Frosh feel the residence crunch

Common rooms and don offices utilized to avert housing crisis

Jo Hatt and her rommate
Jo Hatt and her rommate

First-year students might find themselves getting a little cozier in residence this year.

Bruce Griffiths, director of Housing and Hospitality Services, said the extra students, combined with a cancellation rate half as low compared to previous years, has pushed housing and hospitality services over what Griffiths calls the “gold standard” for residences.

“Our gold standard has certain principles in terms of common rooms and spare rooms for dons to use as offices,” he said. “Where we run into a situation where we have more students than that, we have an approved plan for moving forward and saying we’ll take back dons’ rooms and take over some common rooms.”

Jo Hatt and Nicola Gilkinson, both ArtSci ’12, live in a converted common room on West Campus.

Hatt said when she and Gilkinson applied to be roommates, neither of them thought they would end up on West Campus.

“We applied for Leonard or Vic because we didn’t think that West was going to have double rooms anyways,” she said. “We had a medical reason to not be on West, but we didn’t even submit that with our application because we didn’t think West had doubles.”

Hatt said her room has a number of unique features other students living in residence don’t have.

“There’s so much extra room and having a kitchen is unheard of,” she said. “We have a full kitchen with stove, an oven and a fridge. There’s a lot of space and that’s been really nice.”

Hatt said she and Gilkinson plan to apply to be moved to main campus for the sake of convenience. Griffiths said when the faculty of arts and sciences let in approximately 200 extra first-year students, a working group was formed to investigate how to maximize residence space to accommodate extra students.

“The committee did up-front work and talked about different issues. It wasn’t operational, it was more big picture stuff like what do we do for alternate social spaces,” he said. “What we oversaw was a complete walk through of residences that could potentially be used in a room that was decent and what we could do for alternate social spaces.”

In addition to converting common rooms, Griffiths said single rooms were converted into economy doubles and were offered to first-year students at a discounted rate of approximately $4,500, half the cost of a regular residence room.

“It’s a single room in [Victoria Hall] with bunk beds and two desks side by side,” he said. “We offered that at a substantial discount, about half the normal price. We had about sixty or so beds in that category and over two hundred people requested to be part of that.”

Griffiths said the extra $1,452,338 in revenue generated from the residence fees of extra students was used to convert common rooms into bedrooms and develop house common rooms as well as funding the creation of Gord’s, a new lounge with healthy food and entertainment options set to open in Gordon Hall by the end of September.

“Most residences have a large common room either ground floor or basement, and they tended in the past to be relatively poorly used,” he said. “We went through and did two thousand yards of carpet this summer, painted those rooms and put in a new ceiling so that students can gather in those spaces instead.”

Griffiths said first-year students are given room assignments through a lottery process where each student is entered into a computer and randomly assigned a number. As the computer hits each number, it looks at the student’s room preferences and assigns them accordingly.

“If you wanted a single-room on main and there’s one available, you get one. The higher your lottery number, the less chance you’ll get any of your preferences,” he said. “People think we just ignored their preferences, but it’s just that by the time we got to that number there wasn’t that kind of room left.”

When accommodating students who missed the deadline for applying to residence, Griffiths said first-years don’t get priority over other years because first-years, upper- years and graduate students have separate processes and deadlines when applying for residence.

“The upper year students who have rooms this year followed their process and got their applications and deposits in on time. First-year students who missed the deadline lose the guarantee and only get offered a room if one is available. Depending on the year, lack of availability may or may not have anything to do with upper-year students.”

Griffiths said because first-year students who meet the residence application deadline are guaranteed residence, if residences ever became filled to the maximum with first-year students, upper-year students could be denied residence.

“In order to ensure we keep fee increases to a minimum we need to fill our beds,” he said. “If the first year population ever got large enough that all available beds could be filled then we would not take upper -years.”

Should the first-year population at Queen’s expand beyond what current residences can house, Griffiths said Housing and Hospitality Services would be aware of it long before the change occurs and would have time to form a plan.

“We’ll project it long before it happens, and have to balance our numbers. Obviously, we have the obligation to house all first-year students. If there’s an increase, we’ll have to look at the other groups of students and look at the capacity we have and what we’re willing to do to expand in our space.”

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