On Jan. 15, Vassar students returning to campus in the spring semester received an email from the Office of Residential Life explaining that, although traditionally returning juniors could expect to live in a single room after returning to campus, this would no longer be the case. This revelation marks only the most recent struggle with regards to ensuring housing for all students, as Residential Life faced a similar housing issue in the fall of 2014. In the days following this most recent announcement, amidst anger and concern among both returning juniors and underclassmen who would be unexpectedly receiving upperclassmen roommates, Residential Life administrators have worked to provide as many juniors as possible with singles while also placing additional upperclassmen in the necessary group housing situations.
As the email read, “At our most recent count, there are only 84 singles and 40 beds in apartments, suites and 2 room doubles. These 124 spaces aren’t enough for out [sic] anticipated returning population of 173 juniors, seniors, and exchange students.” It continued, “This means that some juniors will have to be assigned to doubles and, possibly, triples; we expect to have to use every empty bed on campus in order to provide housing for everyone.”
This inequality in available beds and returning upperclassmen comes amidst a perceived guarantee of a single room for juniors. Though it is not an official promise made by the Office of Residential Life, the expectation of living in a single or single equivalent is held by most juniors returning to campus in the spring of each year. As one email distributed by Louis Inoa on Mar. 4 2014 reads, “With the possible exception of Josselyn, it is believed that singles will be available to all rising juniors in every house.”
While acknowledging that the preferred living situation of upperclassmen has traditionally been single rooms, the College noted that this option would no longer be available to several returning juniors. The email states, “We understand that most juniors would prefer not to be in a double or triple.” Instead, the College noted the 10 entirely open double room situations across campus that groups of returning students could opt into and informed them that all other placements would be made at random.
As potentially affected students became aware of this imbalance in housing, they also learned that the method through which the College intended to solve it. The statement explains, “Returning students will be assigned to spaces based on their listed graduation year and then in a random manner. We cannot provide an opportunity for students to provide their reasons for wanting/needing to avoid a double or triple without making things administratively unmanageable.”
Even after explaining to students that some juniors would need to be placed in group living situations, the Office of Residential Life has made clear that it is working to find singles or single equivalents for all juniors who are currently living in doubles and triples; they say that particular emphasis is being placed on resolving scenarios in which juniors have been left to share living quarters with underclassmen.
Despite the apparent necessity of the College to defy its previous statement of juniors receiving single rooms, many students have expressed anger at the timing of the announcement and the cause of this issue.
One returning junior, Madeleine Schafer ’16, expressed her feelings when the email was first sent out. As she recalled, “We get an email that says, ‘Hey, just so you all know, we goofed up massively and there aren’t enough singles for everybody. Here are the open THs, here are the open TAs. Also there are ten doubles.We all freak out. There are Facebook posts. Everyone is calling each other and texting each other.” This view was expressed by many who were concerned with the timing of the email. Because of how late the email sent out, many students were concerned with their ability to seek out other housing options.
As Schafer stated, remarking on her views of Residential Life’s performance, “Is is super dissapointing. [sic] As a student who has organized a lot of things and worked with staff just like to see them fail so epically. It was a situation where they had to have known the problem earlier and if they didn’t know, there’s no excuse for that.” These frustrations were echoed by many students who dealt with the current housing situation.
Meanwhile, Jonas Bahceci ’17 was notified on January 13 that he would be receiving a roommate in his double. Bahceci wrote in an emailed statement, “I don’t think that ResLIfe handled the situation itself poorly. However, I do think that is a situation that unfairly treats many returning Juniors and Seniors who were promised singles after returning in Spring.”
This marks the second time in two years that the Office of Residential Life has failed to provide all returning juniors with single rooms, although this year’s announcement proved significantly later and the degree of difference between single rooms and juniors much larger. In November 2014, returning students received an email stating that only 124 singles and single equivalents were available for 173 returning and transfer students.
As the semester has begun many of those affected by this residential issue feel as though they have few methods of recourse available to them, given that they have already moved into their new living situation and other, larger perceived issues facing the campus. Schafer argued, “Given Vassar’s responsiveness to all things, I’m not really expecting anything. I ultimately think that it is not the biggest issue on campus. [Juniors] are not the college’s first priority right now and that genuinely fine. [sic]” She continued, “On the other hand, this is one of those things that didn’t need to happen and could have happened in a lot of smoother ways. Even if was as simple as like as more concrete set of information given to juniors who are still in situations that they don’t want to live in, that would be great. There has just been a remarkable lack of communication.”