December 1, 2015

EDITORIAL: Addressing Student Housing at Cornell

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A number of recent changes in Cornell’s current supply of dormitories will likely exacerbate the long-standing housing issues facing the campus and Collegetown: steep rent, increasingly low vacancy rates and an annual frenzy to acquire housing for the following year. Last week, the University showcased plans to renovate Hughes Hall from dormitories, which currently house first-year law students, to administrative and event spaces. The decrease in available and affordable housing on campus will require action from the University before the housing crisis becomes even more detrimental for Cornell and Ithaca.

The renovations for Hughes Hall, which were planned as part of a larger, long-term renovation of the law school, will remove 47 dormitory rooms from Cornell. Additionally, with the Maplewood Park Apartments closing at the end of this academic year for reconstruction, another 480 beds will be temporarily eliminated. While the rebuilding of the Maplewood site will likely yield an increase in housing for graduate and professional students over time, the short-term consequences cannot be ignored. The loss of housing for a few years, with an overall trend in increasing student enrollment, highlights a need to address the lack of housing for students on and off-campus as soon as possible.

Fortunately, the administration aims to launch an examination of Cornell’s current residential and student life, which will be spearheaded by Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life. The study, according to administrators, will seek to determine what the University’s strengths and weaknesses are in regards to housing, and will then outline avenues through which those concerns can be remedied — likely through Cornell’s next major capital fundraising campaign. An evaluation of this caliber is long over-due, and if it succeeds, a roadmap will likely be created as to solve the problems surrounding living at Cornell.

While this could lead to a long-term solution, students will likely suffer in the short-term if no action is taken by the University to address the decrease in housing. With the loss of these dorms, more students will likely be forced into the already saturated Collegetown market, which could result in higher prices for students and Ithacans alike.