Frosh call crowded residences home

Christine Moreland, ArtSci ’09, shares a former Victoria Hall common room with two other students.
Christine Moreland, ArtSci ’09, shares a former Victoria Hall common room with two other students.
Photo by Emily Sangster

One of the first things Christine Moreland, ArtSci ’09, did when she arrived in residence Sunday was to arrange the furniture in her res room so she and her two roommates would each have their own corner.

Moreland is one of 250 students living in “temporary space” in residences this year due to overcrowding. Her triple room in Victoria Hall was once a common room.

Moreland said she’s glad she’s not living in one of the two economy doubles on her floor.

“It’s two people living in extremely close quarters in bunk beds,” she said. “I think it’d be really hard to live that close to someone and not get on each other’s nerves.”

Mandy Daniel, manager of admissions for Residence and Hospitality Services, said almost 3,900 students are living in residence at Queen’s this year.

“It was above the largest number that even Queen’s expected,” Daniel said, adding that Residence and Hospitality Services anticipated a maximum of 3,800 students, but realized during the room allocation period in July and August they’d received even more.

There are, therefore, more students living in “temporary space” in residence than in any previous year, Daniel said.

“Temporary space” includes single rooms that were once dons’ offices, triple rooms that are usually used as doubles, converted common rooms and some economy doubles.

“We basically followed what we did in 2002 and the year 2000 before that,” she said. “This is not new to the residence system.”

Last year at this time, Daniel said, only 3,540 students were living in residence, prompting Residence Life to close several houses at Jean Royce Hall.

This year’s space crunch affects mainly the 3,000 first-year students living on campus who were guaranteed residence provided they returned their registration form and deposit by the June 13 deadline.

Daniel said residence admissions also accepted applications received during the three weeks following the deadline. Late applicants were allocated temporary beds right away, although some students who did submit their applications on time were also placed in temporary space through the room allocation lottery.

The unprecedented number of students in residence also includes a larger-than-usual contingent of upper-year students. Approximately 300 upper-year students—150 more than last year—now live on two designated floors in Watts Hall and three in Leggett Hall, Daniel said.

Leggett and Watts Halls were built partly to accommodate the possibility of more upper-year students in residence, said MCRC President Alexis Meyerman.

She said MCRC and Residence and Hospitality Services also began promoting the option of residence more heavily to upper-year students when they became aware that the University would be accepting fewer first-year students over the next several years.

This year’s overcrowding is a “one-time blip,” Meyerman said, and arose when a greater-than-usual proportion of the fewer students offered admission actually accepted their offers and registered at the University.

Meyerman said upper-year students shouldn’t be demonized as the cause of the overcrowding, and their presence will not affect first-years’ access to residence over the long term. Instead, she said, it will enhance their experience.

“Upper-year students have a lot of value in the residence system,” she said. “In typical years, there’s no reason why these groups should not be intermingled.”

Daniel agreed.

“It’s been something we’ve been talking about for a long time, getting more upper-year students back into the Queen’s [residence] community,” she said. “This year happened to be the year there was over-enrolment.”

Students had increasingly begun to request places in residence in upper years, and Residence and Hospitality Services wanted to accommodate that demand, Daniel added.

“You don’t want to just push them out once they’re done [first year],” she said.

Applications for upper-year residence places were due in February, Daniel said, so the required number of rooms could be set aside

“We knew the kind of numbers we were dealing with before the summer,” she said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t know the kind of numbers were we dealing with for first-year students.”

In previous years, 20 to 40 students simply don’t show up at the beginning of the year and several more leave the University before Thanksgiving, Daniel said, allowing students in temporary space to move into the rooms left empty.

“There’s always a chance,” Daniel said, adding that cancellations over the summer have already reduced the number of students in temporary beds. “We’re still in the process of going through our no-shows,” she said.

Students unhappy with their room assignment will soon be able to obtain room change request forms from their dons and have their requests considered as space becomes available, Daniel said.

For some, however, the temporary space may become their permanent home.

Daniel said she doesn’t expect those students to be at a disadvantage. All students are in some form of a bedroom and close to dons and floormates.

“We don’t have students who are isolated,” she said. “A lot of the spaces aren’t really temporary, they’re permanent. The space is definitely adequate and they have everything a regular room would have, including ResNet and all the furniture.”

Daniel said it’s hard to say how many students wanted to live in residence but did not get a room, because residence admissions began directing students to Queen’s Apartment and Housing services after the deadline, as the number of applications became apparent.

“We basically started telling people not to apply,” she said.

Daniel said Residence and Hospitality Services would continue to promote residence as an option for upper-year students.

“We debrief at the end of every year to see how it’s going,” Daniel said. “We don’t see this as a trend, but then again, we didn’t see this coming in the first place.”

Meyerman said aside from a few students who have raised concerns about common room facilities with their house presidents, students are content with the residence situation.

“I think students are taking it better than we thought they would,” Meyerman said.

She said the MCRC’s focus now is to minimize the impact of overcrowding on students and provide an outstanding residence experience.

At its first general assembly last Thursday, the MCRC struck a committee to draft a resolution on the state of crowding in residence.

The most recent draft available to the Journal at press time outlines a proposal to seek a proportion of surplus fees from Residence and Hospitality Services to fund efforts to improve the residence experience.

“Be it resolved that it is the position of the MCRC that, due to overcrowding in residences, Queen’s University Residences should establish a residential life improvement fund in the amount of $100,000, or some other amount agreed upon by the MCRC and Queen’s University, for the purpose of providing equipment, furniture, and/or service to students that would have the effect of ameliorating the hardship caused by overcrowding in 2005-2006, and that the MCRC should have paramount influence on the expenditure of this fund in cooperation with Queen’s University,” it says.

The surplus fees arose because the fees of extra residents go towards variable costs such as food, but also towards fixed costs, such as dons and custodial staff, that vary little with the number of students in residence.

The MCRC believes those extra fees would be better spent on residence equipment and services rather than individual refunds because it’s so difficult to place a price tag on the effect of overcrowding on students, Meyerman said.

“How do you determine compensation?” she said.

Once that resolution is passed, a new committee of resident students and council members will be struck to lobby for the funds and decide how they should be spent, Meyerman said.

Moreland, in Victoria Hall, said she would have preferred a double room. She said it would have given her an instant contact in residence and made it easier to make friends without the security issues that might develop in a large room with several people moving in and out.

She said the potential social dynamic was also a concern.

“Two people versus one was one of my worst fears with a triple,” she said. “I was worried that they’d already know each other and I’d be the odd one out.”

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Moreland and her roommates were in touch by e-mail before they moved in, but didn’t meet face-to-face until move-in day.

“Where we were from, what we were taking and whether we were bringing a fridge,” she said. “It’s so hard to tell people’s attitudes from email ... but it turned out that they’re both amazing.”

Moreland said her floor is fortunate that the corresponding room across the hall from her room has remained a common room, although she added that it’s also used by students from other floors that lack one and might be in high demand throughout the year.

In the meantime, Moreland said, she’s settled into her room and has no plans to move, even if the option becomes available.

“I’m quite content with what I have,” she said.

“I was really dreading it but I love my triple now ... with three people, you’re never by yourself.”

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.