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HRL tells about 175 upperclassmen they currently don't have on-campus housing for Fall semester

For some rising juniors and seniors applying for housing next year, their lives just got a bit more complicated. 

Housing and Residence Life currently doesn’t have enough spaces for everyone who requested housing for the 2018-19 school year, explained Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life. About 175 students received an email last week informing them of the situation. 

In Gonzalez’s 13 years at Duke, he said that he has never seen a housing shortage like this before. He said that HRL is working to make sure everyone who requested housing is able to receive a room and that it is likely students will end up get housing on campus. 

“There are always some students who pull out, like seniors who decide to live off campus and juniors [who] accept study abroad programs,” he said. 

Complicating the issue is the fact that the current Duke policy guarantees all students four years of on-campus housing if they desire it. 

HRL is going to see what opens up in the next two weeks and then will start to assign the open rooms during the week of April 16, Gonzalez said. Rising juniors who do not have a Fall semester assignment yet will receive the rooms first, then rising seniors. 

“We decided that it was most important that the students who were required to live on campus had an assignment,” Gonzalez said. 

He noted that all rising juniors and seniors who requested right of return were already placed. The students currently without housing are those who were trying to move houses. 

Even if spots do not open up this month, Gonzalez said he is confident that spaces will become available in July when HRL does reassignments. During this process which begins in May, students can ask to be reassigned and HRL tries to honor those requests. 

“The goal is to place everyone,” Gonzalez said. “We want to make sure that before the Fall semester begins, every student who wants a placement gets one.”

Some students have expressed their frustration with not yet receiving a housing assignment. 

“Every student enrolled was promised the option to have four years of on-campus housing,” wrote junior Sisi Tang in a post on the Fix My Campus Facebook page. “Every student has the right to at least know that they are either provided housing or allowed to go off-campus if Duke cannot provide housing.”

She told The Chronicle that though she has a housing placement for next year, many of her friends are still in limbo. When they took their concerns to HRL, the administrators did not have a clear response, she said. 

“They were wishy-washy about it,” Tang said. “They made us feel like Duke might not have an immediate solution for everyone.”

Gonzalez explained that the situation arose because of several factors. The first-year class this year was larger than usual, so there are more rising sophomores now, and Duke accepted more transfer students last fall, so there are more rising juniors. In addition, more seniors submitted a housing application request to live on campus than they have in past years. 

Senior Ashley Ericson said that she thinks the shortage is especially notable this year because campus living spaces have been renovated and more students want to live there now. 

“I’ve seen first-hand the right-of-return rates for Wannamaker increase drastically post renovation, and with the addition of nice living facilities like Swift and Crowell, I think students are more inclined to accept the convenience of living on campus over the hassle of living off [campus],” she said. 

Although seniors have the option to live off campus, Tang noted that this might not be feasible for students on financial aid who can’t afford apartments in the area. 

Junior Youlim Kim said she was “livid” when she heard that some students might not receive on-campus housing. 

“This issue disproportionately affects those who do not live around the area and those who rely greatly on financial aid, which unfairly preys upon the vulnerabilities of these populations,” she wrote in an email. “It's outrageous.”

She added that she does not think HRL has done an adequate job communicating with students. 

“It doesn't seem to me like HRL is doing their best to accommodate those who are most vulnerable, and if they are, then they should at least release a plan of action to placate those who are most affected,” Kim wrote. 

Gonzalez noted that some students have been unhappy with the ordeal but that others have been very understanding. 

“It helped when they had a chance to hear that we do expect a number of students to get an assignment later this month,” he said. “This isn't how the process was meant to work, and we appreciate the students' patience with us.” 

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