How Brandeis is failing to accommodate growing student body
For the past several years, the University has attempted to develop new housing around campus. Post pandemic, the University has seemingly made no further progress in new housing developments yet continues to admit growing numbers of students. Previously, the board critiqued this issue in a Sept. 20 editorial, specifically calling out the University’s lack of housing resources for an increased student demographic. In fact, this year’s freshman class is the largest yet, with 1,007 students.
Starting with the demolition of the Usen Castle and the construction of Skyline in 2017, Brandeis began to develop modern and accessible housing for its student body. However, since then, there has been little to no progress in developing more housing for students. In fact, Brandeis has increased the cost for housing along with inflation after the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping it one of the most expensive housing plans in the United States, according to the Justice. Brandeis has also turned formerly two-person dorms into “forced triples,” which looks grim for the University to continue to be able to guarantee housing for students through their sophomore year.
Myah Crowell ’26 told the Justice, “the way we live is super cramped, and we always have to move stuff around just to function,” adding on that at one point she and her roommates “had our trash cans in the middle of the room just because we had no where else to put them.” In addition to the cramped living situations, some students deal with issues before even getting into their dorm. Mazzi Ingram ’25 told the Justice that Brandeis didn’t communicate with them about when they could move in and that, “DCL ignored my emails over the summer, [so] I had to go to the Dean to get help.” For students to be able to plan and have peace of mind about the upcoming semesters and breaks, communication between students and the Department of Community Living should be a priority.
Students also face difficulties navigating study abroad housing. In addition to forcing students to register for housing before knowing for certain if they will be studying abroad, the housing options for juniors and seniors studying abroad are less than half of that of the rest of the classes’. Further, Brandeis requires students to indicate definitively if they will be studying abroad the year before they select housing, posing issues for students applying for scholarships or special permission from study abroad programs. The University requires you to obtain permission from the administration to study abroad before selecting housing, but when it comes to applying to specific programs, these organizations may not disclose acceptances before Brandeis housing selection. If a student is lucky enough to have approval from their program before Brandeis housing, students are still required to select housing before knowing the amount of financial aid, if any, they can receive for the program. Additionally, if a student’s situation changes after the housing selection period, students who selected study abroad housing will not be guaranteed housing for the semester they were supposed to be abroad.
The application process for accessible housing is difficult to navigate. Ingram told the Justice they “only knew to apply for it because my therapist was with the Brandeis Counseling Center, I imagine it’s harder for students that don’t know.” The Academic Services website outlines how to apply for accessible housing; however, the application can only be filled out through a University form and there is no PDF version, which makes things more complicated for medical providers that will only fill out a PDF or physical document.
The housing process remains one of the more stressful things students have to deal with at the end of each school year, on top of preparing for finals. Since there is no guarantee that students can get housing past sophomore year, the weeks between when students receive their housing numbers leading up to the days that housing can actually be selected are very hectic and stressful. Students have to prepare for every outcome: getting the housing they wanted; their second, third, or even fourth choice; or having to live off campus. Although the live updates on room availability are appreciated, almost anything can change in between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., adding to the tension. The increasing student population and stagnant amount of on-campus housing has led to more and more students being forced to live off campus, which poses many problems. Living off campus requires a mode of transportation to campus, and while the University provides the Waltham shuttle as an option, it is unreliable due to the shortage in drivers as seen in gaps in the shuttles’ schedules posted on the Escort Safety Service Instagram page. And even with a consistent shuttle schedule, this still necessitates finding housing near the shuttle stops. Even if students find housing located in walkable locations from campus this is not always the safest option without reliable transportation, especially given the lack of sidewalks/pedestrian safe options and the recent assaults along the Charles Riverwalk — a common walkway students frequent that is under a 20 minute walk from campus these assaults' the University has failed to communicate to students and failed to increase Waltham transportation for the numerous students that already reside off campus.
Because of classes, extracurricular commitments, and late nights studying in the library or other popular hubs on campus, students can be forced to walk in darkness. Due to the early sunset, it can become dark outside as early as 4:10 p.m. Although students have the option of traveling in their personal vehicle, this is made difficult by the University due to the limited parking spaces and parking passes. It is also an incredibly expensive and privileged option as gas prices are still inflated and cars require expensive upkeep. This can be a large unnecessary stressor for students who have financial issues affording this already expensive University.
This issue not helped by the University being slow to build housing to keep up with the demand for on-campus housing, with the most recent housing Skyline, opened in 2018, and Village and Ridgewood Commons in 2010 and 2009, respectively. This leaves few options for upperclassmen who are not guaranteed housing. Especially due to the timeline of the housing selection process, students may not find out if they can live on campus until late April, which can force students to live further away from campus since nearby housing fills up very quickly in the spring. This also increases the financial burden for students who are already paying to go to one of the top 10 most expensive universities in Massachusetts.
Brandeis continues to claim that they want to house more students on campus, but they are not transparent about their intentions or progress with that. Though there is a pre-existing housing crisis on campus, the University continues to admit more students, making the housing lottery that much more competitive.
Brandeis has shared they do their best to maintain housing stability for students, but campus housing is still difficult to obtain and off-campus housing is far from guaranteed. This is especially a slap in the face, considering the construction of a new science complex. All in all, Brandeis needs to do better maintaining the comfort and safety of their students.
—Editor’s note: Editor Cameron Cushing ’23 is employed by the Department of Community Living as a Community Advisor. He did not contribute to or edit this article.
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