Housing overflow affects freshmen

By Valerie McMurray – vrmcmurr@unca.edu – Asst. News Editor | Aug. 27, 2014 |

UNC Asheville currently houses a record-breaking number of incoming freshmen and new transfer students in non-traditional or transitional living situations, with every double room filled and several lounges and faculty apartments converted into living spaces for new students.

The university was still accepting students up to the first week of classes. At least 14 students were told they needed to find off-campus housing.

Overcrowding occurs when the university estimates a certain number of incoming on-campus students will not show up on move-in day, but the actual number of so-called “no-shows” is less than expected. That’s what happened last year, according to Vollie Barnwell, director of Housing and Student Life Operations.

This year, UNCA boasted a historically high demand for campus facilities. Less than 20 no-show students were tallied.

Used at UNCA in previous years, traditional housing on campus this year reached 106 cases – the most students ever affected at one time.

“A lot of schools, when they talk about transitional housing, there are some that are thinking about hallways or housekeeping closets or storage rooms and we don’t do that. All of our staff works very closely together to make sure that the spaces we give our students are as close to a normal room as they can be,” Barnwell said.

Barnwell said living on campus is the best way to transition into the college experience for first-time university-goers.

“I don’t want to tell a student, ‘We don’t have a space for you,’ and then a week into the semester we’ve had cancellations, so we would’ve had a space for them, but they’ve already signed a lease off campus,” Barnwell said.

Housing and Student Life Operations continues making an effort to sort students according to preferences, gender and other factors. Barnwell said the university expects to permanently place all students by the end of the fall semester.

Barnwell said considerations to the cost of transitional housing compared to conventional residence hall costs would be addressed on individual-case basis, depending on how long the student is in transition. The question of potential adjustment of fees is not due until the semester ends.

Roughly another 80 students affected are residential assistants, many of whom were expecting a double room to themselves until administrators notified them during the summer they would need to share.

“It’s really a struggle more for the students than RAs. I’ve heard from two freshmen so far who are unhappy just because they want to be in freshman dorms, but they had to be placed with an RA in Overlook or Governor’s. They feel like they’re not getting the freshman experience of college,” said Courtney Wilson, a sophomore RA.

Wilson also said freshmen should live on campus for their first year.

“Basically UNC Asheville is growing but we’re going to need more buildings if we’re going to stick to the rule that freshmen have to live on campus. That’s an important rule because it’s important to build community on campus,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, nowhere in their contract guaranteed RAs a single room.

“People are getting upset, but it was never guaranteed. It’s a little crazy to me, though, how upset people are getting, because it’s our jobs to make people feel welcome on campus, and if they’re rejecting people in their own rooms, that’s contradictory to what they’re supposed to be doing,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said freshmen deserve the most sympathy in this situation.

“The freshmen are the ones suffering. They don’t want to live in a temporary space. They have to live out of their suitcase pretty much because they don’t know when they’re going to be moved or where they’ll be moved,” Wilson said. “They can’t participate in their hall events without feeling like they’re not going to stay there. It’s a problem that admissions and housing are having together, but as part of the solution, RAs could just permanently accept their roommates.”

Emilee Cantrell, a transfer student, who was placed in a converted lounge with two other girls, said she and her roommates’ conflicting schedules already pose problems.

Cantrell described herself as a heavy sleeper, who has to be awake by 5 a.m. on some days, but her roommates hit the snooze button twice on any given day.

Cantrell, 23, works a part-time job in addition to her 15 course credit hours this semester. She said she feels lucky her assigned roommates are nice, but if she had more advance notice about the transitional housing, she would have found off-campus housing.

“I’m not trying to create any waves at all. It’s just sometimes, because I am going so hard and I am giving so much, it would be nice to just come home and just relax, but it’s kind of difficult to in the set-up that I have,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell also said she worries about losing her housing.

“That’s what’s makes me nervous, with the instability – not knowing when or if I’m going to move. I just laugh about it, because what else can you do? I just pretend like I’m in a hotel. I’m going to check out,” she said.

 

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