Duke Student Government and Duke Student Affairs announced Sunday that seniors will receive top priority in housing assignment for the 2021-22 academic year, walking back earlier information from Housing and Residence Life that juniors would have priority over seniors.
DSG wrote on its Instagram story on Sunday, in a post shared by Duke's Student Affairs Instagram, that groups of seniors will have first priority in the housing assignments, followed by groups including both juniors and seniors. Groups of juniors will be next, followed by groups including both sophomores and juniors, followed by sophomore groups with lowest priority.
Prior to Sunday, the HRL FAQ page stated that junior groups would get priority over senior groups.
Junior Ramya Ginjupalli, DSG vice president of campus life, told The Chronicle that this was a mistake due to an “internal miscommunication within HRL.” HRL did not respond to multiple requests for comment in time for publication.
The binding housing license policy remains in place. This means that rising seniors who complete the housing application will not be able to cancel or decline their housing assignment and will be charged for housing.
According to the FAQ, students will only be released from the license without penalty when researching or studying abroad, taking a leave of absence or withdrawing from the University.
Ginjupalli said that the policy was newly implemented this year and is similar to signing a lease on an apartment.
“The reasoning behind that is that they have to know how many seniors want to live on campus before releasing juniors of their live-on requirement because the goal is to fill as many dorms on campus as you can, to have as cohesive of a campus community as you can. That can’t happen if there’s a bunch of random empty rooms on campus,” she said.
She added that it wouldn’t be fair to juniors or sophomores, who had their housing assignment priority after seniors, if seniors were able to cancel their on-campus housing “whenever they want.” However, she said she understands how frustrating it is as a rising senior to not have time to look into off-campus apartments.
She added that many students incorrectly believed that seniors and juniors only had the option to live in Hollows Quad, 300 Swift Apartments and Avana Apartments.
“That’s not the case,” Ginjupalli said. “The only point of contention there is that sophomores are not allowed to live in Avana and Swift, so we do have to guarantee that all sophomores will live in the Gothics. But even with that in mind, there are hundreds of rooms left in the Gothics for juniors and seniors to live there if they so choose.”
She said that the message HRL was trying to get across was that they “expect most juniors and seniors to want to live in the Hollows, Swift and Avana.”
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“Especially after so many of them lived off campus this year, they probably wouldn’t want to go back to dorm-style living and so they expected most people to want that, but you don’t have to live there,” she said.
DSG works through policy changes with HRL
Ginjupalli noted that following HRL’s first housing email Feb. 17, she realized that many students were upset about the inability to block with friends.
“My committee and I worked together to talk to HRL and try to convince them that having guaranteed blocking, allowing students to be in consecutive rooms next to each other, was more valuable than allowing students to be allowed to choose their own room within a quad,” she said.
In its second email Feb. 25, HRL announced that students would be allowed to list up to six people “with or around whom they want to live.” In its FAQ, HRL noted that they are not referring to that system as blocking, given “subtle differences” between blocking and the new system.
Following that update, Ginjupalli and other members of DSG gathered three additional student concerns to raise to HRL, which included juniors being prioritized over seniors, the inability to decline housing contracts and juniors and seniors being restricted to Hollows, Swift and Avana.
She said that HRL was very receptive to student feedback and concerns raised. “They’re very dedicated to students and being transparent,” she said.