While super blizzard Juno pummeled the East coast with several feet of snow, Wesleyan’s Office of Residential Life rang in 2015 with a storm of equal caliber. The ResLife forecast predicted something that many students considered far worse than whiteout conditions and frigid temperatures: a scramble for spring housing.
On Jan. 11, students who spent the fall semester off-campus (mostly juniors, as well as some sophomores and seniors) opened their student portfolios to receive their housing assignments. Though some lucky students received typical housing for their class years, they were few and far between. The majority of the returning upperclassmen were relegated to graduate apartments, off-campus houses, and dorm rooms traditionally given to underclassmen.
As students moved into their respective rooms, a common question began to circulate on campus: what is the root of this housing conundrum? Some students cited the over-enrolled class of 2015 as a potential catalyst. Others suggested that the closing of Beta Theta Pi last September could have impacted the limited vacancies, because the University had to find campus housing for the Beta residents.
According to Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting, the reason for this baffling housing situation is the flux of students leaving and returning to campus this semester. Though 170 students, mostly juniors, spent the fall semester off-campus, only 104 left campus for the spring semester, a discord that Koerting described as historic for the Wesleyan community. There have always been more students off campus in the fall than in the spring, but never this big of a difference. In the past, ResLife has been equipped to deal with the usual 20-person spillover, but the discrepancy of this magnitude has left the University scrambling for alternatives.
“A difference of 65 is a big difference,” Koerting said. “This has made this spring’s [housing] situation especially tight.”
One addition to the housing menu this semester is the graduate apartment complex located at 256 Washington St. As the name suggests, the rooms are typically given to a handful of individuals pursuing a graduate degree through the University. Nonetheless, ResLife has repurposed several empty rooms in the complex this spring as an antidote to the current undergraduate housing plight.
“My first reactions to my housing situation were not good ones,” said Lena Capece ’16, who was placed in one of these apartments with a roommate. “My first thought was that as a junior I should not be living in a double. My second was that Washington could not be farther from my classes, which are all in Exley.”
Capece’s roommate, Nikki LeFlore ’16, concurred about the inconvenience of the location.
“It’s far [from the center of campus], so it doesn’t get treated as a priority,” Leflore said. “It also isn’t a Ride stop so we have to call upwards of four times before they come.”
Despite the trek to the central part of campus from Washington St., both Capece and Leflore admitted that they fared relatively well in the grand scheme of the spring housing lottery.
“It’s actually a lot better than we anticipated,” Leflore said. “It’s far, but once it warms up a bit that won’t bother us at all. We’re just happy we aren’t in the Nics or Butts, to be honest.”
However, not all students were afforded the same luxury. Pressed for accommodations, the University has placed a number of returning juniors in single and double dorms intended for underclassmen.
“For the first time in years we’ve had to pair students who are in two different classes,” Koerting said. “Sophomores are living with freshmen, juniors are living with sophomores. ResLife has never had to do this before.”
In light of this unprecedented housing configuration, juniors who were placed in singles—even in buildings traditionally not sought after by upperclassmen—were grateful for the privacy.
“I live in Butterfield A,” said Atiya Walcott ’16. “Thankfully it’s a single, but I didn’t list it as an option on my housing preference form at all.”
Walcott, among many other returning students, has attempted to rationalize her placement.
“At first I was upset and wanted to cry,” Walcott said. “But I didn’t! I realized that I could spend time at my friend’s apartment. More importantly, I keep reminding myself that it’s only a semester.”
Anticipating a negative response from students placed in unusual housing, ResLife decided to be more lenient with its off-campus housing policy.
“When [underclass] students were disappointed or upset with their assignment, I mentioned to them that they were welcome to look into off-campus options,” Koerting said. “We made this exception because we were clearly not providing the accommodations that we wanted to provide.”
A junior who is living in an off-campus house and who chose to remain anonymous said he felt fortunate about his accommodation despite the hard work involved in finding the house.
“We felt as if our junior year we should be afforded the opportunity to live with our friends,” he said. “[ResLife] was understanding.”
There is hope on the housing horizon. Koerting said that ResLife has been devising solutions to avoid this problem in the future. Though she agreed that part of the remedy may be more lenience toward underclassmen exploring off-campus housing options, Koerting said that balancing the number of students off-campus in the fall and spring is the best fix. In fact, ResLife has plans to work with professors to encourage more students to go abroad in the spring, since the fall has presented itself as the more popular semester. She added that ResLife has no plans to purchase or build more housing, stating that the University’s current accommodations are sufficient.
Wesleyan students are not shy about expressing their harsh opinions when they feel mistreated by the school. Thankfully, there has been no major backlash.
“Everybody has been so understanding,” Koerting said. “I am really appreciative.”