Improvements to graduate student housing
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, October 12, 2017
It was surprising and disappointing to see The Observer publish a lengthy story earlier this week on the closing of University Village without giving the University an opportunity to comment. In an effort to provide context, perspective and clarification, I am writing to offer the following facts and information:
University Village, Cripe Street Apartments and O’Hara-Grace Townhouses are outdated and in such poor condition that the decision was made more than three years ago to close them as University student housing at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. The initial task force met with graduate and professional students, utilized the 2013 Graduate Student Life survey and benchmarked peer institutions. Ultimately, we learned the costs of renovating or rebuilding University Village, Cripe Street and O’Hara-Grace were cost prohibitive, and we thought that alternative solutions might better serve more students, as the current facility houses only about 13 percent of graduate students who we estimate are married or parenting. We also learned that graduate students are largely satisfied with the affordability, convenience and amenities available to them in the local rental market, with off-campus housing options receiving much higher marks than our on-campus facilities.
The University communicated this decision to residents of these units in June of 2014, ensuring that any of those students still enrolled in summer 2018 would be offered grandfathered housing rates through the completion of their academic program. Each year, new residents have been informed during the housing application process about the scheduled closing of these facilities so they would have ample time to make alternative housing plans.
In terms of the land where University Village stands, more than a year after the decision was made to close this housing, Holladay Properties proposed the development of a mixed-use retail and residential project in that area. There is a tentative agreement to move forward on that, but only if it is in conjunction with a project to improve the safety and landscaping along 933 between Angela and Douglas. Should that project proceed, Notre Dame would lease the land to Holladay at fair market value in an arrangement similar to Eddy Street Commons. There is no “profitability” motive involved. Instead, we are interested in working with the community at large to improve the safety and aesthetics of an area that is the main entry point for visitors to our region.
The University is in the process of implementing a variety of strategies to support graduate students in building community and finding safe, convenient and affordable housing. Fischer Graduate Residences will remain an on-campus option for all graduate and professional students, including, beginning in 2018, for students who are married or parenting. The Overlook, immediately adjacent to Notre Dame, caters specifically to graduate students. The University also signed a contract in September to augment its housing referral services for all off-campus students, with a new website expected to launch this fall that will offer local options across various price points and amenities to current and prospective students. Finally, the University plans to offer new student services specifically designed to build community among, design programs for, and provide support to married and parenting students, with a new full-time staff member targeted to be hired by summer 2018.
University executive vice president
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.