University’s fall plan leaves students scrambling for housing
Many are concerned about housing security
Many students are facing uncertainty about their upcoming housing situations, both on and off campus, following the announcement of AU’s fall 2020 plan, AU Forward.
The plan includes implementing only single-occupancy dorm rooms across campus in order to provide adequate social distancing measures between students. Some who were relying on on-campus housing now find themselves struggling to secure housing, less than two months before the semester begins.
According to Chris Silva, the director of housing, AU’s housing capacity for a normal semester is approximately 4,300 students. This includes on-campus housing and the Frequency Apartments in Tenleytown. However, the capacity will now be reduced to around half of the normal occupancy this fall, or 2,305 beds, according to the released plan.
Rebecca Fayhee, a rising sophomore, was originally planning to live on East Campus. However, because of the limited number of spaces available, Fayhee is now living in an apartment off campus.
“I think everyone's just kind of stressed out because no one planned that everyone would be having to find their own housing, especially since it’s sophomore year, and most of us just planned on staying in dorms,” Fayhee said.
According to the Housing and Residence Life section of AU's website, rising sophomores who had a housing assignment for this fall or were on the waitlist as of June 16, are guaranteed a space for the 2020-21 academic year, if they meet all deadlines and instructions. These spaces will be either on or off campus, with on-campus spaces being limited, according to an email sent to rising sophomores on June 16.
The University created a portal to help students find off-campus housing, which lists apartments, houses and rooms for rent. However, not all of the options are in close proximity to campus or in students’ price ranges.
Fayhee said the resources being provided are not enough to help students and “even though there is a portal, there aren't many good options.”
Kyla Blazer, a rising junior in the School of Public Affairs, decided to take matters into her own hands after feeling frustrated with the University’s resources to find housing. After posting about housing resources on her personal Instagram account, Blazer decided to start an account dedicated to helping students find off-campus housing. The page features apartments, houses and rooms for rent in local community members’ houses.
“I know myself and other students are really hurting this time, especially students that come from low-income backgrounds,” Blazer said. “I’m a first-generation college student and my parents have really no experience or knowledge about on-campus or off-campus housing, so I knew that it was something that I felt like I had to do, in a way, to help other students.”
According to an email sent to rising sophomores on July 2, half of the sophomores who applied to live on campus will be able to choose from Nebraska Hall or the Frequency Apartments, and the other half will be able to choose from University-operated off-campus buildings, which include the Scott Circle Hotel, the Glover Park Hotel and the University of California Washington Center.
There are also several hotels that have set aside blocks of rooms for AU students.
With the reduction in on-campus capacity, upperclassmen who were supposed to live on campus have also lost their housing, as returning room selection is only being offered to sophomores.
Although PJ Chandra, a rising junior and the vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Residence Hall Association, is still able to live on campus because of his position in RHA, he said that AU should be giving more consideration to upperclassmen who lost their housing.
Students said that affordability is also a major factor for them. In the Berkshire Apartments, one of the closest off-campus living options to AU, a one-bedroom apartment costs at least $1,799 a month, according to their website.
“I feel like AU, in a way, doesn’t always cater to students who are low-income,” Blazer said. “It’s just really sad that AU is hurting low-income students in a different way, and this time it’s with housing.”
While Fayhee was able to secure housing off campus, she worries that not everyone will be able to do the same.
“I'm lucky because I know I can afford off-campus housing, but I think if you're relying on a dorm for your housing, that this plan of kicking half the people off campus, especially if you are an upperclassman,” Fayhee said. “It is throwing people for a loop and I think it is really stressful if you don't have that financial security.”