Alternative housing arrangements greet record number of residents

Maria Nann

Junior nursing major Sonya Tubbs and Camille Marshal, sophomore justice studies major clean up their temporary room – a lounge in Verder Hall. The two currently live here due to the overflow of students. Rachel Kilroy | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Eli Harrier doesn’t have grand expectations for his dorm room at Kent State.

“I just want a window,” he said with a smile.

When he moved in Wednesday, the freshman history major was one of 133 students who found themselves living in a converged lounge rather than a dorm room. And he is less than thrilled with the fact that he can’t tell if it’s day or night without looking at a clock.

And he’s not the only one.

Betsy Joseph, director of residence services, said the university is currently operating at 102 percent its occupancy, allowing about 150 students to be placed in overflow housing. Of those students, 133 have been assigned to a converged lounge, while 17 doubles have been converted into triples in Stopher, Johnson and Centennial halls.

Although Harrier was given a warning of his living situation ahead of time, the “dorm room” still came as a bit of shock to him.

“I just figure I’ll deal with it,” he said. “It was a bit awkward, but nothing I can’t handle.”

Harrier’s roommate, sophomore James Chapman, said he was more annoyed by the situation than anything.

“I’m not even going to really bother unpacking,” the economics major said. “Most of my stuff is still in my car.”

Joseph attributed the overcrowding to a combination of factors, primarily the large incoming freshman class.

“The university admissions office has been very successful in increasing the size of our freshman class,” she said.

This year’s freshman class is one of the largest Kent State has seen, and like many other universities, Joseph said, Kent State has a large number of upperclassmen either residing on campus or returning to campus housing this year.

“I think that’s part of what we’re seeing, a national trend – whether it’s the economy, whether it’s the convenience of living on campus,” she said. “I’m not quite sure what all is playing into (it), but I think it’s a combination of upperclass students remaining on campus and then the success of the new freshman class.”

Despite the overflow, students are still applying for on-campus housing.

“This week alone, we’ve had probably about 35 students who have applied for housing,” Joseph said.

Accommodations for temporary dorms have been set up in Koonce, Wright, Allyn, Clark, Fletcher, Manchester, Olson, Lake, Prentice, Verder and Dunbar halls.

Tom Neumann, associate vice president for university communications and marketing, said the renovated lounges are large, complete with computer access and secure doors. Some students have been placed with resident assistants.

In the converged lounges, the university put up dry wall on the windows to ensure privacy.

“They are making accommodations to make sure all students have privacy, just as they would have in a normal room,” Neumann said

Joseph said students will receive a 25 percent reduction to the double occupancy room rate, which is the lowest room rate the university offers, based on how long they remain in temporary housing.

Joseph said that some students responded positively to the temporary housing and expressed a desire to stay in lounges all semester.

But although Harrier appreciates the size of his lounge-turned-dorm, he called his living situation a case of “mis-allocated resources,” citing his room’s lack of windows, desks and closets.

“Yeah, we do have space,” he said. “But we have minimal of everything else.”

Joseph explained that last year, Kent State was able to confirm 172 students who had applied for on-campus housing were not going to be attending the university after the first 15 days.

If that number holds up this year, students in overflow accommodations should be able to be placed in permanent living situations after the initial two-week room freeze.

Neumann said the large number of students in temporary housing speaks to the quality of the university as well as the quality of on-campus living.

“I think it’s interesting that we have a lot of upperclassmen that want to live in the residence halls,” he said. “I think it says a lot about the quality of our residence halls.”

Because hall lounges are meant to be a place of congregation for all residents, Josephs said she hopes those currently living in them will be able to be relocated as soon as possible.

In the meantime, she advised students to come forward with any issues or questions.

“Please talk with us if there is a concern,” she said. “We will help to make the relocation as easy for (students) as possible.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Maria Nann at [email protected].