After completing an inspection of the North Campus High Rise dorms prompted by a letter from Collegetown landlord Jason Fane, Ithaca Building Commissioner Phyllis Radke determined yesterday that Cornell is not in violation for temporarily housing freshmen in student lounges.
"It's legal for them to stay where they are," Radke said. She explained that the University has purposely placed fewer people in the lounges than the housing codes allow.
In addition, the rooms have adequate lighting, vents, smoke alarms, and locks that comply with city codes, Radke noted.
Whether the 60 freshmen will relocate to permanent rooms in residential halls is now up to the University since after turning up no violations while inspecting the rooms, the city has no power to force evictions from the temporary locations.
Although Fane's letter inquiring into possible code violations did help prompt Monday's inspection, the visit was Radke's second to Cornell's temporary housing quarters during its three-year term of certificate of compliance with building code measures.
"Nothing is considered temporary in our book. There can't be a gray area because an accident can happen any time," Radke said. She explained that any room used as a living area must comply with the city housing code.
Peggy Beach, associate director of marketing for Campus Life, said that the University had no objection to Radke's inspection.
"We understand that the city has a need to follow up, and we're completely open to that," Beach said.
In the two and a half weeks since the Residence Halls opened, Campus Life has resettled more than half of the students placed in temporary housing.
"We have had good success placing the students on North Campus, West Campus, [and] in program houses," Beach said.
While the department has not set a deadline for relocating the remaining 25 freshmen, Beach said that Campus Life is striving to assign permanent rooms within the first two to three weeks of the semester.
She added that the freshmen are receiving discounts on their housing contracts while living in the lounges.
The University has housed freshmen in temporary quarters for the past three years due to consistent overenrollment, according to Beach. However, she noted that this is not intended as a permanent practice.
"Our goal is not to be in an overcapacity situation," she said.
In the past two years, in part aimed to remedy the overextended housing, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions now mails 800 fewer acceptances, Beach said.
"I know that Admissions tries hard to reach the target size for each freshman class," she added.
However, the Admissions Office cannot predict the yield on acceptances. This year, while the acceptance rate fell to 30 percent, the yield on offers of acceptance rose to 51 percent.
While it will not eliminate the need for temporary housing, the Residential Initiative will provide North Campus with a net gain of 300 beds when it is completed next fall.
Jean Reese, project leader for Residential Initiative, said that the new rooms will lessen the need for temporary housing.
But now that Campus Life is extending the housing guarantee to sophomores and transfer students, Reese and others must first address the new demand.
Archived article by Ken Meyer