EDITORIAL: Encourage DCL to aid in finding off-campus housing
Midterms, BranVans, housing — these are the things that stress Brandeis students out from year to year. However, this year’s housing lottery was especially stressful for upperclassmen students, as a programming error resulted in rising seniors receiving lower numbers than rising juniors, thereby necessitating the reissuance of numbers, according to a March 16 email from Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Tim Touchette.
Yet, this year’s housing lottery was practically set up to fail: with Usen Castle removed from the housing lottery and no new residence hall set to take its place until fall 2018, rising sophomores have spilled over into traditionally upperclassmen living areas like the Charles River Apartments. With limited on-campus options for upperclassmen who receive a high number and cannot be pulled into roommate groups, there is high potential that the strain on off-campus housing in Waltham will become even greater. This could also open up the opportunity for landlords to take advantage of students desperate to finalize their housing plans.
Already, students are entering lease agreements without the proper knowledge or support to make mutually beneficial decisions. In an interview with the Justice, Rebecca Ruben ’18 explained that, as she negotiates a lease for next year, she has run into several issues with communication between her roommates and her landlord. “I guess the main issue I’ve encountered is … having never lived off-campus before, or lived in an apartment where I was the one responsible for doing the renting, not knowing ... if we were being taken advantage of or if that’s just how the process usually worked,” Ruben said. This is one of several such stories from current and former students.
The University offers little support now for students looking to live off campus. The Department of Community Living website offers search tips and things to consider when looking to lease an apartment, also linking to jumpoffcampus.com, which allows landlords to post listings targeted directly at Brandeis students. The DCL website also links a six page PDF guide to off campus housing, though the information in this document is only updated periodically and the University accepts no responsibility for the reliability of the information provided, according to a disclaimer listed on the first page. Moreover, the PDF explicitly states that the University will not be involved in lease negotiations.
As far as legal protections for the University go, this last part seems fair. However, when it comes to educating students on how best to understand their leases, the University instead hands students off to the Law Office of A. Joseph Ross, J.D. a Newton attorney who published the guide, “How to be a Tenant in Massachusetts and Avoid Getting Ripped Off.” Though this guide is certainly extensive, college students cannot be expected to be well-versed in legal jargon based off of a PDF.
This board urges the administration to consider hiring or appointing a full-time staff member to assist students in the off-campus housing search, as a way of helping students parse through leases that could easily be stacked against them. Moreover, the University should strongly consider adding an online platform so that students may trade information regarding landlords and properties. These changes will better prepare students for living off campus, in addition to protecting students from unfair lease terms, sudden eviction and hidden fees and charges. The annual room selection is an ever-evolving process, and the Brandeis administration must think two steps ahead regarding the changing landscape of undergraduate housing.