Housing crunch leads to lottery for upperclassmen

Hughes Hall to exclusively accommodate honors students

Housing crunch leads to lottery for upperclassmen
Q AND A — Executive Director of Housing and Dining Programs Chris Moody addresses an audience of sophomores and juniors Wednesday night to answer questions about their housing options for the fall.

The inventory of university housing and how it is allotted will drastically change this fall in response to the expanding demand for on-campus housing.

In an e-mail to on-campus residents Jan. 4, Executive Director of Housing and Dining Programs Chris Moody outlined the extensive list of changes aimed at alleviating a housing shortage on campus.

“AU is retaining continuing students and enrolling first year and transfer students with greater success than ever before,” he wrote in the e-mail. “We are also retaining more students in the residence halls as a result of their satisfaction with the experience. However, the university’s current housing inventory is not sufficient to keep pace with this rapidly increasing demand.”

Even with the changes, an estimated 340 to 350 people who request university housing will not receive it, according to Moody.

He expressed the need for several short-term changes while the university plans to build more housing. Some of the impetus for the change comes from a study last year by Brailsford & Dunlavey, a facilities planning firm which suggested improvements for AU’s housing options as part of the campus facilities master plan. The firm projected that AU will eventually need 1,000 additional apartment-style bed spaces.

Upperclassmen moved to Centennial, Nebraska Halls

Among the short-term changes, rising juniors and seniors seeking to live on campus will be required to enter a housing lottery for 400 available spots on campus and in the Berkshire apartments. Residence halls traditionally preferred by upperclassmen, such as Centennial and Nebraska, will be fully or partially made exclusive to juniors and seniors. However, upperclassmen will no longer be able to live in Letts, Anderson, Leonard or McDowell Halls, with a few exceptions — including single rooms and spaces for certain Housing and Dining student staff members.

The Proposed Change:

• Roper Hall is set to open in August 2010 and exclusively house University College students.
• Clark Hall will open its doors in October 2010 to de-triple almost 70 freshmen.
• The leases for the 100 apartments in the Berks will be maintained for upperclassmen and transfer students.
• 24 single rooms will be created from small doubles.
• Rising juniors and seniors will be entered in a lottery for 400 available spaces.
• Space in Nebraska or the Berks that is not leased for 11 1/2 months will be available for upperclassmen under the current two-semester lease.
• Singles, Nebraska and some Centennial suites will be reserved for upperclassmen.
• An off-campus housing coordinator position will be created within Housing and Dining.
• More resources will be devoted to helping students find off-campus housing.
• Letts Hall will house freshmen only and become home to many sections of UC.
• The fourth and fifth floors of Hughes are set to become Honors only in the fall of 2010, with the remaining two floors converting to honors the following year.
• The Honors Program offices will be moved from the Hurst Building to the first floor of Hughes.

Priority in the lottery will be given to students able to fill the suite or apartment for which they are applying. Those who can sign an 11 1/2 month lease for Nebraska will also be given preference.

Additionally, 24 small double rooms scattered throughout Centennial, Hughes, Leonard and McDowell are set to be converted to singles in order to accommodate increased demand for private rooms, Moody said. Upperclassmen will also be given priority for those spaces.

In order to help ease the transition for students who do not receive on-campus housing, Housing and Dining will allocate more resources dedicated to helping them find off-campus housing. Housing and Dining is creating a new position to deal exclusively with off-campus issues. In early February, the department is holding a fair to help students find off-campus housing. Housing and Dining also plans on maintaining the existing online listings of available off-campus housing.

Honors moves to Hughes

Honors housing will be gradually moved to Hughes Hall, which currently houses two floors of honors students. The building will be exclusively for honors students by the fall of 2011. The Honors Program offices will also move from the Hurst Building to Hughes.

Students displaced from Hughes’ fourth and fifth floors will receive priority to select space on Hughes’ second and third floors if they would like to remain in the building next year.

“I think it’s better to have honors more integrated, because you have a choice between South side and North side,” said Jeremy Cohen, a sophomore in the School of International Service and a student in the honors program. “Sticking all honors kids on North side perpetuates a stereotype about honors kids and North side.”

Students’ input

In his letter to the campus community, Moody said he met with student leaders to help brainstorm solutions to the housing shortage. Student Government President Andy MacCracken and Residence Hall Association President Courtney Klamar were both directly consulted about these changes in a handful of confidential meetings in the fall.

Klamar said the method “[did] not incorporate the most student feedback possible, but it was definitely an effort to get student feedback.”

New housing plan met by tepid student support
In a message board post to members of the Facebook group “Loyal Opposition to American University’s New Stance on Student Housing,” MacCracken responded to student concerns.

“I don’t defend or represent [Housing and Dining’s] decision, but only wish to help more people understand the effort that went behind [the recent changes],” he wrote. “I will do all I can to make this process as inclusive and helpful for any upperclassmen wishing to return to AU housing or who want to go find off-campus housing.”

Housing and Dining also held focus groups last September, in which 120 students participated, according to Moody. Resident assistants, other SG and RHA leaders, first-year students, international and transfer students who had requested housing all participated in the discussion. Upperclassmen were not included as a group, because at the time, the current plan was in its infancy, Moody said.

Additionally, Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson distributed a survey to all undergraduate and graduate students in September, asking about living preferences, amenities and price points for future housing options.

Moody said that the information available to him suggested that the problem would get worse in coming years.

Several town hall-style meetings are scheduled throughout the month of January for students to express their questions and concerns. A meeting for rising juniors and seniors will be held today, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. in Letts Formal Lounge.

You can reach these staff writers at news@theeagleonline.com.

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