Freshmen influx forces students into hotels

by Beacon Staff • September 12, 2007

"Certainly, the students aren't paying us as much as we're paying the hotel," said David Haden, Emerson's director of housing and residence life.,Emerson struck deals with two area hotels this summer in order to house the unexpectedly large incoming class of freshmen. The which will cost the college substantially more over the next two years, Emerson officials said.

"Certainly, the students aren't paying us as much as we're paying the hotel," said David Haden, Emerson's director of housing and residence life.

Approximately 130 students were placed into supplemental dormitories at the Doubletree and Courtyard by Marriott Boston Tremont Hotel late in the summer, a situation borne out of necessity, Emerson administrators said, because freshmen are guaranteed housing.

"I would imagine that it is costing us more, it can't be costing us less [than housing students in Emerson's dormitories]," said David Rosen, vice president of public affairs. He noted the rooms were let to Emerson at less than face value and room and board fees are the same for students living in the hotels. Emerson administrators would not comment on specific terms of the contracts.

Cost is not the only difference; the lifestyle is a point of contention for students. "You can't hang anything on the walls. We can't move the beds around," said freshman marketing communication major Brandyn Fitzgerald, also a Doubletree resident. "There's definitely perks, like house cleaning and things like that, but we have a mini bar we can't move, and a giant armoire with a TV in it that we can't take out."

Students at the Doubletree have access to the Chinatown YMCA facility within the building as well as linen and maid service.

Many of the feelings expressed by current freshmen are echoed by students who were also housed in the Doubletree in 2005-06, when a similar shortage occurred before the opening of the Piano Row facility at 150 Boylston St.

"As far as toiletries and stuff like that, you were basically taken care of," said Emil Lamprecht, a junior marketing communication major, who spent a semester at the Doubletree two years ago. "And as long as you kept your room tidy they would clean the floors and some surfaces," he said.

Despite accepting fewer total applicants than last year, an almost 5 percent jump in the yield rate-the number of students who send in their deposit after being accepted - necessitated the additional housing. The yield increased to 35.9 percent, after hovering around 31 percent from 2004-06, Haden said.

"There were about 130 more [freshmen] than we wanted based on facilities, not just dorms but dining facilities and classroom space," Rosen said. About 40 fewer transfer students were accepted because of the ballooning incoming class, he added, but the net increase of students on campus forced Emerson to hire additional part-time faculty. This will also, according to Rosen, "require a more creative use of space."

While the room and board fee of $11,376 remained unchanged for the students in supplemental housing, the actual cost of each hotel room exceeds the price of a room in either the Little Building or Piano Row residence halls, Rosen said, leaving Emerson to pay the difference.

Although Emerson's expansion to dormitories in the Paramount Center at 543-547 Washington St. and the Colonial Building at 100 Boylston St.-both scheduled to open in the fall of 2009-should alleviate the housing crunch, the current shortage could also affect next year's class of 2012. Both hotels have 1-year contracts with the college, with an extension option for an additional year, according to Haden.

"The reality is that we will probably be in the hotels next year," he said.

While the agreement with the Doubletree was reached around mid-summer, Ellis said the agreement with the Courtyard hotel was reached in mid-August.

"We realized we were going to need more housing while waiting for the melt that never came," Ellis said, referring to the number of students who drop out late in the housing process. "The college was planning a certain number would drop off, and that didn't happen. The planning models have been changed."

Emerson College Public Safety has also taken extra measures to guarantee consistent coverage of the area between the main campus and the hotels.

"I think the college is putting their money where their mouth is," said Director of Public Safety George F. Noonan. "We're asking people to come here, we're telling them that they're going to be safe."

Noonan said he was given the authority to hire a new full time officer-Bill Kinney, a 34-year Boston Police Department veteran-to specifically cover the hotel beat, but the extra staff is not anticipated to be as temporary as the hotel accommodations.

"When the Paramount Center comes on line in 2009 and we're not staying at these hotels, Officer Kinney will be assigned right over there," Noonan said. "He's full time, all 52 weeks."

But some freshmen said they were less worried about safety than about how hotel life will affect their freshmen experience.

Emerson's hotel residents must also comply with constant quiet hours, and the inability to prop their doors, two sticking points that some said could fundamentally change how they meet their peers. Print journalism major Molly Coombs, a Doubletree resident, said she had mixed feelings.

"We are missing out on that general dorm experience," Coombs said. "You feel a lot more like a hotel guest than a student."