University News

Demand for off-campus housing increases

Many rising juniors placed on waitlist for off-campus permission critique the ResLife system

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 12, 2015

Though the number of rising juniors applying for off-campus housing has increased since last year, the Office of Residential Life continues to prioritize seniors when allocating off-campus privileges.

The Office of Residential Life granted off-campus permission to 324 rising juniors and 1,163 rising seniors for the next academic year, said Richard Bova, senior associate dean for Residential Life and Dining Services. Of the 537 rising juniors who applied, 168 were placed on a waitlist and 45 have since withdrawn their applications, with more anticipated to drop out, Bova added.

“It is hard to say at this time” how many students ResLife will approve from the waitlist, he said. ResLife responds to the appeals from waitlisted students based on changes to personal or family circumstances.

ResLife reaches out frequently to students who have been granted permission, encouraging them to alert the University if their plans change, Bova said, adding that, “We have to continually manage that all the time.”

Georgia Wright ’17 said she was disappointed but not necessarily surprised to learn her group landed low on the waitlist, adding that she tried to lower her expectations after hearing how difficult it can be to gain off-campus permission as a rising junior. The process “was all confusing and logistical,” she said.

ResLife has received criticism from some rising juniors due to the prioritization of seniors in the off-campus application process.

“Just as I always remind people, off-campus permission is a senior process,” Bova said, adding that in his 11 years at ResLife, he has not seen any change in that priority nor does he anticipate a change in the system. Since last year, the number of rising juniors seeking off-campus permission increased by 120, while the number of rising seniors applying decreased by 73.

Students have taken to the Undergraduate Council of Students’ new online feedback forum, What To Fix Brown, to critique the off-campus permission process. As of press time, 409 students had voted for a post by Ryan Chan ’15 calling for “Sufficient off-campus permissions so people don’t need to live in kitchens!” while a suggestion from Anastassia Gorvitovskaia ’16 to “remove the off-campus housing fee” of $698 per year had garnered 166 votes.

Sean O’Keefe ’17, whose eight-person group gained off-campus permission for the upcoming academic year, said coordinating his living situation would have been easier if ResLife allowed students intending to study abroad to apply for off-campus housing. One of O’Keefe’s friends was excluded from the housing group because she will study abroad in fall 2015, he said, adding that, “I don’t think it should be as difficult as it is.”

Study abroad is one of many aspects ResLife considers in granting off-campus permission. “We continually make adjustments depending on lots of different factors,” including the number of students studying abroad or taking or returning from a leave of absence, Bova said.

Jeremy Joachim ’17 said he gained off-campus permission for the upcoming academic year with his six-student housing group, but he fears he must rescind his permission due to study-abroad plans. Joachim and another student from his group intend to study abroad in fall 2015, and two others from the group intend to study abroad in spring 2016, he said. In anticipation of the potential cancelation, the group met with ResLife last November.

“The main reason for not letting us go off campus if we’re going abroad in the fall is that technically you’re taking up a spot of someone who would be here all year … which is understandable,” Joachim said. Given the group’s even number of students intending to study abroad, “we were trying to make the case that … technically we’re only taking up the spots of four people, because only four of us will be at Brown at any given time,” he added.

At the meeting, a ResLife representative told Joachim’s group that all housing policies stem from the decisions of the Residential Council, an advisory board that “does not necessarily take individual cases,” Joachim said.“It seemed odd” for ResLife to grant his group an appointment without the power to change their situation, so he would have preferred to meet with ResCouncil, he added.

In light of the length of the petition process and the uncertainty of the case-by-case appeals process, Joachim said the group will probably stay on campus next year, where they are more likely to live together. Joachim said he was disappointed with the lack of “proper channels … through which we could explain the situation.”

Though ResLife does not have a system in place for “swapping permission,” Bova said his door is always open to students in situations like Joachim’s. “I will put them in touch and will have the correct discussion with the correct people.”.


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  1. Is Brown running a resort or a teaching institution?

    I vote for learning from my home in San Francisco. Brown, how do you propose to meet my demand for courses?

    John Lonergan, BA 72, Harvard MBA 76, Medical Device Venture Capitalist, San Francisco

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