In early August, Beren campus students usually receive an email with their residence assignment. However, this year many students received a slightly different email titled “Your Tentative Housing Assignment.” This email listed each student’s housing placement and then explained that housing on the Beren Campus is at full capacity this year. It continued to describe that there are still open rooms in Schottenstein Residence Hall and that student could change their request to Schottenstein for a discounted rate of $8,300 for the year, instead of the usual price of $9,000. The email also added that if not enough people offer to switch, housing would be forced to move some students to Schottenstein, the email concluded with the assurance that final housing placements would be sent out by August 15th. However, students did not receive these emails until August 18th.
In an email conversation with The Observer, Beren housing explained that Universities across the country face the challenge of accommodating students’ housing requests. On the Beren Campus, students have five options for housing. The cheapest option is Brookdale Residence Hall, a building consisting of large rooms that can house four or five students. Students can also request a Brookdale Deluxe room which includes a kitchen, and is slightly more expensive. Alternatively, students can live in 36th Street or Schottenstein, which are slightly more expensive buildings that offer primarily single residence rooms. Finally, 35th Street is the most expensive option, offering students full-fledged apartments. All first-year students are placed in Brookdale and in the past, it has been the guaranteed option for all students. In fact, rising juniors were required to list Brookdale as one of their housing options in the Spring of 2017 in case the other buildings would be full.
This year however, fewer students than usual requested to live in Schottenstein. Additionally, there are 65 more women in Beren Campus’s university housing then last year. Many of these are first year students, leaving less space in Brookdale for upperclassmen. Housing denied that the Admissions Department accepted more students than the Beren Campus has housing for, claiming instead this increase in enrollment only required housing to utilize its residence halls to their full capacity. But moving students to Schottenstein was only part of the solution. Certain areas in Brookdale, such as The Observer’s office, lounges, and study halls, were converted into dorm rooms. Some of them even had bunk beds inserted, something Brookdale residents were never warned about as being a possible option. Similarly, students were not informed about the multiple changes to Brookdale’s amenities before they arrived on campus, and those assigned to sleep in bunk beds, only learned of this fact upon entering their dorm rooms. The number of RAs and GAs is also unchanged this year, despite the increased number of students in housing.
One first year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, described that she was surprised to find two bunk beds in her room which now houses six women as oppose to the usual four or five. Unlike some of her fellow students that were moved to Schottenstein, she was not offered any sort of compensation for this change in housing. Yet, she has grown used to the bunk beds and says she now appreciates that her room “definitely has more space than other dorm rooms I have seen.”
A junior who also wishes to remain anonymous, voiced a less positive experience. She was tentatively placed in Brookdale but her final placement was Schottenstein. She was furious since she had not listed Schottenstein as an option or volunteered to switch, and called housing after they did not respond to her email. After speaking to them she felt that they didn’t care at all and says, “I’m not happy [in Schottenstein] at all and should have more than a $700 discount.” She also added that she doesn’t think it is fair to grant students the opportunity to list three different housing options and then fail to honor any of them.
Shoshana Trombka, a junior who was placed in Schottenstein despite not listing it as one of her options for housing, echoed the sentiment. She found it upsetting to originally think she had a say regarding where she would live, and then have housing dismiss her request. Moreover, she found her placement particularly upsetting because she never received a tentative housing email that warned her about the possibility of her ending up in Schottenstein. However, Trombka also said she understood that “housing was in a bind and had to fill the empty rooms in Schottenstein somehow.” Shoshana also reports ultimately being happy in Schottenstein. While she finds the building a little removed from the rest of the Beren campus, housing was accommodating in terms of placing her on a floor with many friends and she is enjoying living with them. She also appreciates the local shuttle service that she finds herself using far more frequently now that she is less centrally located.
Housing would not comment regarding the cost of the renovations to create the extra dorm rooms. They also would not answer how many students were placed in Schottenstein despite not requesting it. However, they did stress how they are constantly at work to make housing more enjoyable for students. This year they have added parsha themed snacks to the variety of snacks already offered throughout Shabbat. They are also working on running larger scale building programs, the first of which already took place at Schottenstein featuring an ice cream truck and caricature artist. Finally, housing was open over chol hamoed, a new initiative that many students appreciated.
Many have voiced concern over how housing will accommodate the additional influx of students that come for the second semester after spending another partial gap year in Israel. But housing says it will not be an issue, and is already at work emailing students who may be graduating in January to ensure that the Beren campus will be ready to provide the necessary housing spaces.