Overcrowded Residence Halls Have Become a Staple of University Life

“The Housing crunch is on at USF. This fall, more freshmen ascended the hilltop campus than there are rooms to physically house them, leading the Office of Residence Life to create a number of “non-traditional spaces.” Hayes-Healy, Gillson, Phelan and Fromm halls have seen lounge spaces converted to suites housing up to five first-year students and double rooms have been tripled,” read the lead to an article about housing that appeared in the Foghorn in September of last year.

Nothing has changed. According to a chart provided by the Director of the Office of Residence Life Steve Nygaard, this year, all lower campus dorms are filled beyond capacity. Fromm Hall, the least beyond capacity, is filled in at 102% and Hayes-Healy, the highest, is at 108%. 

In total, there are 190 students in non-traditional spaces – lounges or dorm rooms built for two people that now house three. However, twenty-nine students living in Hayes-Healy and Gillson lounges are not counted in this total because ORL intends to leave them in those spaces for the entire year, not try to move them into tradition spaces, as they will the other 190 students. 

At least several students have already been re-assigned to traditional double dorm rooms. ORL is searching for additional rooms, waits for students to move, drop-out or be removed from University housing.

Freshmen Kayla LaCour, Lauren McPherson, Marly Kos and until recently, Rebecca Brandy (who moved to a double room last week) live in a converted lounge in Fromm Hall. Their lounge has been outfitted with five beds, four of them bunked, five desks and only two closets. The roommates purchased a clothing wrack, which sits overflowing with garments in the middle of the room. And while they said they all got along well, they keep very different schedules. McPherson is on the track team, and said she will need to get up in time for 7:00 a.m. practices, long before the rest of her roommates want to be disturbed. McPherson said she must also climb on her desk to get on and off her bunked bed, which wakes up her roommate below. 

While most students in lounges and triples are not excited about their housing arrangement, ORL has pointed out that there are some benefits to living in such conditions. According to Nygaard, “Some of these rooms are quite desirable, students in the Phelan lounges consistently report satisfaction because they actually have more space per person than in a standard double room.” Some of the non-traditional spaces have other perks, like private bathrooms, and students living in these spaces pay less for their rooms than their on-campus peers. 

However, Nygaard said one of the drawbacks to overcrowding is a loss of community space, which represents a real concern to some residents. Junior Reina Acosta asked, “If you take away their lounge, where do people go to relax?” Junior Emil Harry felt that eliminating lounges as social spaces detracts from the communal feel residence halls are suppose to create, and makes it harder to meet people and make friends. 

Yet, not all students feel the same way about lounge space. Sophomore Bharat Sharma believes “There are other facilities [for finding friends], and pointed to out that in Phelan most people never used the lounges anyway. 

ASUSF President Alexandra Platt said, “For myself, I’m glad USF is becoming so popular,” but believes the housing situation can have a negative effect for the University by deterring prospective students. Overcrowding may also cause freshmen to transfer out of USF, causing headaches for the school later on, including lower standards for transfer admissions, which are already low, and a lower U.S. News and World Report’s ranking, which measures freshman retention rates. 

The administration has made moves to relax the housing requirement that almost all freshmen and sophomores live on-campus. And ORL has granted more student requests to live off campus.

Many students believe already that on-campus living should be optional. Platt said that sophomores should be considered for off-campus living but not most freshmen because USF is a community-based school not a commuter school, and having freshmen live off campus can take away the college experience, she said.

Harry indicated that USF students pay far too much tuition and should be involved in fixing the housing problem. Junior Eric Douville suggested sending letters of petition to the University to demand a change. 

Sharma said, “This seems to be a big problem for students, but is it for USF?”

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