If you thought having one roommate was challenging, try having three. That’s the situation that some new students have found themselves in as Housing and Residence Life converted residence hall lounges into four-person suites to make room for incoming students.
“Based on the last number I heard, we are at 110% capacity,” said Director of Housing and Residence Life Kathleen Baker in regards to Seattle University’s housing overload for fall quarter.
Associate Director of Housing Timothy Albert said that gentrification and crime are the two main reasons for the overload. Escalating rent prices of the luxurious apartments surrounding Seattle U are driving students to pursue the comparatively affordable on-campus housing.
Baker explained the housing process to The Spectator.
“We have to leave a certain number of beds open for first and second year students that have to live on campus. So usually we offer up these spaces [in the spring], students sign up and over the summer there’s always a certain number of cancellations. We count on that. But this year we did not get the same number of cancellations that has traditionally happened so the spaces we expected to open up didn’t.”
In an email issued to all upperclassmen living in the Murphy apartments, Housing and Residence Life announced that the monetary penalty to withdraw from on-campus housing, typically strictly enforced, would be lifted this year. This change is an attempt to encourage students who have the option to live off-campus to do so, thus allowing incoming new students on-campus housing.
“As it turns out, that didn’t get us as many bed spaces. But when you’re trying to house, it’s always a numbers game. It’s not about getting thirty or forty beds, it’s just one here and one there,” Albert said. He added that every couple of days, a new student contacts Seattle U’s housing office requesting on-campus accommodations.
“At one point, we had over 50 [students] without beds… We don’t want to leave students out in the cold… That’s a priority,” Albert said of the overload of underclassmen requesting on-campus housing. He told The Spectator that freshmen will not be living in the Murphy apartments, All first-time freshmen seeking on-campus housing will be assigned to live in Bellarmine, Campion or Xavier.
Albert said that many incoming freshman seek out triples due to their affordable pricing and as an opportunity to meet additional new students. In all of the residence halls, several previously double rooms have been converted to triples. In Campion and Bellarmine halls, floor lounges have been converted to quads. He is hopeful that the quads will address the concerns of students who seek out triple rooms even more effectively.Laura Hoffman, a junior who lived in a Bellarmine double her freshman year, said that residence hall community is important. “I think you should have a typical year in the dorms living closely with another person,” she said. “I think they need to start investing in adding on to to Bellarmine or creating housing for students on campus.”
Rhiannon Jahns, another junior who lived in a Bellarmine double, said the quads seemed disorganized.
“I think they really need to rethink the housing situation.”
In reference to the additions of the triples and converted lounges, Albert said that the switch isn’t meant to be a permanent solution.
“That’s not the university’s plan,” he said. Albert added that with Seattle U’s current funding and budget plan, these accommodations make the most sense.
In the past, Seattle U has addressed housing overload concerns by purchasing the Kolvenbach Homes and Logan Court. Kolvenbach was designed as a distinctive housing option for those committed to service-learning and simple living. Kolvenbach is available to eight current students entering their sophomore, junior or senior years. Logan Court is a condominium style of living for upperclassmen undergraduate students, though Albert said Seattle U has previously placed graduate students there.
In the past nine years that Albert has been with Seattle U, nearly 500 beds have been added.
When asked if Seattle U is considering building additional residence halls, Albert said that it’s a possibility. “There is always talk of it,” he said. “We are faced with a myriad of challenges.”
He added that gentrification not only affects students seeking housing on Capitol Hill, but also the university, which struggles to compete with the growing prices of property.
“We’re in a neighborhood that is vibrant, a neighborhood that is growing but that also means that buying property is really expensive and difficult. And often, because of where we are, even when it’s something right next to campus, we are not the only ones looking at it and we’re not even the only institution looking at it.,” he said. “Seattle Academy is looking to
purchase… As downtown creeps this way it definitely becomes more expensive.”
Albert said that the crime rate is another reason for the rise in on campus housing requests.
“Crime hasn’t necessarily gotten worse, but people are more aware of it,” Albert said.
He attributes much of this awareness to Public Safety’s communication with students via email. Albert believes that parents see safety as “a growing concern,” one that is most effectively addressed by keeping Seattle U students living on campus.