At the beginning of this semester, nearly all of the student lounges in Jameson and High Rise 5 were converted into temporary housing for 30 transfer students.
Due to an exceptionally high demand for housing among incoming residents, the transfer students were told to move into seven of the 10 lounges in the two buildings — some crowding with four of their peers to live in a single lounge — according to Mark H. Anbinder, web communications manager for Cornell Housing.
These students’ residential advisors, when contacted by The Sun, had been instructed not to speak to the press about the housing shortage.
When these transfer students were notified about their living arrangements, they were also told they would be moved out as soon as possible, according to Tigran Mehrabyan ’19. He was not relocated to the Just About Music program house until the second week of classes, and some students have yet to move.
“We were told on move-in day that we would be moved out ASAP,” Mehrabyan said. “So I didn’t even unpack my clothes and just lived out of a suitcase.”
Anbinder said there are currently 10 transfer students still living in freshman lounges, and that the University intends to move all of them out by December. However, the process of moving out has also sparked student complaints. Students are obligated to accept their new housing arrangements, even if they do not want to live in the new dormitory they have been assigned to, according to Mehrabyan.
“Moving to JAM is pretty pricey, and I actually don’t play any music or sing, so I spend a lot of extra money that I’m paying out of pocket for resources I don’t use,” he said. “I will probably move somewhere else after this semester or send an email to the housing program after … all of the transfer students are moved somewhere and there are empty dorms for students.”
Kelaiah George ’19, who has not yet been moved out of a lounge yet, added that communication from the housing office throughout the semester has been noticeably poor.
“It was annoying because we didn’t get any updates from anybody, which is the least [the housing office] could do,” George said. “The only information we have is what we’re hearing from the people living in the other lounge.”
Meanwhile, many residents of Jameson and High Rise 5 — in both temporary and normal housing — have been living with the inconveniences of hosting several additional people on each floor, all sharing bathrooms.
Anne Kim ’19, a student currently staying on the second floor of Jameson, explained that she and her roommates need to share bathrooms with another suite.
“We have to share with other suites, and there are two girls’ bathrooms on the floor so it’s not that bad, but it’s definitely not normal,” Kim said.
George also complained that the lounge is too small to accommodate five people.
“We were supposed to have five girls in our suite, but one of them got moved to West before we moved in,” George said. “When we found that out, we asked maintenance to at least move the fifth set of furniture out, and they said they couldn’t do anything. There’s no room. We are literally on top of each other and if they had moved it, we would’ve had more space.”
However, the biggest complaint from both transfer students and other freshmen in the dormitories concerned the impact the arrangement has had on their social lives.
“One drawback is that North Campus is all freshmen, so it’s hard to meet people in your grade,” Kim said. “Especially as a transfer, you don’t know a ton of people coming in. All the other transfers are living on West Campus and we can’t really meet them.”
Scott Semaya ’20, who lives in Jameson, explained that the lack of a usable lounge also makes it more difficult for freshmen in regular housing to socialize.
“Not having the lounge prevents us from meeting other people on the floor,” Semaya said. “I’ve met people on the Skylounge but not a lot of people go there.”
The University has frequently used temporary living arrangements like these throughout the past nine years, according to Anbinder.
“Eight out of the last nine years, we’ve used some amount of lounge space as temporary housing at the beginning of the fall semester,” he said. “We always know there are more students interested in living on campus than we have available space for, and this is one of the ways that we’ve managed that imbalance as best we can.”
Anbinder said that this year, the transfer students who were placed in these lounge-converted rooms were selected based on when they applied for housing.
“Some were those who applied after the July 1 deadline,” he said. “Of course, some students apply after the deadline because they’ve been taken off a waitlist and [have] been told they were accepted after that deadline, so it’s not necessarily anyone’s ‘fault’ that they applied late.”
Andrew Shao ’19, who currently lives in a lounge in Jameson, said he is still uncertain about “the exact system” through which housing in lounges is assigned.
“Some of us submitted our housing applications late,” he said. “We were told that all traditional housing spots had filled up.”
George added that she “definitely got [the housing application] done in late May or early June.”
The University plans to continue emptying the lounges student by student as spots in other dormitories open up, according to Anbinder.
“In most cases, rooms or beds become available when students take a leave of absence from the University for personal, academic or health reasons,” he said. “We have moved students as space has become available.”