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Misconceptions, misinformation spur sophomore housing woes

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 02:04


In the aftermath of this year’s housing lottery, many members of the sophomore class found themselves left in a hectic scramble to find alternative off-campus housing when on-campus housing quickly ran out. While information and resource barriers left some students blindsided, the results were not atypical, according to Director of Community Relations Barbara Rubel, and the Medford and Somerville communities will continue to house most juniors and seniors.

“We were all very surprised and pretty bummed at the same time,” sophomore Mitchell Stallman said. Stallman’s lottery number was in the top 20 percent for his class, but he did not qualify to receive a dorm room selection time, he said.

“I relied on the process. Because I had such a high number, I hadn’t worried all year,” he said. “It’s now a mad scramble to try to find a place to live.”

Rubel maintains that this situation is manageable. 

“I do not believe there are going to be more juniors forced off campus than before,” Rubel said. “It has always been the case that freshman and sophomores have to live on campus and then priority goes to seniors. It’s a function of how many seniors want to come back and live on campus.”

Many students have attributed this year’s difficulties to larger class of freshmen and sophomores, all of whom are guaranteed on-campus housing. The numbers do not support this perception, however, suggesting the dispersion of unsubstantiated rumors and misinformation.

“I think there might be an over-enrollment issue with the upcoming class,” sophomore Becky Goldberg said.

Goldberg was one of many sophomores with this view.

“A lot of the reasons I think came down to they accepted too many freshman and current freshman this year that are guaranteed housing,” fellow sophomore Steven Mullahoo said.

Despite this popular line of thinking within the sophomore class, according to Undergraduate Admissions, 3,504 students were accepted for the Class of 2016, of which 1,309 became Jumbos. This year, the number of acceptances was slightly under 18.7 percent of 18,420 applications, coming to about 3,444 acceptances for the Class of 2017 — and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin in an April 1 blog post estimated a similar number of students enrolling for the fall as did last year. In other words, fewer students than ever were accepted from a larger applicant pool than ever. The current freshman and sophomore class sizes are on par with the current junior and senior class sizes as well.

The general spread of misinformation about off-campus housing lies at the heart of the problem, highlighting the administration’s constant struggle to distribute messages to students, especially those living off-campus who are not required to provide a local address.

“One of the challenges is, in talking to a variety of students, we’ve gotten very conflicting messages on the best way to get information out,” Rubel said.

In charge of community relations, Rubel’s office has worked to distribute messages about off-campus housing, especially discussing neighborhood relations, to students. They have seen varied success, according to Rubel.

“We’ve had a brochure for a number of years now, and this year we’ve heard students don’t read it,” she said. “There’s a real live question about the best way to get information in front of students so they will benefit from it.”

With a number of sophomores upset and now nervous about having a place to live next year, essential communication about the off-campus search process has fallen short of expectations, according to students.

“The first email we received was very straightforward and said, ‘Sorry, you [can’t] apply for housing,’” Mullahoo said. “A second email was sent out, probably due to the extreme reaction and backlash from our class, which included one or two links relating to off-campus housing.”

Sophomore John Hampson also expressed frustration with the lack of information offered.

“I was anticipating a bit more knowledge about housing. I didn’t get that much information about it. And looking online, it was very confusing,” Hampson said.

“They have all these different meetings declassifying ResLife and off-campus housing and I’ve gone to some of them and they are just not helpful,” Goldberg added. “They’re sugarcoating everything. They’re not telling you how it is, and it’s not fair.”

Limited resources may have contributed to this communication barrier between students and the administration.

“I just don’t think there are enough people working there and I don’t think they have enough communication with the students,” Goldberg said. 

Hampson added that he recently visited the Office of Residential Life to seek assistance with his off-campus search process and came to similar conclusions.

“There [were] a bunch of people in there trying to figure out housing and none of them were really helped,” he said.

Despite the stressful rush, Rubel encouraged students to take a deep breath.

“All I can say is to relax. You might have to walk a block further but there are lots of places to rent,” she said.

For many students, however this is in fact the primary reason for concern, as distance from campus tends to trump all in the off-campus search process.

“It seems much more these days, students are less interested in the condition of an apartment they are looking into and more about proximity,” Rubel said.

Rent and roommates are other contributing factors, but some students still looking for a place next year have abandoned these considerations as well.

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