Each spring, a large number of third-year Vassar students return to campus from semesters spent abroad. This year, over twice as many students went abroad for fall semester than left in the spring.
As a result, the Office of Residential Life was faced with a housing shortage situation throughout the month of January that called for some creative solutions.
Luis Inoa, Director of Residential Life, oversees the office’s staff and was part of addressing the shortage., at the core of which was simple math. Said Inoa, “The difference is in the number of students abroad in the fall, 191, as opposed to the spring, 84.”
Over the final weeks of winter break, ResLife converted some unconventional spaces, such as the ROC office and the commuter lounge, into rooms.
“We also reopened spaces that have not been used in a few years, like tower rooms in Main and third floor rooms in Joss,” said Inoa. Many freshmen and sophomores who were living in doubles by themselves—fondly known as “dingles”—also received new junior roommates, to much chagrin.
Though ResLife leads students to expect a single upon returning from abroad, many self-selected to live in doubles with friends rather than risking having to room with a stranger. One student, Victoria Elias ’16, doubled up with her roommate from freshman year for a double in Main.
Said Elias, “I’m living in the Main towers in a double. The towers have been closed off in previous years because there is arguably only one safe fire exit.”
What’s worse, Elias said, is the bathroom situation. “We have one toilet and one shower for 10 people,” she lamented.
Though some of the new spaces may lack larger bathrooms or elevator access like newly renovated dormitories, they still required some small renovations in order to accommodate returning residents.
“B&G helped with painting the spaces and getting furniture into them, but not much needed to be done to make them into rooms,” said Inoa.
While the renovation process was simple, some students will recall this housing application process as the most hectic of their years at Vassar. Said John Mason ’16, “It was definitely more hectic than usual.”
He added, “A lot of juniors, myself included, were trying to arrange last-second living situations in friends’ THs, TAs, or in one of the last-second housing options that ResLife opened up in Joss.”
Inoa did point out a success of the residential predicament. He said, “At this point, we can say that every returning junior who did not request a roommate is now in a single.”
Though the time crunch of housing proved stressful for students, there are some perks. Due to unusual spaces being turned into dorm rooms, some students are now enjoying much larger living spaces than the average student. Said Mason, “It’s kind of out of the way, but it’s a great room.”
Yet, as with any deviation from the norm, the housing shortage sparked feedback from students and parents. “We got a lot of feedback, said Inoa, “Mostly positive but certainly concern about the timing of the communication.”
Students were mostly distressed by the short notice of housing assignments—given about three days before most student returned to campus.
When asked about the late communication, Elias commented, “This [seemed] ridiculous to me, considering that ResLife knew how many juniors were abroad, and also knew, in general, how many juniors were going abroad in the spring.”
Both Elias and Mason felt they could have been kept more up to date on the situation.
Moving forward, Inoa said that whether or not there are sufficient spaces on campus, ResLife will likely encourage returning juniors in the spring to consider off-campus housing, which will possibly put a dent in the 98 percent of Vassar students live on campus in either the residence halls or the apartment complexes.
Though ResLife managed to remedy this crisis, in addition, Inoa believes a permanent fix to this problem would be better communication and collaboration with the JYA office.
He said, “I do not know if it can be avoided unless we become much more intentional about balancing the number of students abroad each semester.”
Meanwhile, students had vague ideas as to how ResLife could handle a similar problem in the future.
“In this situation as in all, it seems to me that planning ahead would be a wonderful first step in avoiding such problems,” said Elias.
Mason remained hopeful. He said, “I can’t imagine that there will be another housing shortage after this, but if there is, I’m not sure what could be done better other than informing students earlier.”