Housing continues to frustrate students

by Alexander C. Kaufman / Beacon Staff • March 3, 2011

When sophomore Jessup Deane found out he was denied on-campus housing last Friday, he was shocked.

Like hundreds of his classmates, Deane said he expected to to return to the dorms, after the college required this year’s rising juniors to live on campus.

“They basically made everyone believe [we] were required to live on campus,” the communication studies major said. “Out of nowhere they kicked over 100 people off, including me.”

So when the college began accepting applications from students who wished to enter a lottery to live off campus last month, Deane, under the impression there was enough space for him, said he did not apply.

But, according to Student Government Association President Cami Bravo, college officials were surprised when the number of juniors applying for on-campus housing quadrupled from previous years.

“The administration thought a lot of students were going to want to live off campus,” said Bravo, who will be studying abroad in Los Angeles next semester. “[Next year will be] the highest amount of juniors that are living on campus to date.”

Bravo said Dean of Students Ronald Ludman told her third-year students will occupy nearly 200 of Emerson’s 1,935 beds next semester. In each of the last four years, she said, around 50 juniors lived on campus.

According to Bravo, the dean of students believes many did not apply for reverse housing because they thought most of their classmates would remain in dorms.

David Haden, associate dean and director of housing and residence life, said he was surprised by the perception that only a few students would be released from housing after the reverse housing selection process.

“We re-opened the process twice and specifically indicated that we were looking for additional applications in messages that were sent to all eligible participants,” said Haden in an e-mail to the Beacon.

But for Deane, the wording in the mass e-mails explaining the reverse housing lottery led him to believe his chances of moving into an apartment were slim to none.

“They made it very clear to almost every junior that we were required to live on campus,” Deane said. “Once they realized they might not have room they started doing reverse housing. Then, they started pushing reverse housing.”

He said he is frustrated because he wants to live with his current roommate, a freshman, but can’t because, while there is no space for him, his roommate is required to live on campus. Ideally, he said his roommate would move into an apartment and trade his bed to a rising junior looking to dorm.

“They could fix it by letting people switch,” Deane said. “They're not doing it just so they stick to their requirement. They won't give in.”

However, Haden said the college is currently considering releasing rising juniors who received housing, but wish to live off campus, to free beds for those who hoped to remain in the dorms. But he said prior to allowing students to switch, the college will conduct one final reverse housing process, adding that rising sophomores will still be required to spend at least four semesters on campus.

In a Feb. 16 e-mail to all students eligible for reverse housing, Haden wrote:

“Emerson College’s Residency Requirement indicates that students are offered housing for their fifth and sixth semesters pending the availability beds. The goal is to maximize the number of juniors who prefer to live off campus and minimize the number of juniors who prefer to live on campus that will not be afforded College housing.  While the response to the Reverse Housing Selection process has been positive, we will not be able to provide on-campus housing to all remaining juniors.”

Eager to live on his own, sophomore Nick Johnston said he felt certain he would be accepted in the reverse housing lottery after administrators extended the submission deadline.

“When they extended the deadline two different times, people could sort of figure out that they weren’t exactly having the right number of people apply,” said the visual and media arts major, scanning online listings for studio apartments on his MacBook.

Junior Landry Albright, who was denied housing for next semester, expressed frustration with the delayed timing of the housing announcement.

“It’s kind of frustrating to start the apartment hunt [so] late,” said the acting major. “I just hope, in the future, the housing policy reflects more accurately the amount of space we have on campus.”

For Deane, receiving news that he and his roommate would be split up only added to the mounting stress of midterm week.

“I’m beyond upset about it,” he said. “They did this the week before midterms, which is just the worst timing in the world. I have a million other things going on in my life right now.”

But Johnston said students should embrace living away from the watchful eyes of resident assistants and stringent on-campus policies.

“I see it as kind of a liberation thing; you’re suddenly going to be liberated from the corner of Park St. to the end of Newbury St.,” he said. “There’s more to Boston than the Little Building.”