Trying to survive housing chaos
Halfway through the spring semester, my friends and I decided we wanted to live together. We realized that one of our best options was to live in Ziv Quad, which has suite-style dorms for six people. The Department of Community Living facilitates the housing process at Brandeis and gives you a lottery number to enter the housing pool — the lower the number, the more likely it is to get your choice in housing.
This spring pool size was 1,499 for upperclassmen, and I had a pretty low number. I believed it was possible to secure my desired housing when I compared the odds of people with the same number in previous years. I thought that even if I wasn’t able to live with my friends, I’d probably be able to get somewhere to live. The chances with my number and another person in my group who had an even better number made all of us feel sure we’d get housing.
This completely changed on housing selection day, Tuesday, April 24. After the first three hours, almost all upperclassmen dorms were gone, and my group had nowhere to live. According to the housing selection index approximately 1,499 upperclassmen were in the pool for fall selection.
However, according to the live availability form, only 665 beds were being offered to juniors and seniors, meaning at the beginning of housing selection, 834 out of 1,499 students had no shot at living on campus in the fall. My group and I were screwed. There was nothing left for any of us to even get a double or triple room. We had no plan because we were confident that we had a good shot at securing something for ourselves. Fortunately, two of the people in our group were able to secure a double village with their low numbers. All of this happened in just a few hours, and my group went from being excited to live together next year to anxiously sifting through the expensive Waltham housing market.
Most of the group is split between being forced to live off campus or transferring to universities in our home states. Almost everyone else in my group lives around Atlanta, Georgia but I live in Houston, Texas. If we get split up over this situation, I’d be completely separated from the friends I’ve made in the past two years.
Because I live so far away, I desperately needed to have reliable housing in order to continue going to college — but it was not given to me. I understand that Brandeis has been very clear that housing is only “guaranteed four consecutive semesters,” but the amount of upperclassmen that were left without housing is insane to the point that it’s fair to say that most of them never had a chance of getting housing.
We’ve been looking at apartments, but of course, they are very expensive. During the time I have lived on campus I have had financial aid, which helped me pay for housing, tuition, and meals. But if I’m forced to live off campus, who’s to say my financial aid will cover each of those things? As I’ve tried to figure out this whole issue with DCL and the financial aid office, they’ve both sent me in circles. The organizations don’t collaborate for individual student’s needs and circumstances, so I keep finding myself pleading my case over and over and still getting no help from anyone.
I’m unsure about what our next steps should be because we don’t have any solid answers. It sucks that the University doesn’t have on-campus housing for all students, but it would be infinitely more helpful if someone in DCL could help us navigate the Waltham housing market instead of leaving us to figure this out on our own — especially as class sizes continue to grow and more students are forced to turn to off-campus housing.
I’ll acknowledge that the University has a lot of resources that can help students who need off-campus housing. However, because of the abounding students suffering and reaching out to DCL for help, there’s no way they’ll be able to help all of us in a reasonable amount of time, especially factoring in that everyone has different advisors, different financial aid, and needs different help. There’s no way they can satisfy everyone, especially with the short time period they have given everyone to make their decision.
At this moment, I’m very frustrated. Initially, this frustration was directed at DCL and their personnel. However, while it’s true DCL had a lot of room for improvement and could have communicated with the student body sooner about the extremely limited spots for upperclassmen, this issue as a whole extends beyond them.
Brandeis should be working to accommodate their students by finding us housing off campus, being transparent when there is an issue with housing, and actively working toward creating more housing. Brandeis cannot keep subjecting young people to this year after year without significant improvements.