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UI over-housing woes absurd

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Despite facing similar problems last year, the University of Iowa has once again overbooked its on-campus housing facilities. Students living in temporary housing arrangements (dubbed “extended housing” by university officials) share dorm lounges with up to seven other people. With such strained living comes limited amenities such as drawers, closet space, and, most importantly, privacy. As of Monday, 120 students are still without room assignments.

“As far as the actual living process goes, I would just say it feels overcrowded, and the sleep schedule definitely gets a little messed up,” said UI freshman Christian Theodore. “With eight people with different schedules coming in and out, people tend to stay awake that much longer. Also, there are eight people in a room that should probably at most fit four, so there’s double the amount of stuff necessary.”

He noted that there is “a total absence of privacy altogether.”

Though “extended housing” may be financially beneficial, these issues that arise on a consistent annual basis suggest that the UI is either unwilling or unable to address their continued housing concerns. University officials must sit down and settle on a long-term and financially viable option.

It is long past due.

Ryan Cohenour, the manager of the University Housing contracts and assignments, explained the process by which students are assigned to temporary housing: “The decision to put students into extended housing is based upon their application dates, with housing being assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.”

This means that a student doesn’t necessarily have to miss the registration deadline to be assigned to temporary housing, which has often been the case.

“The University of Iowa can’t exactly predict the number of students who will apply and be accepted into the university or transfer in from somewhere else,” Cohenour said. “We can’t tell those students, ‘No, you can’t come here.’ That isn’t part of what Iowa is about.”

The university denied more than 1,800 students in 2010.
That the university is apparently unable to count the number of students it accepts for on-campus housing is disconcerting, to say the least.

Surely, housing more students based on the assumption that a certain percentage will ultimately pursue other housing options is one financially reasonable approach. Such a strategy minimizes potentially vacant University Housing by year’s end. But given the precedent of previous years’ dependency on temp housing, one would have expected the UI to have been more conservative with its estimates. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The 2010 acceptance rate (the most recent statistic on the registrar’s website) was 89.3 percent.

Instead of accounting for dropout students before the year even starts, common sense would infer that the university should start by accepting students who are likely to dropout at a much lower rate.

Cohenour said University Housing & Dining has taken steps to help reduce the need for temporary housing in the future.

“Based on the housing situation last year, University Housing added 130 new beds to its dormitories for this year. In addition, better arrangements have been made for students in extended housing situations.”

Between the Slater and Rienow alone, there are 24 study lounges. If the 120 students were distributed evenly among only these lounges, there would be just five students per lounge. Many, including Theodore, continue to live with seven other roommates. “It hardly makes sense to me to consolidate the maximum number of people in the smallest number of lounges,” he said.

Cohenour also noted the UI’s desire to open a new building that would “eliminate the need for extended housing all together,” but when asked to give further details on this plan added that there is “no ground broken.”

Students shoved into temporary housing are left feeling shortchanged. While some students are maintaining a positive attitude in regard to their less-than-ideal situations, it is clear that others are incapable of being quite as optimistic, leading to the various public displays of dissatisfaction around campus.

There are plenty of partial, common-sense solutions. Prioritization seems to be the only thing delaying a permanent solution, and it has been to the severe detriment of the university.


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