The solution to house students at Lasell was not “Good News”
It’s no secret that last semester’s housing selection was a turbulent process. The larger-than-usual class of 2026 took up a significant portion of upperclassmen dorms, as they are guaranteed housing for their first four semesters. This left more upperclassmen than is typical, scrambling to find alternative places to live.
The housing pool for upperclassmen who applied on time was 1,499 students, according to the Department of Community Living . On the first day of selection for upperclassmen, only 665 beds were offered, leaving 834 students who applied for on-campus housing without housing.
Really, this should be no surprise to anyone. In May, the Justice published an editorial criticizing the administration for not preparing students for this inevitable outcome and urging the University to come up with a solution for the students without housing. In the wake of housing selection, students and parents flocked to various Facebook groups to share their outrage and look for off-campus housing.
The University was clearly watching. On June 13, Andrea Dine, vice president for Student Affairs, sent an email to students announcing that Brandeis entered an agreement with Lasell University, a neighboring college in Auburndale, to house students in one of its residence halls, Holt Hall. Dine started the email: “I am writing with good news,” but this editorial board takes issue with that statement. Yes, the University did answer pleas to quickly find a housing alternative for the students who did not receive on-campus housing. However, having students live at another school is not “good news.”
That a University with an endowment of $1.2 billion as of June 2022 would have to rely on another school to fulfill the most basic needs for its own students is quite frankly embarrassing.
In the email, Dine wrote that a shuttle provided by Lasell University would be a main form of transportation for students commuting between the campuses and that, at the time of the email, they were discussing the potential of having a Brandeis shuttle run to the residence hall at Lasell. This shuttle would be a necessity, given that Holt Hall is an hour walk from Brandeis and a 35-45 minute ride via public transportation.
Once again, Brandeis students would be relying on another university for their daily needs, which their own school was unable to provide.
Dine told the Justice that only four students expressed interest in living at Holt Hall, so the University did not proceed with the agreement. But if so many students had nowhere to live at the end of the semester, we can’t help but wonder why more students did not contemplate the option at Lasell. It may not have been perfect, but it was housing.
In a September 8 email to the Justice, Dine wrote that by the end of April, 230 students remained on the pending list. These are students who applied for housing before the deadline and received a number but did not get a bed. There are also students who applied for on-campus housing after the deadline and those students were put on another waitlist.
By mid-June, there were 97 students on the pending list and waitlist combined. All of those students had the opportunity to select on-campus housing in a secondary selection process on June 20-21, Dine said, but as of the start of the school year, 66 of those students decided to live off-campus or not return to Brandeis. The four students who selected Holt Hall were also offered on-campus housing during that June selection period, according to Dine. So ultimately, everyone who wanted on-campus housing was given it, just as the University normally claims.
Our assumption is that in all of the chaos with so many students initially not receiving on-campus housing, most of those students — over 600 — decided to not remain on the pending list in uncertainty and instead search for whatever was left of off-campus housing. This is probably what led to the disparity between our initial numbers and the official numbers reported by Dine.
But if the University had even a little bit of confidence that many on the pending list who wanted housing would get it, why were they not more transparent about that? Certainly more communication would have helped calm the panic. Perhaps this is because had over 800 students actually remained on the pending list, the administration would not have been able to pat themselves on the back and say that all students who wanted housing were able to receive it.
Regardless, it is unrealistic to ask students to wait until the end of June to get confirmation of whether or not they will be able to live on campus. Waiting that long comes with a risk because ultimately if they did not get a room in a residential hall by the end of June, off-campus housing would be even more limited and expensive.
So without this knowledge that waiting on the pending list until the end of June would practically ensure on-campus housing, it makes sense that most students immediately accepted the fact that they would not be able to live on campus and quickly started their search for other options.
The trend here is a lack of transparency from administration. If there were more frequent updates sent to the entire student body over the summer about housing availability, maybe some students who initially removed themselves from the pending list would have decided to try and pursue on-campus housing rather than signing whatever off-campus lease became available to them.
Both students and administrators were sent scrambling to find solutions to this housing crisis last semester. Brandeis placed a bandaid over its ongoing infrastructure issue with the additional residence hall at Lasell, but what happens when we inevitably face the same issue next year is not worse? Is the University prepared to communicate effectively and start addressing its housing crisis head on? Will portions of the $1.2 billion endowment be used to invest in the building of sorely needed new housing and updates to the current dorms?