Opinion | Columns

Bursting Barnard’s sophomore housing bubble

Last week was housing hell for Barnard’s rising sophomores.

After a tumultuous March that was inundated with petty arguments about roommate pairs and air conditioning and closet real estate, we all managed to create a viable housing plan. We then proceeded to create a backup housing plan. And, in anticipation for the worst, we all created a backup, backup housing plan for good measure. I watched as eight-person suites were split into quads and then split into doubles in a meiotic frenzy, all the while praying that my group’s decent lottery number would grant us peace, love, and a four-person suite.

It didn’t—and even though I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was.

At approximately 1 p.m. on Friday, April 4, Barnard ran out of housing. I’m still a bit confused as to how housing ran out so quickly, but as luck would have it, there’s a shocking amount of girls who are on Barnard’s guaranteed housing waitlist. I was among the last to pick, and I was only able to take one of the girls in my group into my last-choice dorm with me. The other two are now in housing purgatory and won’t know where they’re living until as late as August.

Maybe I’m just talking to the wrong Barnard first-years, but the general consensus is that Barnard Residential Life & Housing did a terrible job of informing the class of 2017 about just how limited housing would be for them. I left Brooks Hall’s study lounge feeling immensely disappointed. A reporter from Spectator asked me how I was feeling: “No comment.” A chipper upperclass student asked me how housing went: “Terribly.” A neuroscience major asked my friend to spit into a test tube so she could measure her cortisol levels and quantify the stress of housing: “Um, I’d rather not.” And every time I voiced my concerns to anyone who wasn’t a first-year, they all gave me a vaguely sympathetic smile and assured me that sophomore year housing prospects were intended to be bad. Dismal, even. 

Older students were content to watch as we encountered the same snafus they did when they were rising sophomores. Some of them found it amusing, like the sight of all of us running around looking for a spare Plimpton double or Hewitt single was adorable. I realized then that at Barnard, the sophomore housing struggle is seen as a necessary rite of passage

This mindset doesn’t make any sense to me. A sweet 16 is a rite of passage signifying entry into adulthood, as is a bar or bat mitzvah. Graduating from high school is a rite of passage. Let me be clear about one thing: being poorly informed about the housing selection process, going through the process, and then being denied housing despite painstaking attention to detail and research is not a rite of passage. It is, in fact, nothing but a major indication of Barnard Res Life’s inability to communicate effectively with students. If there is a problem with space and square footage—and there definitely is—it’s the responsibility of Res Life to let students know that there is a problem. Creating the expectation that housing would be available for most groups within the top half of the lottery and then barely informing students about the Guaranteed Assignment List is negligent and unfair.

A Barnard education comes with a hefty price tag. Everyone who accepted their offers of admission here knows that. Even those of us here on scholarship have likely had to make serious financial commitments to stay here. And because we’ve all invested in our Barnard education in ways that are more than just financial, it’s unlikely that any of us are pulling out any time soon. We are aware of the challenges that come with paying for space in New York City. We understand the forces that were behind the housing crisis. And so, I ask Res Life: What was there to fear from adequately informing the student body that a great number of rising sophomores would have to wait until August to receive their housing assignments?

As the population of Barnard expands, space will continue to be an issue that has no permanent solution. I’m not asking for Barnard to buy out a few hundred rooms from the nearest apartment complex in Morningside Heights any time soon—although there will inevitably come a time when those measures will be necessary. All I’m asking is for Barnard to at least soften the housing blow by releasing information about sophomore housing that takes reality into account.

And when that happens, the rite of passage that is the sophomore housing struggle won’t feel like hazing anymore. 

Paulina Mangubat is a Barnard College first-year with a prospective major in economics. Restroom Ruminations runs alternate Thursdays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

Comments

Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Anonymous posted on

Barnard needs to take over another apartment building in the neighborhood, or continually rent some apartments. Also they should try to get a few floors in oneof the new building going up on Amsterdam, Morningside.

+1
+6
-1
Anonymous posted on

They've actually been shopping for a building for a while, problem is Columbia owns the neighborhood. Also, they already lease space in cg and 110 - they don't own either building. It's unlikely that they could get more space closer than cg, which everyone bitches about anyways

+1
0
-1
The Diana posted on

Over the course of my four years here, Barnard has driven up the cost of housing while driving down the quality of dorm rooms available. Forced doubles and one-room quads converted from floor lounges are not the solution to the problem. Barnard needs to solve the overcrowding issue either by purchasing another building or not admitting so many applicants. I also agree with Paulina that the school needs to better inform students about the situation. In many cases, you'll get more value for your dollar by living off-campus, even within Morningside Heights. If rising sophomores were aware of how arduous and anxiety-producing the housing selection process can be, I'm sure more of them would search for neighborhood apartments.

+1
+5
-1
Anonymous posted on

While they could have done a better job, ResLife did try to get the word out.
1. Barnard has housing information sessions for all students.
2. Room tours. RAs talk to Barnard students about the different residence halls and the chances for them to live there.
3. Professional ResLife staff (Matt Kingston himself) tabled in the Diana the week before room selection and answered any and all housing questions.
This isn't to say that there's no housing crunch at Barnard or that the lottery wasn't "hell for sophomores." I just think that the author could have mentioned the ways that ResLife did try (effectively or not) to give Barnard students information.

+1
-1
-1
Confused posted on

I might be misunderstanding this, but what makes this process so much worse for Barnard sophomores than Columbia sophomores? CU sophomores also have the same issues, and a sizeable chunk of them end up on a waitlist - which also lasts until August. The main difference here seems to be that CU is improving by purchasing real estate such as SIC House to drive down that number of waitlisted sophs.

+1
-3
-1
BC '14 posted on

you're wrong, it's not a rite of passage. Housing options were decent when I was a rising sophomore. But the class after us ('15 and '16) were unexpectedly large and involved some hacks to fit everyone. For example, ResLife converted large desireable Plimpton singles into doubles mid-summer to accommodate another 56 students, and converted a study lounge on each floor of Sulz into an awkward quad setup. Those are not desirable living conditions at all, and they were not something the classes before '15 had to deal with. I am so, so sorry for you guys.

+1
+1
-1
Marietta posted on

Very well written

+1
+1
-1
Anonymous posted on

It's certainly not a glamerous life being a college student, but billions of women around the world would gladly change places with you.

+1
-3
-1
Anonymous posted on

Why does Barnard accept more students when there's a clear housing crisis? It's wonderful to expand the population, but not when they guarantee housing that doesn't exist. What will they be doing between now & August that will make more housing available?

Also the fact that sorority life is about 60% Barnard students, but since Columbia owns the housing they cannot live there due to insurance issues is frustrating - is there a way for Columbia / Barnard to look at this insurance problem and let more Barnard students live in sorority housing? AXO specifically with the newest house only has 2 Barnard spots in a house for 22!

+1
-3
-1