Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 11, 2016

All-Parent Residence Hall Opens Doors in Fall 2016

Kate Gillespie

There’s a current trend of parents moving to college towns to be near their students, as documented in reports by “USA Today” and the “New York Times.” Determined to distinguish itself from the pack, Manchester University plans to surpass this trend by introducing an all-parent residence hall. Opening in Fall 2016, the all-parent residence hall will provide a new home for parents who want to be even closer to their students than just living in the same town.

The all-parent residence hall will be located on the current faculty/visitor parking lot north of the Jo Young Switzer Center. It will include features like a heli pad on its roof, so that parents can literalize the “helicopter parent” metaphor. A helicopter will be available for rental, so that parents can hover over all areas of the campus to see what their children are up to. So that the helicopter can travel with a certain amount of stealth, it will have a hybrid operating system so that it will be soundless and can sneak up on students.

Also included in the all-parent residence hall will be the possibility for 24-hour student surveillance. Based on Jeremy Bentham’s and, later, Michel Foucault’s concept of a “panopticon,” a circular prison that enables guards to see prisoners at all times from inside, the hall will be circular in shape. Its exterior will be a solid sheet of glass so that parents can spy on view their students from any vantage point in the building.

The hall will, then, be affectionately known as the Parentopticon, in tribute to Bentham and Foucault. To update it for the 21st century, telescopes will be outfitted in each room to increase visibility and focus—parents will be able to see exactly what their students are holding in their hands.

Allen Machielson, dean of Student Experience, has high hopes for the Parentopticon. “I really do hope that the state of the art 24-hour camera monitoring station in this new hall will help parents have a better peace of mind, especially knowing that they can monitor everything that the students are doing,” he said.

But he has further ambitions, too. “We are hoping if this model proves itself to be successful that we will enter a second phase where parents can actually be assigned as the roommate or suitemates of their children,” Machielson added.

Danette Till, director of Counseling Services, agrees that this new residential model has great potential. “Parents could fill in for their students as needed in classes or for clubs so students do not have to miss out on any activities or course work,” she said. “This will be especially helpful for students who don’t like to get up early for a class or find a particular course challenging or uninteresting. The parent can attend the class, assist with the work and ensure that the student learns the material. 

“The Success Center may move to the all-parent residence hall,” she continued, “since parents can serve as tutors, assist with writing skills, and they can make sure that students are prepared for the work world.”  

An additional feature of the Parentopticon is the new Round-the-Clock Registrar service, where the registrar will be available 24 hours a day to consult with parents about their students’ class plans. Indeed, parents will have the privilege of changing their students’ schedules, moving them out of a pre-pharmacy class into an English class, for instance.

But the registrar’s office will handle more than just class enrollment. “We are committed to offering a complement of full-service options to Manchester students and their parents,” said Lila Hammer, Registrar. “A coffee bar will be installed in our vault, and midnight snacks will be available from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m.  Parents may request personalized wakeup calls to their students, and the registrar’s office will serve as a laundry drop-off and pick-up site.”

Students were not asked how they feel about their parents moving to campus because, well . . . , because I said so.