On-campus housing renewed at random

In two weeks, an estimated 350 upperclassmen living on campuswill find out they have not been granted the privilege of remainingin St. John’s dormitories for next year. Residence Life isanticipating room shortage due to overwhelming demand from incomingfreshmen and is offering displaced students a limited number ofspots at the school’s Manhattan campus.

The room selection process is cited as “random,” but classstatus still plays a role: sophomores will be given rooms first,then juniors, then seniors. As long as a student has no majorjudicial violations, a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above and his orher $500 housing deposit into the Bursar’s Office by March 22, heor she will be entered into a computer program alongside anyroommate requests. The program will then arbitrarily select theupperclassmen who are to remain on St. John’s campus. All incomingfreshmen, however, are automatically eligible for housing.

“St. John’s is growing,” said Gary Bice, Director of ResidenceLife. The University has been inundated with applications — a 50percent increase in only two years. The number of new studentsliving on campus is expected to surpass 1,200 next year; the demandfor returning upperclassmen is predicted to be over 1,400. Thereare only 2,250 beds available in the Residence Halls, and ResidenceLife is predicting that this will not suffice.

Presidential Scholars and athletes who have scholarshipspackaged with on-campus housing are the only upperclassmen studentswith guaranteed spots. The process gives no allowance to thosestudents from other parts of the country and world.

“It’s pretty awful,” said Ariel Junqueira, a freshman financemajor. “I’m from Texas. If I’m displaced I have to find a differentschool.” But Residence Life insists that they cannot offer studentspreferential treatment because of their proximity to St.John’s.

“Distance is not going to come into play,” said Bice. “Theproblem is, it becomes subjective. How long would it take a studentfrom Brooklyn or the Bronx to get here by public transportation? Wejust have to remain objective here.” Bice said that the roomshortage is not unique to St. John’s. Furthermore, he said, asimilar phenomenon happened last year when many students weretripled. Some upperclassmen were also given the option of rentingapartments through a building the school leased in Bayside, Queens,an option that Residence Life will probably not renew.

“[Moving off campus] is a part of a student’s development,” Bicesaid. “[It’s a] part of the maturing process, and it’s typical forstudents to live off-campus their junior and senior years.”

Not all of St. John’s resident students feel this way.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that St. John’s could do this,” saidLauren Wagner, a junior history major who currently lives oncampus. “They should have let us know before the spring semester.”She also wondered what will happen to her friends who are studyingabroad.

In January, Residence Life sent a letter to students’ homeaddresses informing them of the housing deposit and projectedshortage of rooms. The letter generated numerous phone callsprotesting the possible room shortage (the count was stopped at200). An informative room selection packet was distributed latelast month to help address concerns voiced by the students andtheir parents. To assist those who will be displaced, ResidenceLife is putting together another packet that will serve as a guideto off-campus housing. Finding an apartment and talking tolandlords will be two subjects covered in this guide, which will bemade available in print and the St. John’s website by the end ofthe month.

Students wishing to move to the lower Manhattan campus arerequired to indicate their request prior to room selection.Residence Life suggests the location to those who may haveinternships next semester. The amenities are somewhat comparable tothe Queens campus. The Manhattan campus consists of one ten-storybuilding and is situated near the Financial District, Battery Parkand the Hudson River on 101 Murray Street.

“I honestly would [live on the Manhattan campus] if they didn’thave community bathrooms,” said student Mary Englert, a juniorcommunication arts major at St. John’s.

The commute to Queens campus classes will solely be theresponsibility of the student.

“Most of our classes would be here, so it would be a gianthassle,” said Junqueira. “Student life and everything is here.”

While there are likely to be future plans to build furtheraccommodations in Queens, Bice emphasized that new plans bring upnew problems the University must solve first. “[New buildings] takemoney, time,” he said, “There’s parking and dining issues,too.”

For disgruntled and displaced students, Bice had this to say:”We’re not anti-junior or anti-senior. Everyone makes choices andwe can’t address all of them. Some students had a perception ofsomething different when they started here,” he said. But, hecontinued, there is no written policy guaranteeing students a spotall four years at St. John’s.