A goal for 1997: No temporary housing

This fall, 251 freshmen learned their first lesson about bureaucracy at the University when it failed to place them in permanent housing as promised. Freshmen quickly discovered that even when finding a place to live at the University, you must wait in line — and you don’t always get what you pay for.For the second year the University promised all freshmen a place in University housing if their applications were received by a specific date. For the second year the University was unable to meet this promise and placed 251 freshmen in “temporary housing” — bunks in dormitory study lounges. This year was only slightly less embarrassing than last year, when the University paid for 40 students to live at the local Days Inn hotel. Though the U was able to put up all of this year’s students on campus, the Office of Housing and Residential Life simply hasn’t learned to make promises it can keep.
University administrators are always quick to point out the positive side — that 70 percent of incoming freshmen wanted to live on campus, an indication of a growing desire for students to be involved with the campus. However, in its efforts to encourage more students to live in the residential halls and apartments, the University must make realistic adjustments in promising students housing. The University should either guarantee housing on a first-come, first-served basis, or help students immediately find non-University housing at the same price and with meal plans.
Last year the Board of Regents approved $50 million for the University to spend on student housing. The University quickly jumped on the opportunity, and two new housing complexes were built before fall 1996. But it wasn’t realistic to assume that Argyle House, a University-operated building which houses 170 students, and Roy Wilkins Hall, which houses 126 students, would still allow administrators to guarantee housing to all on-time applicants. The University 2000 plan, with its goals to foster an academic community among undergraduates, hints at more student housing. If U2000’s language (the meaning of which is debatable) is intended to encourage all freshmen to live on campus, then the University needs to rethink its housing options.
Since the beginning of fall quarter, only about one-third of students housed in study lounges have been assigned rooms. The rest still wait while the University continues to charge them a four-person-per-room rate. Also, those students who do have rooms are deprived of using their dorms’ study lounges.Freshmen form many lasting impressions of the U in their first weeks here, and sharing a tiny lounge with three others can’t make a good one. It’s unacceptable to enter a tenant-like contract with the University, in which students expect to receive a room, closet space, a desk and other essentials, and be made to wait for weeks in a study lounge. This situation would be unheard of in a private housing contract, and it shouldn’t be tolerated here. The students still in temporary housing will likely find rooms before the end of the quarter, but the University should restructure its housing guarantee system before hundreds of next year’s students are left roomless too.