Students find housing process inefficient

Responses to this year's CHA housing issues

Kayla Furtado types on her laptop at a desk. She is faced towards a window in her room that illuminates the room. In the background is a board that has pictures pinned on it.

Chris Yang | The Falcon
Sophomore Kayla Furtado’s goal to gain freedom was met with disappointment.

Sophomore Kayla Furtado said she wanted to experience more freedom. It was simply time to move out of the dorms, she explained.

So, she applied for an on-campus apartment through Seattle Pacific’s Office of Residence Life.

“Even though it’s not the same amount of freedom as off-campus, you’d have your own place just to be,” she said.

What Furtado did not know is that Res Life’s shift from a seniority system, in which people with more credits would be given higher priority, to a purely random lottery system would greatly affect her housing plans.

This newer system is in its third year, the change occurring back in the 2014-2015 academic year.

As the leader of her housing group, Furtado recalled being told that Housing Services sometimes assigned time slots before notification emails were sent out.

At about 4:30 p.m. on the day she was supposed to receive her group’s time slot to select a Campus Houses and Apartments (CHA) unit, she logged on a computer and saw that her group had an 8:30 p.m time slot.

At first, she recalled thinking it was unusual how late at night it was compared to other groups, but she was just happy her group got a time slot.

About half an hour later, she received the official notification email from Housing Services telling her that the group actually did not get a time slot.

“I kind of got mad, kind of like, ‘How can they just do this to us?’” she said. “Especially through email, it sounded like, ‘Well, we can’t help you. You have to figure it out. There’s no more room.’”

“Luckily we found an off-campus quad,” she continued. “So, we are living in a house of eight girls with four of us in one bedroom.”

Time slot notification emails were sent to all housing applicants on May 10.

Before the 2014-2015 academic year, time slots for selecting units were based on a points system in which individuals were given a point value depending on their class standing.

First-year students were given three points, sophomores were given six points and juniors were given nine points, explained Gabe Jacobson, the Director of Residence Life.

Jacobson said the assignment system is now broken down into multiple stages.

Kayla Furtado hangs up a white sweater in her closet in Moyer residence hall. A bed is in the background to the left and Kayla is wearing a white and black striped shirt.

Chris Yang | The Falcon
Furtado’s group was forced to look for an off-campus quad after being denied CHA housing.

According to Jacobson, if a group looking to live in a five-person unit applied for on-campus housing, their group would be placed in a lottery for that particular size unit. From there, all drawn names are given time slots per the number of students in the group returning to CHA.

So, a group with all members returning to CHA would be given priority over a mixed group, in which some students are returning and some are new to the CHA system, he said.

“There’s still some priority loaded in the system that’s oriented toward helping students that have already been in CHA to get back in,” Jacobson said.

But Furtado feels the system is unfair, and she’s not the only one. From anonymous posts on the SPU Confessions Page on Facebook to conversations among friends and peers on campus, many students have voiced their frustration and disappointment with the on-campus housing system.

Sophomore Kara Eckley, an ecology major, normally has class four or five days a week due to labs and other school work. She said the biggest factor in applying for campus housing was the convenience of proximity.

When she was first notified that her group did not get a time slot, her initial reaction was “this is just one more thing that went wrong on top of a list of other things” during a “really bad week already.”

While Eckley was able to find a town house close to campus to live in for next year, she notes there are others still struggling to look for housing, some who might have to resort to living farther away or paying more.

She believes that housing assignments should be based on a seniority system with people already in CHA getting the first pick, followed by seniors and then juniors and so on.

“I know there were people who had been in CHA who didn’t get a slot this time again or they didn’t get it for this next year,” she said.

“I can imagine that must be really frustrating to have had it and have it be taken away.”

But while there are a number of students every year who are not able to get time slots, there seemed to be a significant amount this year, and part of it may simply be due to the number of applications.

“We have about 1,700 spaces in housing, plus or minus, but we have 3,200 undergraduates, so there’s no way we’d ever be able to house all of them on campus,” Jacobson said.

Elonna Visser, the Associate Director of Housing and Meal Plan Services provided a glimpse into the growth of applications over the past three years. She said for four-person units, which seems to be the most popular unit size, the number has gone up from 49 group applications in 2015 to 76 this year.

This growth in number of applications can be seen in all other unit sizes as well, except for the six-person units, which has gone down from six groups in 2015 to two groups this year.

What students can do if they did not get a time slot is get put on a waiting list in case other students with apartments decide to live somewhere else, Jacobson mentioned.

Some groups have tried to apply for a different size unit as well.

“It’s staged so that students have multiple opportunities to reconstruct their groups and try for another location,” Jacobson said. There are options for juniors and seniors, he added.

He recognizes that many juniors and seniors feel that once they have reached a certain point, they should not have to live in the residence halls anymore.

But Jacobson said, “If you look at what we guarantee to students in terms of housing, really we only guarantee first and second years that they would have housing options on campus.”

Fairness was a key factor in altering the system “to the extent that we weren’t sidelining or making it harder for certain groups of students to get into the housing that they wanted,” he continued.

Sophomore Luke Harrison, however, has other ideas.

He decided he wanted to move out of the dorms because of the noise, which made it hard to sleep.

On-campus housing was attractive to him because the housing market in Seattle “is so crazy that on-campus housing ends up being a fairly good deal.”

But he believes that a point system based on “quality points” would be a better choice in assigning time slots. While there should be some preference for age and level, he believes the assignment system should be based on an accumulation of how many classes students take and whether or not they are passing their classes.

“If there’s anything to reward, it’s doing well in school,” he said. “I feel like basing it off of quality points also brings in the other dimension of [rewarding] who’s working really hard.”

“We will from year to year look at how the system is running and whether or not it’s meeting our goals,” Jacobson noted. “Housing’s super complicated and stressful for students, and it’s obvious.”

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