Housing Changes Spark Anger

Housing+Changes+Spark+Anger

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Upperclassmen are temporarily relieved after officials listened to their objections to a change in the campus housing plan.

Juniors and seniors were alarmed about their housing options for the fall after they were notified before Easter break about a change in the room lottery process.

School officials and Residence Life staffers met with  upper class students to let them voice their objections on March 26 in Insalaco Hall. Hundreds of students listed their concerns, which  included not having seniority over underclassmen in their housing choices, the possibility of having to live at a newly purchased property on Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s campus and feeling that there limited options are discriminatory.

Upperclassmen were offered select options which included the third floor of MacDowell Hall, five townhouses, triple rooms in Gildea Hall, properties on Lake Street such as The White House, Machell Hall and 111 Lake Street, and apartments at Nittany Commons.

Officials sent a revised email to students on April 4 notifying them of the changes they made to the plan.

The email from AJ Nudo, Assistant Director of Residence Life, said, “There will be no limitations on what any student can select for their housing option! Housing lottery will run as it has in the past, with the exception that sophomores and first year students room lottery will be conducted online.”

This came as great news to the soon to be senior class. Junior Erin Gracey was worried about what her housing options would be if she didn’t get a high lottery number.

“I was looking forward to having the picks that I wanted for my senior year,” she said. “But before the new email was sent, I knew I would have a difficult decision which, would possibly force me off campus, which I didn’t want.”

Gracey is grateful that the housing committee considered students’ objections.

“I think the email they sent after the meeting calmed the worries of a lot of people,” she said.

At the bottom of the April 4 email, officials made note that although changes were not made to this year’s lottery, there will be changes and revisions to the policy for the 2014 lottery. The email noted that those changes will be discussed and students will be notified in spring 2014.

Gracey thinks that any changes will be upset students. She feels  there is already a limited number of spaces on campus and limiting it further will force students to move off campus, which they might not want to do.

“I understand where they are coming from and I sympathize with them. This is not something we wanted to do and we knew no matter when we put this information out there would be back lash,” Nudo said. “If we put it out three months before room lottery or three days before room lottery people were going to get angry and we understood that.”

Misericordia, unlike a number of larger schools like Penn State Main Campus, has a large number of students who live on-campus throughout all four years of their undergraduate program.

Nudo is pleased that students enjoy being on campus but he thinks students neglect lower campus, which he says is just as much a part of of the university.

“I think there is a stereotype that needs to be broken about the lower campus housing and that it’s not on-campus,” he said. “Campus really begins when you make that turn up Lake Street with the Health Science building being down there and the number of properties that we do own coming up Lake Street. Lake Street really is campus housing.”

Nudo said a large number of students feel campus begins after crossing under the arch, which is not true. With housing  and Passan Hall on Lake Street, he wants to extend the feeling of campus all the way down the hill.

“It’s not north of the arch so students don’t associate it with upper campus. I hope the mind frame will change a little over time as we’ve acquired these properties and create a greater campus feel as we extend down the arch and down Lake Street.”

Nudo understands why students were upset at the initial email, he said at some point the school will have to change to accommodate the growing number of incoming students.

“I know some students brought up the fact that they were told coming in that they would have housing wherever they wanted for four years because that’s the way Misericordia ran,” he said. “But we’re growing every year here, at a significant rate, and eventually something is going to have to give. We looked at the population and we didn’t want to deny anyone housing, but we knew we had to make some shifts in housing. Unfortunately, I think the timing that we brought it out was really what affected the students.”

The late notification was sparked by the recently purchased property at Nittany Commons. Transfer students live there now, under the conditions offered by Penn State, but Residence Life wanted to offer this space to upperclassmen, to give them an off-campus feel without having to search the Back Mountain area for a place to rent.

Nudeo also put to rest students’ misconception that they would be forced to move to the Nittany Commons if spaces fill on MU’s grounds.

“We never were going to force anyone off, and I think the other big misconception was that if you didn’t get one of these beds housing was going to be unavailable for you and that is not the case either. Whoever filled out a contract will get a bed,” he said.

There are incentives for students to live at Nittany Commons, including a $50 gas card, $250 in Cougar Points and a free parking pass for MU grounds.

Nudo asks students to continue to bring their concerns and questions to the Residence Life Office in the Banks Student Life Center.

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