by Maya Kaufman
Imagine leaving campus without knowing where you’ll live next year. Two Saturdays ago, 27 first-year students left the housing lottery faced with this very difficult situation. These students will be summer housed, meaning they will not know where they are living — or with whom — until the summer.
The causes of housing shortages vary from year to year. Although rumors arose that the number of summer-housed students this year was due to a lower number of juniors studying abroad, this was found to be inaccurate as the number of students studying abroad actually marks an increase from fall 2013.
Option rooms, in which a single student may occupy a double and await later confirmation that Housing and Residential Life assigned them a roommate, may be in part to blame for this year’s housing shortage. Lisa Train, assistant director for Housing and Residential Life, attributed the shortage to roommate pairs not wanting to split up.
In addition to the problem posed by unfilled option housing, the number of unhoused students this year is also a result of ResLife’s decision to reserve more spaces in Mather Residence Hall in the event of a large incoming first-year class.
“In this case, there were a lot of option rooms that had one person living in them,” Train said. “We do have spots available right now; it’s just that a lot of students don’t want to live in a particular room with a person they don’t know.”
This housing shortage comes as no surprise to some upperclassmen and administrators. Almost every year, a number of students remain unhoused after the lottery and do not receive their assignments until midway through summer break. Once ResLife staff are certain of the number of transfer students, withdrawals and incoming first years, they are able to consolidate students who selected option housing and lack roommates.
“Last year [unhoused students] had more options in upper-class Mather,” Train said. “The problem was last year we received a larger-than-expected first-year class, so we had to extend into upper-class [hall] Mather, and we ended up having to move some upperclassmen out. To avoid that this year, we blocked off more Mather rooms than we did last year, just in case we have another larger-than-expected first-year class.”
ResLife staff do not keep track of exact numbers of unhoused students from year to year, but they pointed out that one year marked close to 50 unhoused students.
Train emphasized the housing lottery shortage is not due to a lack of housing. “We always have housing,” she said. “We always find housing over the summer. We’ve never [run] into a location where we have somebody where we just don’t have housing.”
Though students know they will find a place to live next year, the idea of summer housing came as a surprise to many first years — and the resulting uncertainty continues to cause frustration.
“I was really disappointed, because when you go to a school that guarantees housing, I just assumed you’d get somewhere to live,” Ellie Jorling ’17 said. She had hoped to live in a Caples Residence Hall double. “I’d never heard of being summer housed before. It was only after I experienced being summer housed did I hear of other people being summer housed in the past. Maybe they should have warned us at the outset, because it would have prepared us.”
Jorling and her roommate were fairly certain that their lottery number of 972 was good enough for a double in Caples, based on last year’s list of which numbers received which dorms.
Abhaya Tatavarti ’17, also summer housed, said she is maintaining a positive attitude about being assigned summer housing; she knew this was a possibility with her lottery number of 1013. Her major frustration was with having to endure the long wait at the lottery itself, only to leave empty-handed.
“It was so frustrating that, by the time we got to the front of the line, they said they didn’t have any rooms,” Tatavarti said. “I wish that there was a way we didn’t have to stay all four hours and then just get turned back. I wish something was different about that waiting process.”
Although Jorling knows that her housing situation will ultimately be resolved, the wait itself is discouraging. “I know that there’s not a lot that they can do and I understand that, but the one thing that I thought would be set for next year is my housing,” she said. “So I’m a little disappointed.”
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