Some Duke students have been placed on a waitlist for on-campus housing for the 2022-23 academic year, including 186 rising juniors, according to Dean for Residence Life Debbie Lo Biondo.
Sophomores Annie Zhang and Isha Shah were two of those students. On March 17, they received notice from HRL informing them that their blocking groups were placed on the waitlist.
“We are reaching out to notify you that you are on the housing waitlist,” read the email to waitlisted students, which was obtained by The Chronicle. “However, you will have an opportunity to select a room for next fall in the coming weeks.”
For Shah, the notice that her blocking group had been waitlisted came as a surprise to her.
“I was just in shock because I didn't realize that a waitlist for housing existed,” Shah said. “As I kept reading, it was just more details that were kind of hard to believe in the sense that they told us that a lot of the junior class is still waiting to be approved for study abroad.”
Lo Biondo confirmed that the main need for the waitlist was an excess number of rising seniors—who intend to study abroad in the upcoming fall semester—occupying spaces in dorms because their applications for study abroad have not yet been approved. She added that the University’s shift to QuadEx was not a factor in the need for a waitlist.
“The structure of QuadEx plays no role in the current situation. The study abroad timeline is the main driver,” Lo Biondo wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
This double booking of students—for both housing and for study abroad—was a deliberate choice of the University, given the possibility of study abroad programs being canceled due to coronavirus-related complications.
“It is imprudent to remove those students from housing prior to their acceptance/enrollment in Study Abroad programs—particularly given possible travel restrictions abroad,” Lo Biondo wrote.
Along with those who have applied to study abroad tentatively taking up rooms, Lo Biondo wrote that a secondary cause of the waitlists was an excess number of rising seniors who have applied to live on campus.
“We had 173 more rising seniors apply for and want to stay on campus than in previous years,” Lo Biondo wrote. “[But] the waitlist is primarily driven by the 602 students who applied [for] housing and for study away for fall 2022.”
HRL sent another email on March 23 to update the waitlisted students about their status. The email provided a more specific timeline for moving students off the waitlist and assigning them to rooms for the fall semester.
“We anticipate canceling all study away [housing] assignments beginning May 2,” the email read. “The week of May 16, we will begin processing assignments for students on the waitlist. We anticipate all students will know their assignment by May 23.”
The new timeline was a departure from the original email’s timeline of a few weeks, delaying the assignment process for over a month.
Zhang also felt that the March 23 email implied that waitlisted students would no longer be able to choose their rooms as was stated in the first email they received.
“[They initially said] we'd get to select our room in the coming weeks,” Zhang said. “I don't even know if we can choose anymore because they just straight up told us that we will know our housing assignment by the 23rd. So I don't know if we're still allowed to choose.”
“In any case, they’re being pretty opaque about what’s going on behind the scenes,” Zhang added.
For Shah, the May timeline posed a different concern for her—that she and her roommate would be off campus when their housing situation is expected to be sorted.
“Everyone [else] is going through this right now, and to be told that me and my roommate will have to deal with this in the summer when we're not even together—it was kind of shocking,” Shah said.
Shah and Zhang were not sure why they had been chosen to be placed on the waitlist. According to them, their blocks submitted their housing applications on time.
“People have hypotheses as to why certain people were [waitlisted], like maybe the block’s answers [to the housing application questions] don't match or it's because they have a bad number [of students in the block],” Zhang said. “But we have four people in our block, which is like the perfect size for a block, I think. And we all submitted [our applications] on time. There was no miscommunication. There’s no reason why we were placed on a waitlist to my knowledge.”
Shah agreed with Zhang. She figured that her lottery number was just enough so that it would place her on the waitlist instead of her lowest ranked quad option.
“I guess we were just low enough on the lottery to just be sectioned off into the waitlist as opposed to getting our last ranked dorm,” Shah said.
Lo Biondo is certain that there will be enough beds for everyone who would like to and is required to live on campus next year, after more students are approved to study abroad. Therefore, HRL does not plan to place students in Lancaster Commons or Blue Light, Lo Biondo wrote.
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Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. He has also contributed to the sports section.