ResEd Neglects Student Needs in Housing Registration

In the midst of the housing selection process this week and next, students have been surprised to find that their choices were more limited than usual. Rising juniors discovered that singles were mostly taken by their allotted registration period, while other upperclassmen found themselves without the Village Housing that typically comes with seniority. Though navigating Residential Education’s housing process is typically stressful and daunting to students in any given year, ResEd made a crucial error in planning when it eliminated multiple Village Housing options without adding a reasonable amount of alternative choices. Houses may be typically reserved for seniors, but the trickle-down effect is felt by all students, and the College must rectify its housing debacle; if it takes away houses, it must supplement the loss with comparable living spaces or more off-campus housing options.

ResEd removed 17 houses from the available choices while doing virtually nothing to accommodate the students who expected to live in those houses. Simply increasing the number of super singles and super quads available was nowhere near enough. Assuming that each house accommodates four students, a whopping 68 Village Housing spots were lost. That means dozens of upperclassmen were forced to compete for the remaining Village Houses. Last year, there were some Union Street Village Housing Units that had four juniors living in an apartment; this year, some seniors who wanted to live in a house did not get to register for one at all. These seniors — who have undoubtedly looked forward to having a house for three years — must now live in a dorm, apartment, or co-op. Although President Ambar announced that the College would include more singles in coming renovations in dorms like Langston Hall, dorm-living is still disappointing to many rising seniors who want to live in a house instead.

The rising junior class has also struggled with housing as a direct result of the removal of the 17 houses. Because more rising seniors will occupy Village Houses next semester than usual, more juniors than usual must occupy dorms. Singles are one of the most popular housing options for juniors, and rising juniors have not typically had difficulty getting singles in the past. Many sophomores this year even have singles. However, by the time some rising juniors had the chance to pick their housing this week, the singles were already gone. This leaves many of them in divided or open doubles — options that are usually relegated to underclassmen. Part of the excitement of being a junior is finally having all housing options realistically available to you; this housing selection period dashed those hopes.

There have also been some cases of students being vacated from units or dorms that they had already picked out. As reported in the Review this week, several students were led to believe that some of the Woodland Street Village Housing Units were still available because they were included on the housing selection sheet; this group was later told that these houses were not available, and by that time, all other houses and apartments had been taken. In another case, rising College juniors Ben Marshak and Jason Hewitt spoke to members of the Editorial Board and said they picked out their housing at their assigned time but were told later that there was a glitch in the system, that they should never have been able to register at the time that had been designated to them in the ResEd email. They were consequently removed from the rooms they had picked and given a later registration time. Multiple groups of juniors had similar misfortunes. This is an unacceptable move from ResEd. ResEd made the mistake, not these students — yet the students are the ones being punished.

One of the most disappointing parts of next year’s housing situation is that ResEd did not take nearly enough measures to troubleshoot and prevent the problems students now face. When the College decided it would begin decreasing Village Housing options, it could have allowed for more students to apply for off-campus housing, and given greater notice to students about what would happen to specific housing units. These obvious preemptive actions would have eased the housing selection process. Instead, students were surprised and anxious as they arrived at their registration times to discover that their options were reduced; many scrambled to make new housing plans.

Based on their campus life survey last fall, Student Senate found that students are generally unhappy, and as the Editorial Board also wrote last semester, we believe the questionable quality of dorm and housing life at Oberlin significantly impacts the happiness of students. Earlier this spring, Senate revealed that one of the greatest sources of student unhappiness came from dorm life. Considering the mounting concerns, we want to reiterate that the College and ResEd should push a significantly greater and more genuine effort to improve living conditions for students. While closing the older, run-down Village Houses may be a smart long-term move for the College — as it removes the cost of renovating those buildings and gives the College the opportunity to build new living spaces, namely on Woodland Street — the College dropped the ball in the short-term. When juniors and seniors can’t find housing in houses or singles and when underclassmen are forced to pick up the scraps of housing options, we aren’t working toward student satisfaction, but rather reducing morale at a time when student happiness has never been more fragile or crucial.

Too often, the College has taken options away from students and other stakeholders on this campus without replacing those entities or programs with sufficient substitutes — just look at Oberlin Disability Resources or Campus Dining Services. Now, this trend has taken its toll on housing, by all accounts a vital part of college life. If Oberlin wants to reach its goals toward leading the field of change with its peer institutions, it has to cover the baseline first and ensure something as simple as housing registration can be completed without chaos and disappointment. Not only do current students deserve better, but prospective students expect it.