When Samantha Barrett, a sophomore dual journalism and radio, television and film major, applied for housing for the 2014-15 school year, she did not anticipate any problems. The current Rowan Boulevard resident received housing the past two years without any complications, which is why she was so surprised to find that she was not only wait-listed for housing, but was No. 569 in the lottery process.
Barrett is one of 634 of students who were wait-listed for housing. The number of wait-listed students rose over 856 percent in just one year, with 75 students being put into the lottery system last year. Travis Douglas, director of Residential Learning and University Housing, attributed the large increase from last year’s waitlist to the growing enrollment and expansion of Rowan, as well as more students applying for housing.
“Every year, some students may or may not choose to apply [for housing],” Douglas said during an information meeting with wait-listed students. “This year happened to coincide with enrollment growth and a higher rate of [housing] applications.”
Rowan has a current enrollment of 13,349 students, including those who study at the Camden and Stratford campuses, according to its admissions website. Of this total, 3,663 students live on the Glassboro campus. President Ali Houshmand has said that he would like to see enrollment increase to 25,000 within 10 years. Joe Cardona, vice president of University Relations, said the large waitlist is a complication of Rowan’s continued expansion.
“[The housing situation] is definitely a growing pain,” Cardona said. “It’s part of the expanding university.”
While Rowan is looking to build for the future, Barrett said that today’s students are not receiving fair treatment.
“It is great that Rowan wants to expand, but they shouldn’t do so at the cost of their current students,” Barrett said. “They should build more first, then look to accept more students.”
Frustrated with the housing lottery, Barrett created a Facebook group to organize a protest on March 4 in front of Savitz’s clock tower. A group of about 15 students gathered to get signatures on a petition against the current housing lottery.
Barrett said she wanted to get as many signatures as she could get and did not have a specific goal in mind. Another petition on change.org, started by junior writing arts major Hope Oberwanowicz in an effort to draw attention to the issues with housing, got over 1,000 signatures in 48 hours after being created.
“I hope to show the community of Rowan what the school is doing to us is wrong,” Barrett said. “We pay to be here and work hard.”
Douglas said that only freshmen and sophomores are guaranteed on-campus housing, and the lottery is used to accommodate juniors and seniors.
“We’re very aggressive about trying to make sure that if a space opens up we can find a way to house a student,” Douglas said. “We’re already starting today as we look at students contacting us saying that they no longer want housing.”
Douglas said that students’ waitlist numbers and commute distances are used to determine who on the waitlist gets housing first. He refused to say when students should sign an off-campus lease, but he suggested that they also take both of these factors into account as well.
On the same day as the protest, university housing held two information sessions, at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., for students put on the wait-list. However, students were not given much notice about them. Dylan DeSimine, a junior dual journalism and RTF major who attended the protest, said that he received an email about the first session at 10:11, about 50 minutes before the meeting started. An email about the second meeting was sent out two hours before it began.
Barrett was able to attend the information session before going to the protest, and said that many of her questions were still unanswered.
“A lot of the answers were just them talking in circles,” Barrett said. “It leaves me not knowing what to do.”
The Student Government Association shared the disappointment of the wait-listed students, offering affected students a chance to discuss questions about the waitlist with them as well as help in finding off-campus housing.
“SGA wishes to express that the Executive Committee was just as blindsided and upset by the length of the housing waitlist as the rest of the student body,” said Max Shatz, director of Public Relations and Special Events.
Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Richard Jones said the housing department takes students’ concerns and suggestions into consideration as they are constantly looking to improve the housing lottery.
“We’re going to get a group of students and we will ask them to review the process and give us feedback,” Jones said.
Rowan is currently in the preliminary stages of building new housing to accommodate the expanding enrollment. New freshman housing on Lot X is set to be completed by the fall of 2016, and Cardona said that additional living space for roughly 450 students will be built on the lot across from the bookstore by 2015.
Jones said that Rowan remains committed to accommodating students both on and off campus, but that may mean students will need to sacrifice space.
“We’re gonna try to do some creative things,” Jones said. “We may have to increase the number of triples that we originally wanted to offer for freshmen. We may have to take a look at tripling some upperclassman spaces in order to accommodate students who live on campus.”
Despite hearing the plans from university officials, DeSimine and other students at the protest remain frustrated with this year’s housing process.
“It’s a lot tougher than it could or should be,” DeSimine said.
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