By Lara Becker
Although she completed her on-campus housing forms in February, Lauren Petite has no idea where she’ll be living in August.
Petite, a rising senior psychology major, has lived on campus every year of her college experience — but on July 7, she received an email stating that her housing will no longer be guaranteed due to the College’s post-pandemic precautions, and everything changed.
“While we cannot provide you the immediate assurance that you can be housed, we are continuously evaluating our waitlist to see if we may provide you with an assignment,” stated her email from Residential Education and Housing.
As stay-at-home restrictions lift, the College has decided to open campus for the fall, but with many changes to student life. One such change focuses on student housing, which will decrease by 38 percent of capacity to prevent the risk of further spread of the coronavirus.
College President Kathryn Foster’s Fall ‘Flex’ Plan outlines fall housing initiatives that include only single occupancy rooms, priority for first-year students and reservations for students in Ewing hotels, as stated originally in her June 26 missive. However, also sent in an email on June 26 from Residential Education and Housing, the College does not plan on providing shuttles services for students who receive off-campus housing placements at hotels.
Among other concerns, Petite is wondering why she had to be removed from her placement, as she was already booked in a single room in Townhouses South.
“I’m not angry. I’m more confused,” said rising senior criminology major Breana Stringer.
Although Stringer was eventually notified that her housing will be guaranteed, both she and Petite felt a lack of clarity in the language of the updates. Residential Education and Housing also stated that student cancellations from housing are expected throughout the month of July, so these decisions will likely not be final. Due to this uncertainty, some students are feeling unsure of what to do.
“The process is not being explained to us, as well as (being) extremely unclear,” said Petite, who also mentioned that the process is creating additional stress for the fall semester.
“They put me in a very tough position where I have to weigh my education versus my mental health,” Petite said. “It feels like I’m being pushed to take a semester off because I have no options left.”
Not only was the reapplication process taxing for Petite, but she feels left in the dark on potential transportation to and from the College without access to her own car.
In response, many students are taking to off-campus housing in Ewing to secure a spot near campus. Ewing landlords confirm that as more students scramble to find housing, there has been a staggering jump in lease requests on these homes, making them more difficult for students to acquire.
The lead leasing agent and property manager of Student Realty, Michael Mytrowitz, calls it an “extreme amount of inquiries.”
“Given the current circumstance, my advice (for a student) would be to verify the property owners’ experience and ability to support the unique demands of off campus rentals,” Mytrowitz said. “How we view this situation is to focus on higher quality tenancy rather than a short term spike in prices.”
Landlord Joe Rego from JRRL Realty added that Zillow and other rental sites are useful for this surge in demand for off-campus housing.
“If you want to live near campus, check Facebook groups often and reach out to every single person you know,” said Alison Russel, a rising junior computer science major. “As more people choose to go fully remote, more spots will open up.”
Rego agrees with this sentiment, as he sees the surge as a temporary issue that will be short-lived.
In her community missive from June 26, Foster said that these adjustments are paramount for containing the spread of the virus and believes that more spots will open as students choose to live at home.
Either way, students are experiencing a watershed moment in the College’s history, as they are forced to re-evaluate their previous plans that were seemingly already set in stone.
“While I’m happy we can return to campus, I feel the administration really let down the juniors and seniors who have been contributing to campus for the past two years,” Russel said. “We already had housing that accommodates for social distancing in townhomes and apartments, and I don’t feel it was fair to essentially kick us out.”