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As Brandeis changes, so do its housing expectations

Well, we are getting closer to housing selection by the day. On Feb. 16, housing numbers were released to Brandeis students. This is important to all students, but it’s probably most important to upperclassmen. Of course, it can be difficult for the incoming sophomores who could get stuck in the barren wasteland of East Quad while gazing longingly at the lucky suckers in Skyline. However, there is a lot more on the line for incoming juniors and seniors on housing number day. It is the day when people find out if they will likely win the luxury of convenience next year or if they’ll be isolated in the treacherous town of Waltham. Or, you could be in that middle spot and by the time you find out about your isolation, you’ll be left with scraps of housing.

Losing the housing lottery means that you could find yourself half an hour away from the place where you spend most of your time, and without a car, find yourself needing to trudge up this hilly town if you miss the once-every-40-minutes shuttle. While this is not the scenario for everyone, the majority of upperclassmen are left to live off campus, separated from Brandeis and campus life.

There was a time where Brandeis was known for housing students on campus for all four years of their undergraduate education. Obviously, they could not hold everyone, but they helped more people and granted a lot more students the hope of a brighter future. That is no longer the case. Last year, upperclassman students were given numbers from 1201 to 2700. By the time the lottery schedule got to around 1600, virtually all of the housing was gone. Due to the expectation that most upperclassmen would have been guaranteed housing, panic set over campus as students suddenly found themselves unhoused. This caused unnecessary stress, only adding to the usual challenges that students faced during the ramp-up to finals season. 

All this to say, Brandeis’ campus needs housing and/or a better system for upperclassman housing. It is also only going to get worse this year, as the incoming junior class is quite large. This means there are going to be a lot more upperclassmen this upcoming year than there are now, and with them, much faster filling-up of housing. The future appears to be going downhill, both figuratively and literally considering the layout of Waltham.

Presumably due to this incoming large pool of juniors, the university has made the decision to no longer have senior-specific housing. In previous years, the Foster Mods housing was considered to be a “wet quad,” which would limit its possible residents largely to seniors. With this, seniors previously had a safety net in housing selection. While the Foster Mods may not be the nicest option, it is still right at the edge of campus and a lot easier to get to campus than most off-campus housing. This year, though, Foster Mods are mixed into all housing. This means that housing for everyone—including incoming seniors—will go by even quicker. Notably, this means that rising seniors will not have sole access to Foster Mods when picking housing for this year, and will have to share this option with the rest of the undergraduate population.

Granted, it’s important to consider that the situation could be worse. There are some colleges that are located in big expensive cities, so off campus housing would be a lot more expensive than it would be in Waltham. There are also some colleges that do not have much off campus housing in the area, so their available off campus housing could be even farther than what is available by Brandeis. These are all nice considerations that we should be grateful for. However, that does not mean we can have a little annoyance at the system, as a treat. The lottery system may be “fair,” but it often leads to frustration and stress among all students.

For students with accommodations, this process can be even more frustrating. Obtaining accommodations is largely dependent on housing numbers, meaning that a student who really needs a specific accommodation may be out of luck if they get unlucky in the lottery. To us here at The Hoot, that’s not right. We feel that there should be some sort of separate policy to make it better for students who need accommodations: their comfort and ability to access campus safely should not just be based on the numbers. These are people who need specific housing, so they should be considered with a higher priority.

In some ways, off campus housing can prepare for the real world. After graduation, we will (unfortunately) not be coddled by dorm living and prepaid dining forever. In some ways, we should step out in the real world. However, it can understandably feel safe and stable to be near our classes, our meals and our activities. When off campus, there is less of an incentive to spend time on campus, and that can take away from the college experience. College is a community, but some of that community can be broken off when students are spread off campus. We do acknowledge that it is not fair to expect Brandeis to house every single student that goes to this school. Nevertheless, there should be a better and more fair system for those with accommodations in place, as well as a way to get more students on campus so that more people can be brought together—even though that type of thing might not be figured out until all current students graduate.

Until then, however, we as a student body should accept that, at least for the time being, Brandeis isn’t a university where you should expect to live on campus as an upperclassman. A word of advice to rising juniors and seniors: be sure to have the option of being off campus in your back pocket even if your goal is to live on campus.

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