Brandeis is not doing enough to solve its housing crisis
The housing selection process for the 2023-2024 academic year has been nothing if not disastrous. On-campus housing has been the subject of many editorials written by this board in the past, and students have long been urging the University to focus on improving both the quality and the quantity of housing, but clearly, such pleas have been in vain. This year, the increasing number of admitted students each year and the never-changing amount of housing provided by the University led to over half of upperclassmen not receiving housing.
This estimate comes from the original pool of 1499 upperclassmen, with only 665 beds offered to them. Because the class of 2026, this year’s first-year class, is the biggest class Brandeis has seen yet — second to which is the class of 2025 — a large amount of housing, mostly in the Charles River Apartments, was given to the rising sophomores, leaving even less housing for the rising upperclassmen, who are already not guaranteed housing.
This board understands that the University needs to provide housing to its rising sophomores, but this should not happen at the expense of upperclassmen. Ideally, all students who want on-campus housing should be able to get housing.
As more students move off campus, the Waltham area will become increasingly with college students. According to a 2018 report by real estate listing service RENTCafé published in the magazine Insight Into Diversity, when private universities expand into urban areas, gentrification often follows, and longtime, low-income residents are often displaced. Brandeis and Bentley University’s expanding student bodies actively push out Waltham locals and drive up rent prices in the area, which leads to either only wealthy students securing housing or creating an unlivable environment where groups of students are cramming themselves into houses and apartments. Due to the high demand for housing this process leaves students vulnerable to exploitation be predatory landlords. This is in addition to the existing high cost of living in Waltham which is 150.3% of the national average.
The University has to invest in expanding housing options because the problem is only going to get worse. If the student body continues to grow but dorm options stay exactly the same, more and more students will be left to scramble to find somewhere to live the next academic year. Moving off-campus is not an option for everyone, as it is expensive, and landlords are raising rent costs in order to take advantage of students who desperately need somewhere to live.
It is clear that the University is willing to construct new buildings, such as the proposed building to accommodate an engineering department, and spend time and resources to renovate the Shapiro Campus Center, but their complete silence on plans to update housing on campus speaks volumes. This sends a clear message that they hear the complaints of students and simply do not care about fixing what arguably affects their students the most.
Whether they build more housing, convert the office buildings, or buy housing near campus, administration needs to find a solution rather than simply placing students on a waitlist for an undefined amount of time, leaving them to worry about their housing situations as they deal with finals on top of everything else. If this is somehow not possible, we urge the University to get hotel rooms for students or provide more financial aid for students seeking off-campus housing.
The Department of Community Living failed to warn students in advance of this crisis, something which they must have expected — and if no department on campus saw this coming, they are incredibly short-sighted. DCL cannot do anything about how many students are admitted, but communication is key. This was always going to happen, and the lack of transparency on the part of the administration is alarming.
The University often claims that they provide housing to all students who want it, and this claim has always been dubious. In the past, they accommodate students who stay on the waitlist, but many remove themselves in order to avoid the late fee that has thankfully been eliminated this year in response to the uproar. However, if they continue to claim this, it will be a complete lie rather than them simply bending the truth. This housing crisis shows a complete lack of planning, thoughtfulness, and care for students from the administration, and it is unacceptable.
In an April 28 email sent by University President Ron Liebowitz to Brandeis students, he stated that the University needs adequate funding to create new housing. However, this board is confused as to why the endowment is not being utilized in this moment of crisis. According to the Office of Investment Management, as of June 2022, the University’s endowment had a value of around $1.2 billion and “provided approximately 15% of the university operating budget in fiscal year 2022.”
Ultimately, many students on campus feel like bank accounts to the University as their needs go ignored by the administration. By raising costs and failing to improve campus life, the University is actively harming those they are responsible for caring for. While this is a tale as old as time, the administration must re-evaluate their priorities.
It is not enough to send out an email a couple days after the fact offering up “listening sessions” as consolation. The University has to show that they are committed to solving this problem. No matter how many times they sit down and promise they’re listening to our concerns, the student body will not be heard until steps are actively taken, with transparency, to solve the housing crisis.
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