High housing demand sparks shuffling of residents

Workers renovate the former Phi Kappa Tau house over the summer. The building has been renamed Lake House and now houses mostly transfer students.By Paul Szaniawski

For most students who live on campus the summer serves as an opportunity to rest, work, play in the sun or do whatever they please away from their college dorm rooms. Summertime means something else for the Office of Residence Life: finding beds for all those students once they get back to campus.

This summer saw the largest demand ever for campus housing from returning students. The question mark lingering over the fate of the former Phi Kappa Tau (PKT) fraternity house also served as a double whammy for Stephanie Polak, associate director of Residence Life, and company.

“Whatever [Lake House] is, fraternity house, sorority house, or something else it’s 45 beds,” Polak said about the former PKT house. “That’s room for 45 students who need to stay somewhere.”

Months before the news broke that the fraternity would be dissolved and lose its house, Residence Life needed to begin solving the puzzle of the overfilled residence halls on the Lawrenceville campus.

“Back in room selection in May we knew the demand for housing.” Polak said. “It was a very stressful summer.”

To alleviate the issue of lack of housing the administration began mulling over the idea of “Plan B” if PKT wasn’t going to return. Lake House could not have been inherited by a Greek organization because no one had 45 members ready and willing to move in, according to Residence Life.

In July, Residence Life gave the nod to renovate the former PKT house into a residence hall. The decision came after it was clear that the fraternity would not be returning.

In less than a month’s time Facilities Management and three outside contractors teamed up to install new dry wall, add fresh paint, and replace floors among other improvements in the building now known as Lake House.

Polak credited the administration with the idea of turning it into a transfer building and bestowing on it the title of Lake House.

Junior Victoria DiMaria, a transfer student and resident of Lake House, likes the idea of living with other transfer students.

“It’s easier to get to know people when they’re in the same situation as you,” she said. “I love that. We pretty much know everyone on the floor.”

The proximity of the Greek houses was a part of the decision to place transfer students there.

“Transfers and older students are less likely to feel pressure or to join,” Polak said. “It’s not a positive dynamic to put freshman [near] a sorority house.”

The same logic was behind the decision to place six international students, four from Austria and two from Spain, on the first floor of Phi Sigma Sigma’s house. Not only are the foreign-born students older, they aren’t very likely to join an American national sorority.

Another change to the face of Rider’s residence halls is the absence of graduate students living on campus. Once completely designated for grads, the doors of Ridge House were opened to accept undergraduates to accommodate the demand for housing.

Currently, only one third of the hall’s inhabitants are graduate students, according to Residence Life.

Although only five students chose to live in Ridge House at room selection in May, the building quickly filled up with “panicky students” who were on waiting lists to live on campus, Polak said.

The next few years do not look easier for Residence Life who may have tangle with residence hall overcrowding until 2009 when new halls will be constructed, according to the University’s master plan.

Until then a task force of administrators, along with members of the Residence Hall and Student Government Associations will plan solutions and look for student input on the problem, Polak said.

Some solutions she mentioned that will be considered this year include removing fifth-year seniors and grad students (except for residence directors) from the Lawrenceville campus halls as well as having a second room selection lottery for basic housing that would endanger juniors and seniors who don’t meet deposit deadlines.

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