University News

U. may offer more off-campus housing privileges to juniors

The new policy would account for an expanding student body, as proposed in the strategic plan

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, October 24, 2013

This year, the Office of Residential Life will likely award around 1,275 rising juniors and seniors off-campus permission, but that amount may change in response to shifting enrollment numbers.

The University may increase the number of rising juniors awarded off-campus housing permission to accommodate growth in the student body in the coming years, administrators said.

President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan, “Building on Distinction,” released last month, outlines a goal of growing the student body, and Paxson has voiced support for growing the undergraduate population by 1 percent annually over the next decade, The Herald reported earlier this month. But because discussions over expanding the number of undergraduates are ongoing, the University cannot quantify how many additional rising juniors may receive off-campus permission, said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services.

An average of about 1,000 rising seniors and 275 rising juniors have received off-campus permission each year for the past five years, Bova said.

Administrators are also considering whether to expand residential facilities in light of the potential student body growth, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president of campus life and student services.

“We’ll be looking at all of these things in terms of what the campus should be and what we want to preserve,” Klawunn said.

 

Restricted access

Off-campus housing privileges are a “rising senior-driven process,” and rising seniors who apply as individuals for off-campus permission by a mid-December deadline are guaranteed approval, according to the Office of Residential Life website. The University requires students to live on campus for six semesters unless they receive permission to move off-campus, Bova said, adding that about 300 to 500 rising juniors apply each year for off-campus permission. This rate of applications means that anywhere between 25 to 225 rising juniors who apply each year do not receive permission.

Administrators limit the number of juniors who receive off-campus permission because living on campus is an important part of the Brown experience, Klawunn said.

The University depends on residential fees as a source of revenue and must fill all of its 4,854 beds, she said, adding that administrators work to accommodate any student who desires to live on campus.

To determine how many students should be awarded off-campus housing each year, the University uses an “enrollment management model” that measures how many students are taking courses on campus, studying abroad, taking leaves of absence and transferring to and from Brown, Bova said.

ResLife aims to award off-campus permission to a total of 1,275 rising seniors and rising juniors this year, but that number is subject to change based on fluctuating enrollment figures, he added.

After seniors receive off-campus permission, ResLife uses a lottery system to grant the remaining permission slots to rising juniors and rising seniors who do not immediately receive permission, according to ResLife’s website. Students who do not initially receive permission are placed on a waitlist and have the opportunity to obtain permission if those who have been granted off-campus privileges change their plans and decide to live in residence halls, Bova said.

Mixed reviews

Some juniors said they were frustrated with the process of gaining permission to live off campus and expressed support for revising ResLife’s policy.

Jessica Cherness ’15 said she applied to live off campus for financial reasons and because she wanted to live in a convenient location. She said she felt “cramped” for space when she lived in Minden Hall and wanted to avoid the stress of the housing lottery. Though ResLife cautions students not to sign leases before receiving off-campus permission, Cherness said she had to sign a lease on a private residence to secure the apartment before she had received permission from the University. But after signing the lease, Cherness learned she had been placed on the waitlist, she said.

Cherness said she wrote a letter of appeal to ResLife and wrote several emails to Associate Director of Residential Life Richard Hilton, but received no response until her parents wrote a letter on her behalf. Cherness said she received off-campus permission in June.

ResLife should consider moving the application process earlier in the year so students do not have to choose between losing access to off-campus houses and taking the risk of not gaining permission, Cherness said, adding that ResLife should also be more responsive to students’ concerns and directly inform applicants of their option to appeal.

Students who had been placed on the waitlist said they sometimes write letters of appeal to explain why their situations merit special consideration.

“In some very tough cases, students are moved off the waitlist for serious reasons,” Bova wrote in an email to The Herald. “Sometimes folks who appeal do not receive permission and remain on the waitlist.”

Family situations, financial conditions and health issues are some of the reasons students appeal ResLife’s decision to place them on the waitlist, Bova wrote.

A female junior who requested anonymity for privacy reasons said she wanted to live off campus this year because she felt depressed living in the Graduate Center and believed living off campus would improve her mental health. After ResLife placed her on the waitlist, she sent two letters of appeal, but her case was not taken seriously because she had not yet been formally diagnosed with depression, she said. She was formally diagnosed this summer, and Hilton told her she should obtain help from Student and Employee Accessibility Services, she said. The junior said she filled out the necessary paperwork with SEAS, but a SEAS staffer told her she had applied for assistance too late and could not qualify for living off-campus.

“I used to think Brown was a school that cared for its students, but they didn’t do anything for me,” she said, adding that students should have more freedom to decide where they want to live.

Ryan Brown ’15 said he applied to live off campus because seniors on his frisbee team invited him to live with them in a private residence and because most of his friends in the class of 2015 were planning to go abroad. He said he received approval without difficulty, but added that he sometimes misses living closer to campus.

If the University decides to increase the number of off-campus permission slots available to rising juniors, administrators should provide students with more guidance about signing leases and other aspects of off-campus living, Brown said.

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