August 25, 2000

Housing Overflow Sparks Controversy

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While most members of the Class of 2003 have settled into their dorm rooms, 60 freshmen in North Campus high rises continue to live in makeshift quarters. Faced with a shortage of rooms, Campus Life has temporarily placed freshmen who sent in their housing contracts late in the lounges of High Rise 5 and Jameson Hall.

But Jason H. Fane, Collegetown landlord and owner of the apartment complexes Collegetown Center and Collegetown Plaza, has challenged the legality of the University’s actions.

In a letter sent yesterday to Ithaca Building Commissioner Phyllis Radke, Fane, under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act, requested information concerning possible Cornell code violations.

Fane initially asked whether or not the University holds a current Certificate of Compliance to use dorm lounges as bedrooms, but then raised the issue of noncompliance.

“If the lounges do not have a Certificate, have you issued a cease and desist order to Cornell University, and if not, why not?” he wrote.

Neither Fane nor Radke were available for comment. But Ithaca Mayor Alan J. Cohen ’81 clarified that Fane’s letter was not a correct Freedom of Information request.

“He isn’t asking for specific public records,” Cohen explained, “but we are not disregarding it.” The mayor declined to comment on Fane’s motives behind sending the letter.

Legally, the city cannot ignore any notification of a possible illegality, the mayor said. Therefore, Radke spoke to members of Campus Life today to inquire about the locations of temporary housing and to inform them of her intent to perform an inspection, according to Cohen.

Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president of Student and Academic Services, clarified that Cornell does not believe it is committing any housing code violations. “We wouldn’t have them there if we didn’t think it was legal,” she said, adding that the University was never challenged when it resorted to temporary housing in past years.

“Every student temporarily housed filed their application after the deadline,” Murphy noted. But she quickly acknowledged that this condition does not excuse the University from being unable to adequately house all freshmen.

Murphy stressed that the University has no intention of keeping the 60 freshmen in their present locations any longer than necessary.

“If history is a guide, we’d expect to reassign the students within the first two to three weeks of the semester,” Murphy said, expressing full confidence in the University’s ability to do so.

However, freshmen living in the lounges have mixed feelings about their introduction to residence hall life at Cornell.

Surrounded by an array of chairs and sofas, Erik Lombardo ’04 feels comfortable in the Jameson lounge he has shared with five other students for the past week. “The room’s big so it’s not crowded, and I’ve been fortunate in that I’m with five nice guys,” Lombardo said.

But for Lombardo, the negative aspects of his living situation were clear. Living without internet connections, Lombardo and others have not been able to organize their schedules or familiarize themselves with Bear Access. In addition, Campus Life neglected to provide the freshmen with telephones.

“It’s acceptable as a way-station, but not as permanent housing,” Lombardo said. In the week since the 60 freshmen moved into their temporary housing, Campus Life has postponed the given moving date for the students from three days to three weeks.

No one from either Campus Life or Day Hall has issued a written apology to the students. Lombardo said that his parents “wanted their money’s worth” and quickly pointed out the illegality of housing six students in a room without sprinklers or smoke alarms.

He added that the worst part will be relocating to a different residence hall. “I’ve made friends here and people are developing cliques,” he said.

Prospects for the move did not phase Ben Pelcyger ’04. “I’m pretty outgoing, and meeting new people doesn’t bother me,” he said.

Like Lombardo, Pelcyger enjoys his “huge” room with sofas, balcony and windows stretching from floor to ceiling. “I could definitely live here if it had Net access and a phone,” Pelcyger said. However, because of the imminent relocation, Pelcyger and others have not been able to fully unpack.

The 60 students were each given one set of drawers for clothes and no closets, according to Matthew Kusulas ’03, a resident advisor in Jameson. He noted that students have taken it upon themselves to create their own arrangements within each lounge.

“My floor seems to be having a lot of fun, and they’ve made some pretty interesting sculptures with the furniture.”

Combined, Jameson and High Rise 5 are intended to accommodate 384 beds. Lombardo said that in the future the University “shouldn’t overbook … this is not housing.”

Archived article by Ken Meyer