Friday August 20, 2004
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Enrollment causes overcrowding

Some students forced to live in converted lounges, kitchen spaces

By Jamie Howell/Student Publications

Due to housing overcrowding from increased enrollment, 38 freshmen have been assigned to “flex rooms-converted lounges and kitchens. Six students live in Smith Hall’s third floor lounge.

By Haining Yu Assistant News Editor

Due to the unexpectedly large size of the incoming freshman class, flex housing has been reintroduced into some of the freshman dorms this year. Living mostly in hall lounges that have been re-converted into normal rooms, 38 students reside in these “flex” spaces.

“We do have a larger freshman class of about 400 people larger than last year,” said Dan Morrison, associate director for residence life in the Department of Housing. According to Morrision, the Institute wanted more freshman and was hoping for an increase of around 200, and “we [Housing] were prepared for that in how we allocate housing,” he said.

Returning students are normally assigned housing before new students, with the exception of some sophomores who are placed in a holding position in which they are guaranteed housing, but have not had a room assigned yet. New freshmen and new transfer and grad students have a housing application deadline of May 1.

“When the size of the freshman class came in big, we had to look at where we could be able to accommodate people,” Morrison said. Housing moved roughly 100 sophomores from the traditional dorms to Hemphill Apartments, normally a graduate student dorm, and about 150 transfer undergrads to the Graduate Living Center, also a normally graduate-only residence.

By doing this, Morrison said, “We were able to take spaces that were normally traditionals for sophomores, like Hanson, Hefner, Hopkins, and put freshmen in there."

Even after all of the shuffling in housing, about forty freshmen were left without accommodations. These were freshmen who had missed the May 1 deadline, but “just barely,” said Morrison. “They clearly wanted to be here, and we wanted to find a way to house them."

Thus, 40 potential living areas were identified as “flex spaces.” With the exception of one living space, all of the lounges chosen were in fact former rooms themselves and were merely re-converted to their previous state to house two to four students. According to Morrison, they are the “same as the room next door. Same set of furniture, Ethernet, cable, etc.” The only noticeable difference might be a different wall color, or style of door.

“Everybody at first really reacted, as you would, too, until we really were able to reassure them that they have the same set up,” Morrison siad. “Once they saw that, I think people were a lot more relaxed about it."

Two males in Smith Residence Hall were added into rooms that have been converted from a two-person room to a three-person room.

The one exception is a former kitchen lounge in Smith Hall that was converted to house six.

“It does have a few benefits,” said Val Tocitu, one of the residents in Smith 300, citing a larger living space as a big plus. According to Morrison, the space is able to house even 10 people comfortably. And as for living with five new roommates, Tocitu said, “it would have been the same in another dorm room, only the number is different."

Derek Mims, a Biomedical Engineering major, said he was satisfied with the living situation. “The only downside is the string of alarm clocks that go off in the morning,” he said. “The full kitchen is really nice,” he added.

“It’s better than other dorms in this building,” added one of Mims’ other roommates while eating a late dinner in the kitchen.

36 people are living in lounges, with 24 men and 14 women housed in flex spaces. With Monday, Aug. 16, as the no-show date for housing, Morrison said he hoped spaces would open up for those students to move elsewhere.

“We’ll probably have seven or eight people who don’t show,” he said. It was not expected for Housing to get more than 38 cancellations, however, so most of those students will expect to live in their flex space until the end of fall semester.

At that time, people may leave for co-op jobs, graduate or drop out of school. “We always have about three 300 openings in spring semester,” Morrison said, and it is likely that the students will be moved out of flex housing.

The only other students impacted are older students who missed the May 1 deadline, mostly graduate students.

“New graduate students coming in late in the summer simply were not going to find a place to live at Tech,” Morrison said. However, he added, “Most graduate students have at least a little bit more life skills to live off campus.”

The Department of Housing is also discussing the possibility of adding buildings to the Freshmen Experience program. But Morrison said doing so would end up being inconvenient for everyone, especially those who work for Housing.

“We’re waiting to see if the Institute plans to permanently expand the freshman class size by a couple hundred, then we’ll make that decision,” Morrison said.

But because rising sophomores are guaranteed on-campus housing, “a big freshman class becomes a big sophomore class, which means that next year fewer juniors and seniors will be able to get a space on campus."

“We have to get ready for the ripple effect. Everything that’s people-specific is going to feel a little more crowded this year. The bookstore can order more books, the dining hall can make more food, but I can’t manufacture more housing,” Morrison said.

The last time flex housing was used was in 1998, when a similar unexpected increase in the incoming class occurred. That year, 100 beds were actually rented from the Georgia State facilities across the street.