March 1, 2006

Undergrads Move to Hasbrouck; Grads Act

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Hasbrouck Apartments, currently a graduate living center, will become available housing for undergraduates next year. Yesterday, the families living in the center protested the decision, announced Monday, in a public forum for the Hasbrouck community.

“This is not only a house for us, it is a home” said Hasbrouck resident Gutierrez Mayte before they forum started. “It is a community: we have gatherings, potlucks and opportunities to interact. Now, everything is changing.”

Three members of Campus Life were at the meeting to defend and explain their decision: Sharron Thrasher, Ph.D., director of Student Affairs and Diversity, Barbara Romano, director Residential Services, and Brenda Wickes, Graduate Residential Manager.

The decision was based on ongoing vacancy problems in the apartments and a need for more undergraduate housing. With the construction on West Campus, there will be fewer beds for undergraduates to sleep in.

Hasbrouck Apartments has historically been a housing complex only for graduate students. The complex was designed to accommodate families, and, as of this year, only family/partner households have been allowed to live there. The residents live in the apartments year-round, and many last night mentioned the “community atmosphere” that they cherish in the apartments.

One of the issues that upset the residents is the way in which they learned about the decision. Campus Life did not directly inform the residents, rather, they learned about it through an advertisement in Monday’s Cornell Daily Sun. According to Thrasher, this was the result “a breakdown in communication,” which she regretted.

Residents also took objection to the Campus Life’s claim that the Hasbrouck Apartments complex has vacancy problems. Many said that they knew of graduate students who would like to live in the complex, and that they wish they could have been asked to help fill the vacancies.

However, according to Thrasher, the vacancy problems are very real. She said that there is a 30 percent vacancy rate, and that currently, 26 out of about 198 units are empty.

Many of the people at the forum took objection to the 30 percent vacancy. Campus Life counts apartments inhabited by post-Docs and visiting professors as empty.

Thrasher said “time issues” lead to the high vacancy rates. Campus Life reserves rooms for graduate students who often choose to not accept the rooms due to financial or academic reasons. By the time Cornell learns of the student’s decision not to occupy, the school year has already started, and it is more difficult for Cornell to find a replacement. Undergraduates have a more consistent schedule, so they do not pose the same problem.

Money was another issue discussed. Many in attendance wondered aloud if the decision was made, at least in part, because undergraduates pay more for housing than graduate students.

Thrasher did not deny that Cornell would gain financially by moving undergraduates into Hasbrouck Apartments, but she did stress that there are truly not enough beds for undergraduates.

“It is a bed issue,” Thrasher said.

The residents were also concerned about the undergraduate lifestyle. There are young children living in the complex and many were afraid the children would see inappropriate behavior related to this lifestyle. One woman asked, “How can you make sure there are no parties, drugs and drinking?”

Thrasher responded that the board’s decision to only accept seniors was a conscious move to attract more mature students. She also mentioned that there would be a staff board and an advisory committee of Hasbrouck residents to regulate the students.

Wickes added that the undergraduates who move in to the complex will have to sign a contract that holds them “to the same standards, and, in some cases, stricter standards” as the residents of the complex.”

She also added that, as of yet, no undergraduates have even volunteered to move in.

Throughout the meeting, Thrasher, Wickes and Romano stressed that they would try to take all of the residents’ concerns and recommendations into consideration. While they said they had the authority to change the decision, they did not say whether they would.

The housing placements will occur on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. By Saturday, any contracts placing undergraduates in the apartment will be signed. So, as Wickes said afterwards, “if there are any changes, they will have to be made fast.”

Archived article by Lauren Hirsch
Sun Staff Writer