Campus Crunch?: Administration works to make room for freshmen

By Emily Landgraf
Freshman Kelly Hilghman lives in a triple. Her bed is lofted so high that she can’t sit up straight without hitting her head. Hilghman’s entire desk and dresser can fit underneath, and her roommates have their beds bunked. Fortunately, Hilghman and her roommates get along.

From left: Freshmen Poyda residents Julia Kaufman, Maureen Kenny and Kelly Hilghman deal with space issues in their triple. Housing Operations is hard at work trying to place freshmen who are unhappy in triples into more comfortable double rooms.

Living in a triple is not an uncommon scenario for freshmen at Rider, according to administrators, and they are working as quickly as possible to move students unhappy with their living situation into double rooms.

“We always start with triple rooms because we don’t know where our vacancies are going to occur,” said Dean of Students Anthony Campbell.

According to Campbell and Jamie O’Hara, vice president for Enrollment Management,  as of the first day of classes the number of freshmen living on campus for the 2010-2011 school year was 905, down from last year’s 936. As of Monday, the number of freshmen in campus housing had decreased to 896.

“We’re not overcrowded in the residence halls,” Campbell said. “This is a normal operation as we start every school year.”

Hilghman isn’t the only freshman managing to deal with her triple situation. Freshman Courtney Labossiere said she and her roommates are adjusting well.

“The three of us get along very well,” she said. “And it’s cool because you’re never actually alone. There’s always someone around.”

Labossiere and her roommates say they have encountered only minor issues in their triple, aside from trying not to wake each other.

“There’s been some adjusting because two of us are really heavy sleepers and one of us is a really light sleeper,” she said. “A lot of times we wake up the light sleeper with our alarms. But I actually don’t know what we’re going to do when one of us has to leave; we all like each other so much.”

Roberta Butler, director of Housing Operations, said that many of the freshmen in triples are starting to have a change of heart when it comes to their living situation.

“I can tell you out of the notices we’ve sent out, we’ve gotten a good number of notices back saying, ‘The three of us want to stay together,’” she said. “Spacewise, it is tight, but when you’re able to manage it, people actually don’t mind it so much.”

As of the first day of classes, the university reported 41 involuntary triples, or 123 students who were involuntarily housed in triples, and six voluntary triples campus-wide. By this Monday, Housing had decreased that number to 15 involuntary triples and reported 32 voluntary triples.

Last year, there were only 15 involuntary triples on the first day of classes.

“The reason for the difference in the numbers is because there are more returning students in housing this year than there were at this time last year,” said Dan Higgins, executive director of university communications.

Putting the pieces together

According to Butler, housing freshmen is a fluid process. The Office of Enrollment Management estimated that Housing would need to reserve 850 bed spaces for incoming freshmen. However, the number of students enrolled was much higher.

“At the point at which we went to assign freshmen spaces we had about 937 incoming freshmen, so that was well over our 850 bed spaces,” she said.

However, this was not anything serious to worry about, as Housing always anticipates Admissions enrolling more students than the original figure, Butler said.

“You do want to take into account that through whatever means that we’ll lose a few students,” she explained. “So the number we get is always a ballpark number.”

Women vs. men

Butler did face an issue when it came to the ratio of incoming female and male students. The number of freshmen female students living on campus as of the first day of classes was 552 and the number of freshmen male students on campus was 353. These numbers had decreased only slightly by this past Monday.

Housing “flipped” as many rooms as possible; that is, rooms that traditionally house males were used as female housing because there was a female bathroom on the floor or in a nearby hallway.

“So, we flipped as many rooms as we could, and by the time we got through flipping rooms and assigning as many people as we could to double rooms we still had the stack of students that needed to be housed,” Butler said.

The original plan was to house nine women in two lounges in Conover Hall and Switlik Hall, respectively. The plan never went into action, Butler said.

“We haven’t had students living in lounges in the two years that I’ve been here,” Butler said. “We’ve prepared to utilize the lounges, but thankfully by the time we got to opening it wasn’t an issue.’

According to Butler, many students have already been moved into double rooms, and Housing Operations is working to de-triple the freshmen who want to be housed elsewhere.

“Basically the first two weeks allow us to identify and to contact anybody who hasn’t shown,” Butler said. “Then we can also contact those upper-class students who are without a roommate and say that you need to consolidate so that we can create spaces.”

According to both Butler and Campbell, Housing always tries to keep incoming freshmen together.

“We try not to put upperclassmen with freshmen,” said Campbell. “That doesn’t mean transfers wouldn’t be with upperclassmen.”

Getting too big?

President Mordechai  Rozanski’s presentation at the Convocation on Sept. 2 discussed the possibility of enrollment growing so much that the number of residence halls will no longer be enough within the next few years. This seems unlikely, according to O’Hara, despite the fact that enrollment has increased by 16 percent since 2004.

“At this point there’s not an expectation that we’re going to grow the overall enrollment of the institution greatly,” said O’Hara. “Where we will start to see growth is in the graduate programs as well as the adult programs. That’s just the nature of a down economy. There’s going to be more interest in those programs and there’s going to be more focus on students trying to be cost effective.”

O’Hara said the administration is happy with the size of the institution in relation to the number of residential students, and would like to keep the number of residents in line with the past two years.

“I’m looking at a new student class [next year] that’s going to be pretty much the same size as this year, probably between this year and last year,” O’Hara said.

Additional reporting by Katie Zeck and Rachel Stengel.

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