Coming back from spring break brings a similar slew of changes for students at Seattle University like new classes and the reappearance of sun—but for sophomores and juniors, this quarter brings some unanticipated, unsavory changes. After an email released by Seattle U Housing and Residence Life on March 16, they will now have to change their plans to accommodate their now lower priority for on
Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Tim Albert explained that these changes not only reflect previous policy but also are a part of the long process of continuous growth at Seattle U. Since his undergraduate years in the early 1990s, the university has more than doubled the number of beds on campus.
“We’ve added a lot of beds, but the problem is that our student body is growing faster than we can currently add beds,” Albert said. “So what’s happening is, it looks like we’re going to have another big class of freshman, this year’s freshman class which will be next year’s sophomore class will be very large, and so those two things together are putting pressure on how many beds we have available.”
For Albert this decision is one part of a larger strategic vision for the university. The policy for on campus housing has always been to make sure there were enough beds for underclassmen and while this short term decision may mean less upperclassmen on campus, there are plans to add even more beds over the next five years.
Many students, like junior Melissa Schade, feel blindsided by the change. Her housing plans were practically finalized at the beginning of March—she planned to move into a quad room in the Murphy Residence Halls with a roommate group and finally have a room to herself after three years of sharing a room to cut costs. Then, on March 16 she and all other students currently living on campus received the email.
“Of course a problem here is the money—the larger issue is the timing,” Schade said. “Had this email made its way to me in December, I would have been much better able to plan ahead. I would not be feeling the immense amount of stress and anxiety I am feeling now.”
She believes that those most adversely affected will be second and third year students in more strained financial situations. Schade elaborated that while she understands space needs to be made to include a growing population of underclassmen, there are many sophomores and juniors who now have to make difficult housing decisions. For instance, she explained that she now has to choose between taking out more loans to pay for housing off-campus or commuting from a friend’s house in Auburn—which is over an hour long round-trip commute every day.
For some students, the decision to live on or off campus may the deciding factor of whether to attend school this fall at all. This is one of the reasons why sophomore Jorge Laborico felt he had to do something. As Sophomore Representative he heard the confusion and frustration of his constituents, knowing that most students his age don’t even know how to sign a lease, let alone find an affordable apartment. After receiving the email at the end of March he began to engage with Housing and Residence life as well as Student Government of Seattle University to clarify the exact changes.
“From the sophomore class most of the concerns I heard were, ‘Where can I live next year?’ That was the big one,” Laborico said.
Addressing the confusion, Albert explained that although the new system will change how housing is selected, third and fourth year students are still encouraged to apply for on campus housing as a backup. He elaborated that living off campus is not for everyone, but in the face of scarce housing in the short term and the costs incurred to create more options, this is the best solution available. The main concern for on campus housing is still making sure that first and second year students have a place to stay—and one that is more livable than an efficiency triple or a repurposed common area.
“We know we won’t be able to help them all, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t have a significant number of juniors and seniors on campus, because we will. But it is going to be a little less than what we’ve had in the past,” Albert said.
Laborico believes that even with these changes, the issues of inexperience and lack of education in finding off-campus housing still remain. For this reason he has teamed up with Housing and Residence Life to provide a week of events to aid students in making this transition: “How to Find an Apartment” on April 18, “What is a Lease and Your Tenant’s Rights?” on April 19,” How to Budget and Financial Planning” on April 20, “Landlords and Property Management—Is There a Difference?” on April 21, and “Affordable Housing and Resourses” on April 22. These events have varying locations and times that will be publicized in the coming week.
“I felt as though, because this is something that was put onto students last second, because housing decisions are happening right now, but we were told about it in the middle of March—Well okay, what can I do to give people the most amount of help,” Laborico said. “I think it’s more beneficial to them to communicate with people who work in these departments instead of just reading something online.”
Some students currently working with the new process still think it puts upperclassmen in a difficult position. Schade explained that she is attempting to enter the Douglas Apartments as a backup, but while currently 234th on the waitlist she isn’t optimistic about her chances. She can describe her frustration only as a sense of voicelessness.
Both Laborico and Albert encouraged communication as the best way to mold these new policies in the future. As these changes will affect students the most, they invite any comments, questions, or concerns to facilitate a discussion on the future of housing at Seattle U. Students can contact Jorge at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.
Jason can be reached at [email protected]