Housing shortage displaces students

By K.C. Wassman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 20, 2012

This year, University Housing faced its largest housing shortage in recent history after it was forced to deny housing to 180 students — including 168 upperclassmen — for the fall 2012 term.

The housing shortage was propagated by the closure of East Quad Residence Hall for renovations, and the permanent closure of Baits I Residence Hall, which takes effect this fall. Baits II Residence Hall will also be under renovation during the summer, but will reopen for the fall 2012 semester.

The University announced in December that it would give housing priority to those who have lived in the residence halls for two or fewer terms rather than to upperclassmen. The policy change forced many upperclassmen to look for alternative housing options.

University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said all the rooms were filled by mid-day on Feb. 10, the last day of open housing sign up. In response to the fewer available residence halls due to renovations, Logan said housing options were changed to better accommodate undergraduates who wanted to live on campus.

This year, Northwood III apartments house students participating in the First Year Experience program and upper level undergraduates, but next year the First Year Experience program will include all of the buildings in Northwood III and house only freshmen.

To accommodate the change, Northwood I and II will be available for upper-level undergraduates next fall, with graduate student housing available in Northwood IV and V apartments.

Student Affairs Director Michael Zabriskie, who oversees the housing sign up process, said when all the housing spots were filled, students who were not able to sign up were notified via e-mail.

“We sent an e-mail out to the students to let them know what was happening so that way they weren’t logging on without having some sort of notification about it,” Zabriskie said. “We had been keeping a close eye on the available spaces when it got to be a very small number.”

The e-mail provided students with alternative housing options, as well as offered a sign-up waitlist for students still interested in living on campus so they can be notified if room openings arise, Logan said.

Though 180 students were unable to sign up for on-campus housing, Logan said the housing office hasn’t received many complaints.

“We have not been overwhelmed by a large number of concerned students or parents, but there have been several,” Logan said. “And we’ve been trying to help them each on an individual basis.”

LSA freshman Jonathan Lesnau said though he will live off-campus next year, he feels bad for those who didn’t receive the housing plans they wanted because of the now-limited options.

“I know I’d be pretty upset,” Lesnau said. “I think especially for freshmen right now who are living on North (Campus) and really wanted to maybe get, like, West Quad or North Quad — that’d be pretty disappointing.”

University Housing also held an Off-Campus Housing Fair on Feb. 14 for students unwilling to wait for on-campus housing. The fair provided students with the opportunity to meet and talk to landlords with available properties in the area.

The University has held fairs in the past, but this event was the first in two years. Housing officials decided to bring the fair back due to the on-campus housing shortage.

Coleen Kendall, manager of Fuller Apartments at 800 Fuller St., said she talked to about 50 students about leasing rooms in her building, but noted that was a low number compared to previous University housing fairs.

“Well, normally here you wouldn’t even be able to count (the students),” Kendall said. “But I don’t think they let people know soon enough. It was kind of a last minute thing.”

Logan said the event wasn’t promoted heavily because it was organized quickly.

“We probably could have put a bit more promotion into it,” Logan said. “This one came together … pretty quickly. So something we need to continue in the future is better promotion.”

Logan added it would be beneficial for University Housing to continue hosting off-campus housing fairs in the future, but did not confirm that one will occur again next year.

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the closure of Baits II Residence Hall is contributing to the housing shortage next fall. Baits II will be closed during the summer, but will be housing students in the fall.