On Jan. 24, the Department of Community Living sent an email to Brandeis students regarding the housing selection process for the 2024-25 academic year. Applications are officially open and due Feb. 14 at 12. 

After being the subject of numerous student-led protests last semester, DCL will be instituting updates for this year’s selection based on feedback they collected from dissatisfied students. More specifically, numerous students were left without a housing option because the numbers they received were too high, and 29 students with disabilities did not receive housing according to their needs due to a lack of availability. To get a clearer idea of DCL’s plans to improve the housing process this year, The Justice reached out to Dr. Timothy Touchette, assistant dean of student affairs, for comment.

In a Jan. 29 email to The Justice, Touchette wrote, “In preparation for this year’s housing selection process, Student Affairs, DCL and Student Accessibility Support staff spent a great deal of time on enhancing communications and clarity so that students would fully understand their options.” He emphasized that each phase of the selection process will entail “clear, consistent, and streamlined” information so that no question or concern goes unanswered. DCL staff will be particularly available for students during medical accommodations and random number assignments. 

Touchette also mentioned that the MyHousing portal has been updated with information that will help students during their decision-making process.

“Student Affairs and Community Living received an enormous amount of feedback from students last spring that we used to guide our changes for the upcoming room selection process,” Touchette wrote. Student feedback came through email, office hours and listening sessions with administrators last spring with advocacy groups emphasizing the changes they wished to see from DCL. 

Last year’s housing accommodations were met with outrage from many members of the Brandeis community, specifically upperclassmen and students with disabilities. In April 2023, the Disabled Students Network created a petition, stating that DCL’s lack of transparency prevented “disabled students from making the proper arrangements to seek off-campus housing alternatives” and prevented them from “forming and/or joining housing groups in the general selection process” because they did not expect to have to make plans in the instance that DCL would refuse previously promised accommodations.

After popularizing their petition, students held a silent protest in front of visitors on Admitted Students Day in support of 29 students who reportedly received unsuitable housing despite their disability accommodations. In an April 21 interview with The Justice, protesters explained that the demonstration was in response to the widespread petition going unacknowledged by DCL, despite being signed by “more than 1 in 12 current Brandeis students,” as noted by the advocates’ website, “DCL Housing Hell.” Students affiliated with DCL Housing Hell did not reply to The Justice’s request for comment as of press time.

Tensions peaked last May when students protested the lack of suitable housing accommodations during University President Ron Liebowitz’s annual presidential address. Minutes prior to the presidential address, Vice President of Student Affairs Andrea Dine sent out an email acquiescing to some of the students’ demands, including a new student advisory committee “for diverse student representation in discussions related to the housing process.” The email also assured students that the administration was actively searching for both on-campus and local housing and “will share information as it becomes available.”

While the organizers called off the protest, many students proceeded with the original plan, unsatisfied with the number of actionable steps in the email. In response to protesters, Dine emphasized that administrators were open to hearing student feedback and planned listening sessions for students to voice their concerns in an appropriate forum. As Dine fielded questions, President Liebowitz left the hall through the backdoor with his mic still on, leaving a strained atmosphere for future discussions regarding housing. 

In the following week, administrators held multiple listening sessions as promised. Students provided feedback to improve the housing selection process, such as shifting the process to earlier in the semester so that students who cannot obtain on campus housing can start searching off campus earlier. Moreover, students pushed DCL to utilize their data on roommate groups and selection times to determine how many students could receive on campus housing. Dine agreed that the administration should use data to increase transparency, make the housing process earlier and avoid stacking deadlines.

On June 13, Dine 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. The solution did not appease everyone because of the inconvenient commute. 

This year’s updates also include opening Foster Mods to all rising juniors and seniors regardless of age as well as designating Rosenthal suites to be primarily eight-person roommate groups.

Although DCL expanded the acceptable age range for Foster Mods, they do not plan to make a “dry” or alcohol-free quad. “We are expanding the age range because we were discovering that many students who would shortly turn 21 were being cut off from living with friends in this housing because of the age restriction. We want to ensure that students in the same class can live together, even if there are slight differences in age,” Touchette wrote. 

He added that the decision to open up Rosenthal suites to larger, eight-person roommate groups stemmed from the finding that “two individual groups of four was not necessarily creating a cohesive group in the suites.”

DCL released the following housing selection timeline in their email:

“Jan. 24: Housing Applications Open

Feb. 14: Housing Applications Due by 12 noon. *Requests for Housing Accommodations due to a medical disability are also due at this time. 

Feb. 16: Room Selection Numbers will be released - roommate groups can start forming.

March 11: Study Abroad Housing Selection Process

March 13-15: Rising Sophomore Housing Selection Process

March 19-21: Rising Junior-Senior Housing Selection Process."

Nearly a year after these turbulent events, the time has once again arrived for housing selection. 

“We want to be clear that we took this feedback seriously,” Touchette wrote to The Justice. “This is an evolving process and will always be open to review and feedback and making continual improvements.”

— Editor’s Note: Ariella Weiss and Amanda Chen contributed to the reporting for this article.