Students replace Park Bethesda desk staff; residents petition

Changes in Park Bethesda, neighborhood

Park Bethesda, AU's 258-unit leased apartment complex in Bethesda, Md., transferred management of its front desk last Monday from Capital Properties to AU students.

The change will give students better service and an opportunity to work in the building, according to Resident Manager Kecia Baker.

Meanwhile, students said they are concerned about the lack of communication regarding the change and worry this is a move to change Park Bethesda from a campus apartment building into an expensive residence hall.

To date, almost half the residents of Park Bethesda have signed a petition opposing the change.

"The Park Bethesda residents are saddened, disappointed and angered by these changes which, besides threatening our security and compromising the quality of the community that we here at Park Bethesda have built, shine an exceedingly negative light on the University itself," the petition stated.

According to Baker, a letter was sent to all residents at the beginning of the month.

However, College of Arts and Sciences senior Evan Marsillio said he and his entire floor did not get the letter until late last week and are not happy with the change.

"It wasn't in the lease ... but it was always assumed that we'd have a professional desk staff ... this is an apartment building, and now our front desk is exactly like the dorms," Marsillio said.

After finding out about the proposed changes, Marsillio started the petition opposing the change and calling for better communication between Housing and Dining Programs and residents of Park Bethesda.

"When we went around knocking on doors, we got 193 signatures," he said.

Current occupancy of Park Bethesda is between 500 and 600, a Park Bethesda desk receptionist said. Maximum capacity is about 730.

According to Baker, the contract negotiations began several months ago.

"AU and Capital Properties sat down ... [and] both parties felt it was better for AU to manage the front desk operation," she said.

With AU staffing the front desk, many problems that were only addressed during business hours can be solved 24 hours a day, Baker said.

Security would improve, she said, because AU staff could work more closely with Public Safety.

"There were a lot of limitations with Capital Properties ... it was important to get the utmost customer service," Baker said.

Marsillio said many people share his concerns.

"We are afraid that this will become a very expensive dorm," he said. Currently, nine students have been hired to work at the desk, and the six apartment assistants also work the desk on a rotating basis. Park Bethesda is still taking applications on a rolling basis however.

"We decided to give jobs to students in order to open up more employment opportunities," Baker said.

Marsillio said he has realistic goals for the results of his petition, but hopes it will send a message to Housing and Dining about communicating future changes to Park Bethesda residents.

"We're pretty sure we're not going to get the professional desk staff back ... but we'd like to see better communication," he said. "Instead of slipping things under our doors, leave a phone message instead"

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