At mid-semester mark, res. halls still over capacity
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 23:10
Overcrowding at Miami University continues with housing around 103 percent capacity after 34 Phi Kappa Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members’ suspensions moved them onto campus earlier this year.
According to Director of Housing Options, Meals and Events (HOME), Brian Woodruff, though Miami is still overcrowded, the situation is being dealt with, and the number of students in temporary housing is decreasing.
“I’m really happy to say that we’re doing well,” Woodruff said. “We’re still very full of course and we do still have a small number of fraternity members in temporary housing, but not many.”
Woodruff said the rest of the fraternity members will remain in Miami’s extended housing until rooms become available, and he cannot predict when that may be.
“We do still have 14 of [the fraternity members] in a large room living together, and they’ve been in there since they were moved in August.” Woodruff said. “Obviously it’s our priority to get them out as quickly as possible.”
Woodruff said calculating the university’s capacity is a complicated process that involves determining projected incoming class sizes, numbers of transfer students and withdrawals; the suspensions were an unforeseeable factor.
“We plan to be 100 percent occupied so [the fraternity members] were additional people that we had no foresight that they were coming,” Woodruff said. “Had it not been for them, we would not have anyone in temporary housing at this point.”
The Director of the Office of Residence Life (ORL), Jerry Olson, also expressed the difficulty in predicting such factors.
“The office of admissions obviously recruits students to Miami, and it’s never clear the number of students who are going to commit to Miami each year,” Olson said. “It’s an art; it’s not a science.”
According to Woodruff, before the fraternity incident Miami was already expected to be slightly overcapacity due to the number of incoming students. To create space, emails were sent out in July to resident assistants (RAs) asking them to take in roommates in the coming school year.
The overflow caused by the influx of Greek members led the university to assign some of the volunteering RAs a second roommate from the group of fraternity individuals, Woodruff said.
According to a junior RA who asked to remain anonymous, the seriousness of Miami’s predicament was made clear when he was contacted at the end of July and offered a stipend in return for sharing his room.
“It seemed like it was a pretty urgent matter,” the junior RA said. “They simply asked me to consider taking a roommate, and I would be given $500 for books and I would also get $200 a week.”
According to the RA, the decision involved quite a bit of pressure.
“The individual [who contacted me] really wanted a response right then and there, but I really wanted to think about it,” the RA said. “I talked to my parents and they definitely encouraged me not to do it, but I ended up making the decision to actually go through with it.”
The junior RA said in the end his decision seemed to be in his and the university’s best interest.
“As an RA it’s my job to help allow residents to get along so I thought ‘if they can do it why can’t I?’” the junior RA said. “I also wanted to help out the university as well because I felt like it was a pretty urgent matter.”
However, the housing situation did not turn out as planned.
Without being notified, the first roommate the RA was assigned—an incoming student—was relocated to another residence hall. Shortly after, the RA was informed he would be assigned another roommate—a suspended fraternity member.
“It just really wasn’t the original thing that I had signed up for,” the junior RA said. “[The university] just called and basically said ‘this is what’s happening in two days, and you’re still on the list to take a student.’”
After reaccepting the idea of having a roommate, the junior RA’s housing arrangement took yet another turn.
“[The fraternity member] brought a duffel bag and his pillow, put it on his bed, and that was it—that was the only time I saw him,” the junior RA said. “He didn’t live in the room a single time, and I actually think he would text the door [open] with his phone because I think [the housing office] was actually monitoring his access.”
According to Olson, he became aware that this was occurring in multiple cases, but room access was not being monitored and no further action was taken.
“I was not checking the rooms of RAs to see whether the students were living in there or not,” Olson said. “I was informed that RAs reported that their roommates were not there very often or moved a few things in and then did not live there … we cannot force a student to live in their room.”
The last of the13 fraternity members housed with RAs were relocated about two weeks ago, according to Woodruff.
“As a result of withdrawals, suspensions and different reasons such as those that open up rooms, we’ve actually been able to get all of the RA roommates out,” Woodruff said.
According to Woodruff, RAs’ feedback regarding how the university has handled the overcrowding situation varied.