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.
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