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Housing crunch hits transfer students hard

Claire Heininger | Friday, November 7, 2003

When this year’s transfer students received the news that they were admitted to Notre Dame, they were also told something more disheartening: there were no guarantees that they could live on-campus.

Due to the increased size of the freshman class, there were few remaining empty rooms available for transfer students. Many were left scrambling to find other options, a process that only added to the many adjustments of their first few weeks.

“It’s been hard,” said Jeffrey Shoup, director of the Office of Residence Life and Housing. “Accommodating first year students has always been our priority … In July, after we sent out everything to the freshmen, we realized that the housing situation would be especially tight this year.”

In response, Shoup and the Office of Admissions co-authored a letter warning transfer students that it would be unlikely for them to receive on-campus housing during their first semester at Notre Dame. Transfers then had the option of adding their names to a waiting list, which entered them in a lottery for any dorm spots that opened up.

“We had a garbage bag with all the names in it in my office,” Shoup said. “The advantage was, the earlier the student [contacted Residence Life], the more chances they had and the more times their name went into the bag.”

However, transfer students’ housing problems did not just evaporate when their names were pulled. Several who had taken the precaution of making arrangements to live in off-campus apartment complexes such as Turtle Creek Apartments, College Park and Lafayette Square Townhomes found themselves locked into lease agreements for at least the entire semester.

Colleen McCotter, a sophomore who transferred from Bentley College, said that she felt discouraged about the possibility of on-campus housing after calling and e-mailing Shoup’s office several times over the summer.

“They told us that the likelihood was pretty slim for females, so I signed a six-month lease in Turtle Creek because I wanted to get on-campus in the spring,” she said. However, along with the shorter lease came an extra payment of $50 per month, and McCotter is no closer to living on-campus than she was in August.

“ResLife still hasn’t let me know anything about being on-campus next semester,” she said. “It’s inconvenient because I have to let Turtle Creek know if I’ll be renewing in the spring. I asked them for a 20-day extension, but if I don’t hear anything [from ResLife], I’ll be stuck in Turtle Creek again.”

McCotter added that her housing situation made her feel isolated from campus life.

“I would understand [the housing shortage] better if I wasn’t a sophomore and a transfer,” she said. “But I don’t really know anyone on-campus or anything going on there … I feel like after next spring it wouldn’t even be worth it, because by junior year everyone has friends and a dorm life … living off-campus has made me feel on the outside even more.”

Other transfers who were lucky enough to be offered spots in residence halls expressed similar anxieties.

“They told us before the school year that only 12 spots were available,” said Jennifer Caston, a sophomore transfer from Saint Mary’s.

“I found out that I had a room only 10 days before school … even at the welcome dinner at [transfer] orientation, they said that only one spot for a girl and one for a guy had opened up.”

Marty Mooney, a sophomore who transferred from Yale, was originally offered a dorm room, but turned it down because he intended to return to Yale for another semester. When he changed his mind and called back, he was told that it was too late and he had to find his own housing.

“I knew someone in the admissions office who said I could stay with him for a week or so,” Mooney said.

A week later Mooney learned he could take departed quarterback Chris Olsen’s place in Morrissey Manor.

Shoup said that the quick turnaround in Mooney’s situation was typical of his office’s efforts during the first few weeks.

“We did a good job this year of quickly identifying no-shows,” he said.

More than halfway though the semester, all of the men who requested on-campus housing were accommodated, Shoup said. Fourteen women still seek on-campus housing and “would come on-campus tomorrow if they had the chance,” he said.

Shoup attributed the disparity in the availability of rooms in men’s and women’s residence halls to a greater number of male upperclassmen moving off-campus at the end of last semester.

“There were actually more men [among transfers] who requested on-campus housing this year,” he said. “But since more men had moved off after last year’s room picks, they left more spaces open than the women.”

Even with these successes, Shoup said that he wished the situation could be easier on transfers and their families.

“We converted all of the lounges, all of the study spaces,” he said. “I wish everyone could get on campus … I told parents, if I could build spaces, I would.”