The 289 available spots in the new townhouses may have been filled during this year’s room selection day on Saturday, April 12, but the housing procedure could not escape controversy.
Students complain that a points requirement for the townhouses was enforced during the beginning of the day, but as other on-campus accommodations filled to capacity later that day, students who would previously have been deemed ineligible were able to gain rooms in the townhouses because building space needed to be filled.
“I think it’s unfair,” said student Vincy Chacko. “I understand that they have to get students housing, but things should have ran smoother than they did.”
According to the Office of Residence Life Room Selection 2008 – 2009 packet, the primary criteria for determining students who receive housing is broken down to points given based on each student’s GPA and judicial history.
Depending on their GPA, students can receive as much as 10 points for a GPA of 3.85 or higher and as low as 3 points for a GPA under a 3.0. For judicial history, a student is awarded 10 points for no previous judicial violations as a St. John’s undergraduate and can receive as little as 0 points if they have “two or more serious violations of the Student Code of Conduct … 3 or more minor violations of residence hall policies and procedures, and any student listed on permanent housing probation.”
The packet also states that students who are on housing or disciplinary probation, have three or more policy violations in the past academic year, or are on academic probation with a GPA less than a 2.0, were automatically ineligible to participate in the latest room selection process.
Dominic Petruzzelli, director of Residence Life, added that along with GPA and judicial history, other factors that play a roll in determining a student’s housing include “class status, gender and available space.”
Various students said the minimum points requirement for the townhouses were at least five points for the GPA portion and seven or more points for judicial history.
However, this could not be confirmed by Petruzzelli, who did not specify exactly what the breakdown in points needed were.The Residence Life director paints a slightly different picture of the events on April 12.
He recalls that “between 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m.” rooms in Century, O’Connor and Carey residence halls, as well as the male floors of the townhouses, were all filled, leaving the female floors of the townhouse as the only available source of on-campus housing.
He explained that at that point, only female undergraduates who were eligible for the townhouses were allowed to live there. Everyone else was placed on a waiting list.
“We never compromised our point system,” said Petruzzelli. “We will continue to place students from the waiting list as beds become open or available.”
He added, “If there are students who have a change of heart and want to get a room in the townhouses, they can try and we’ll check out their points, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will receive housing there.”
One student, Xavier Aguilar, said that after being told that he and a friend did not qualify to get into the townhouses, they were able to get a room on a second try.
“My friend and I weren’t able to get a room in the townhouses, so we filled out a waiting list form to get in,” he said. “We filled out the form that Tuesday [April 14] and we received notice the next day that space opened up for us.”
The Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 room and board rates list the townhouse double and triple room at $8,750 per year. This is more than prices for standard and junior doubles in the on-campus suites at $7,900 and $7,150 per year, respectively, and more than the standard and junior triples as well, costing $7,900 and $6,700 per year.
However, a room in the townhouses costs almost $1,000 less per year than a single on-campus room, which is listed at $9,600 per year.
Despite discontent from room selection day, students say problems were apparent even before that point.
On-campus housing hopefuls eager to get a glimpse of the floor plans of the new townhouses during housing preview night on April 8 and April 9 were disappointed to find the building layout absent from the rest. It was not made available until room selection day.
Students were also frustrated that they were not informed of a points requirement to be eligible for the townhouses until the day of room selections.
“I was supposed to get a triple in the townhouses with my suitemates, but when we got there, we were told that one of us didn’t have enough points, so as a result, none of us were able [to get a townhouse triple together],” said Sophomore Wendy Chung.
“Had we known about the points requirement ahead of time, we would have planned to live somewhere else.”
Petruzzelli said the reasons for the delays in townhouse floor plans and notice of point requirements was due to aspects of the townhouses still not being finalized due to ongoing construction of the buildings.
“With any new construction, things change all the time,” he said. “We were working up until the last minute with judicial affairs and dean of affairs to ensure students would be aware of the most up-to-date changes.”
He added that he saw no error in the way his department handled this year’s housing selection.
“I feel this was a fair process and Residence Life held up their responsibility to housing students,” he said.
Some students feel they should be given the option to choose rooms all over again.
“I think [Residence Life] should do the whole room selection process over,” said sophomore Alysha Velez.
“They set the requirements too high and their plans fell through at our expense.”
Aguilar said that he felt it was too little, too late to redo the room selection procedure.
On the topic of the current point system, Petruzzeli said that Residence Life would be open to possible changes.
“We are constantly reevaluating all aspects of the process,” he said.
Some students have been able to look at the situation positively.Chung, who was unable to gain a spot in the townhouses, will live in O’Connor Hall next year and holds no grudges.
“I was a little sad about the townhouses, but I’m pretty happy with my situation now because [living in O’Connor] is cheaper,” she said.
Petruzzelli encourages students with any housing concerns or issues to address them to the office of Residence Life. “If you disagree with the housing process or feel it was unfair, come in and talk to us,” he said.