essential function of hall life. "To survive and to gain an edge in the new economy, students must be given the chance to meet and to interact with people of diverse backgrounds. It is important for the hostel to have a cosmopolitan mix of students, so that, hopefully, something serendipitous will happen in the interaction."

Dr Wong added, "The imparting of knowledge is no longer the monopoly of universities. But universities, particularly, hostel residences, still play an important role in building leadership, teamwork spirit and social ability of students, in providing a focal point of interflow and meeting of minds."

Dr Raymond Chan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Social Studies, also a residence master, believes hostels are an ideal place to train students" tolerance and respect for diversity. A former social worker in charge of a youth centre, Dr Chan has a wealth of experience in youth counselling and organization of youth activities. He likes to get along with young people and wants to instill in them a sense of ethics and community spirit.

OThough my title is residence master, I regard myself more as a servant to promote the students" growth," said Dr Chan. "A residence master has more opportunity to establish informal contact with the students. For instance, I will be able to invite them to watch movies in my flat and discuss the content with them. In this way, IOll be in a better position to influence them."

A home away from home

"A home away from home," is the ideal hall life envisioned by Miss Grace Ng, Student Residence Life Coordinator. "I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a very warm hall life in my undergraduate years. The warden and hall mates were like members of a family. The experience certainly influenced the way I treat people. I really hope to see this culture of care and support grow in the

Cornwall Street
hostels."

Before she joined CityU, Miss Ng provided career services at a local university and took up the concurrent position of senior hall tutor. Helping students set up a resident association, escorting a student bitten by a poisonous insect to hospital, and investigating an alleged drug abuse case were some of her memorable, tough experiences. "Residence work is both interesting and challenging. There will be unforeseeable emergencies to manage, intricate human relationship problems to handle and difficult decisions to make. But these are great opportunity to learn and grow, too."

 

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