Any student government officer can tell you the hottest topic of the 2012 UTD election: housing. Many upperclassmen have found themselves essentially homeless following the massive housing shortage for Fall 2012. Considering the sheer size of University Village, the massive ResidenceHalls being built (which seem to be multiplying every semester), and the acres of Waterview Park apartments available, how could there possibly be a housing shortage? One answer: Freshmen.
UTD’s Assistant VP for Student Affairs, Matt Grief said, “We have always prioritized our freshman and second year students.” The reason for this prioritization stems from the belief that freshmen who stay on campus their first year are more likely to continue on at that school and subsequently performs better academically. So, don’t take it personally if you didn’t receive housing as an upperclassmen, even an upperclassmen with a scholarship, UTD just doesn’t consider you a priority. Since the quest for Tier One status began, the freshmen population has rapidly increased. However, the administrators of this fine establishment did not consider building more housing before installing a misting fountain in the middle of campus.
In fact, UTD will have three residence halls for freshmen only by the end of 2012.
Although a fourth residence hall is in the works there has been no official word on whether or not it will be open to all class levels. These logistics make no sense. UTD already has a housing shortage because it is displacing juniors and seniors in favor of the underclassmen. Instead of building more housing for upperclassmen, they are pouring funding into more freshmen housing.
At the end of the day, UTD believes in “encouraging upperclassmen to move to Waterview or off-campus.” No thought is given to how financially feasible this may be for students. In addition, not all apartment complexes are created equally. The price difference between Waterview and University Village can range anywhere from $150 to $400 more. Waterview forces many students into full year contracts, instead of the typical nine-month lease many students need. If you find yourself unable to afford Waterview and University Village just doesn’t have a spot for you, UTD will be happy to help you find an apartment near campus, for a fee of course.
For most students, the shortage came out of nowhere. Emails were sent out on March 9th, the Friday before Spring Break—a time when most students are headed home or to some other exotic location away from Richardson. This means no fax machine to send in an emergency housing application, cut off from face to face information, and completely blindsided by the lack of housing. Grief remains adamant that the email timing was completely normal to wade through approximately 1800 people. Perhaps the timing was normal, but surely UTD recognized that with a growing freshmen student body (and an even bigger freshmen class on the way) and no housing growth there would be a shortage. It boggles the mind that UTD didn’t consider sending out emails that alerted students to a potential housing shortage. A simple heads up from University Village could have allowed students to prepare their families financially. Instead, students were left scrambling, forced into being nickel and dimed on short notice.
Students can understand a housing shortage. What they can’t understand is the cloak and dagger routine performed by UTD, University Village, and the RHA. Last minute emails, conflicting information, and the feeling that upperclassmen just aren’t as important as the new freshmen coming in. Never mind the fact that the upperclassmen themselves have put in two years’ worth of tuition. Forget that the students graduating soon will take the name of UTD, and their experience there, across the nation from job to job. Upperclassmen are entitled to a little respect and gratitude from the University. While the appeal of a large freshmen body is exciting, and no doubt means deeper pockets for UTD to achieve its Tier One status, upperclassmen helped build UTD into what it is now. Upperclassmen came to UTD before it was rebuilt and considered cutting edge. To be brushed off in favor of newer students is more than a little insulting.
There is no separating the desire to become a Tier One school and the desire to house all of its students—to succeed in one is to succeed in the other. If UTD is to truly become a Tier One school, in league with CalTech and become the “MIT of the South,” it needs to prioritize more than just its freshmen and take care of all of its students—starting with appropriate housing for all.