October 22, 2017

Rising Juniors Raise Housing Concerns

Elizabeth Hayes ’18 / The COWL

by Sabrina Guilbeault ’18

Assistant News Editor

A  crisis  can be described as a time of intense difficulty, and although using the word in relation to on-campus housing can be inflammatory, the phrase “housing crisis” has been thrown around by students these past few weeks as groups of juniors have yet to be officially placed in their residence halls for the next school year.

Due to a variety of factors such as a greater amount of students studying abroad in the fall, the decision to not uproot sophomores from apartments or suites halfway through the year, and the decision that the Class of 2019 will not be permitted to live off campus as juniors, placing rising juniors with the housing decisions of their choice has been difficult and has resulted in what students have deemed a crisis.

Residence Life has been hard at work to resolve the issue. “Residence Life has been working to make housing selection more and more student friendly,” said Nicole Giglia, associate director of residence life, who has been working closely with students to configure a housing option that works. “Since there are a few more layers to our process than other institutions, it can seem complicated, but it’s really to offer the students the best opportunity to live with students that are a good match.”

Giglia attended the Student Congress  meeting on Tuesday, March 28, and fielded questions as students voiced their concerns. When asked about the whispers that stated juniors will be forced in traditional residence halls such as Meagher, Guzman, and Aquinas, she was quick to dispel the rumor. “Juniors will only live in traditional housing if they choose to,” she said. “All juniors who wish to be in the apartments or suites will be.”

Steven Sears, dean of students, also fielded concerns at the meeting, and encouraged the Congress to make legislation if they are truly passionate about the issue. In hopes to make the task of placing juniors in their housing assignments less difficult in the future, Caroline Cook ’19, president of the Class of 2019, presented two pieces of legislation at this past Tuesday’s meeting.

One was a statement of position, stating that juniors should be allowed to live off campus. The other recommended that Residence Life place all students in their housing based off seniority, so that the sophomore class would not be placed with their housing assignments until the junior class was officially placed. This year, members of the rising sophomore class know where and who they are living with before some members of the junior class.

“All students who need housing will be placed,” said Giglia. “However, some students will receive their official room information after our housing selection process has been wrapped up.”

Giglia also explained that juniors were not denied housing in the suites and apartments, but that Residence Life must give groups of full year sophomores housing in the suites/apartment areas based on what is designated for the sophomore class. In other words, full year sophomore groups have been placed before junior groups who may have to be split up due to study abroad.

“Though I’m not going abroad, I was still affected by this issue, as people in my group are going abroad,” said Cook. “I received an email about two weeks ago, basically stating that my group was going to be split up, and I had very limited options.” She explained that although her situation has been resolved it, is not her ideal situation. She is troubled that there are still students going abroad in the fall who will not find out where they are living until potentially the end of the summer.

In an ideal world, an even amount of students will be studying abroad in the fall and spring, and would make housing placement much easier.

“Students who are studying abroad ideally work with their fellow students to identify someone to ‘swap’ housing within the alternating semester,” said Giglia. She explained that Residence Life works with groups to identify groups to switch with so that they can maximize their housing options for all class years.  “Sometimes that means students won’t get their housing placement right away but it’s to ensure that we can provide study abroad students with housing in the apartments or suites and with their group members when possible.”

Uprooting  sophomores in the middle of the year due to students returning from abroad is something the College is avoiding this year. Alex Teri ’19 and her roommates were one of the groups who had to move from suites this year. “We got the email late in the semester saying we had to move out which obviously made us extremely angry because it was just kind of sprung on us,” she said. “We didn’t have time to plan for anything, which made it really difficult to gauge when we would move and how we would do it, and if we were told there was a good chance we would have to move, that definitely would have affected our housing decision.”

She explained had to move out of Suites before her last final in the fall, but had no where to put her belongings, and she was not given a room until she came back for spring semester. “I actually moved all of my stuff along with all of my roommates stuff into her new single in Fennell and had to sleep on the floor.” she said. Next year, all sophomores who have been placed in apartments or suites will not be uprooted.

As for the policy stating that juniors must live on campus—instead of living in the off-campus housing that surrounds PC—many students believe this is the root of the problem. According to Giglia, there is a sufficient number of beds on campus to house freshman, sophomore, and junior students. Also, at the March 28 Congress meeting, Dean Sears explained that the school loses a sufficient amount of revenue when students live off-campus, and currently the College is at a $1.9 million deficient.

“Juniors should have the option to live off campus if they so choose,” said John Stablein ’19, a member of the Student Life Committee on Student Congress. “Juniors being able to live off campus would significantly help some of the groups that do not even have housing for next year yet.” He went onto explain that he felt the rule that restricts juniors from living off campus was sprung upon his class year, as when touring the campus they were told they could live off campus as juniors. “Administration should have strategically planned to not let juniors live off campus,” he said. “It was unacceptable to be told during our freshmen year.”

Aidan Sullivan ’17, who lived off campus as a junior last year and is currently living off campus said, “I think it’s unfair to abruptly stop the opportunity to live off campus.” He explained that he chose to live off campus last year because of his decision to study abroad, as he would have had to find someone who was studying abroad in the spring to “swap” with. “Living in a house gave me the ability to easily transition back from abroad, as well as allow me to only have to pay rent once I got back,” he said.

“I think the easiest way to resolve this housing crisis now is to give juniors the choice to live off campus,” said Cook. “There are still landlords with houses that can be filled, and to give students the chance to live with their friends as well as giving them the amenities of apartments is only fair.” Cook believes that going forward, there is a need for more communication between the study abroad office and Residence Life, to make sure that there are enough beds for all of the students, both semesters.

“It is important for Student Congress to make a statement of position stating that juniors should have the option to live off campus because it is important to open up conversation with administration,” said Stablein.

He stated that juniors should have the option to live off campus due to its lower cost, and that it will help solve the problem with students not being able to live with their friends on campus due to overcrowding and splitting up to accommodate study abroad. “College is all about the people you meet,” he said. “Not being able to live with your friends at your home at college is a major problem that administration needs to realize.”

Both Stablein and Cook gave kudos to Residence Life for their work in trying to accommodate students and assist in their living situations, but find that the problem lies in the policy that prevents students from living off campus. “Residence Life and the deans have done a great job of trying to accommodate all of the students who haven’t been told of their housing status,” said Cook. “As for the students who won’t know their housing until the end of the summer, administrators should make themselves available for them as well, as it seems to students that the administration doesn’t care about the issues at hand.”

“Our housing selection process is designed to be student focused,” said Giglia, who stressed to Congress that Residence Life does want to provide students with the best available option.  She explained that most colleges and universities do not allow any study abroad students to select housing and leave little to no time at all for students to regroup after their first housing option is no longer available. “We hope that through our housing selection steps, students can take the time that they need to arrange groups in a manner that allows them to live with the best possible match.”

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