Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

High Rise 5 has seen its lounges converted into quintuple rooms following modified housing assignments.

August 20, 2023

Over a Hundred On-Campus Residents Face Crowded Living Conditions

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When Gabriela Goncalves Vieira ’27 was told on July 13 that she would be placed in a double room converted to hold three students, rather than the traditional two-person double she had requested, she felt discouraged about her first year of college, knowing that she would have to adapt to an issue that she viewed as preventable.

“I cannot grasp the fact that [Cornell administration] did not organize themselves properly or well enough to fit and accommodate everybody in their housing system,” Goncalves Vieira said in an interview with The Sun that occurred prior to Cornell move-in.

Goncalves Vieira said that she and the roommate she had originally chosen were worried about having enough space in their dorm room and about having a roommate that they had not previously met.

Goncalves Vieira is not the only one impacted by on-campus housing adjustments. Approximately 130 students, mostly first-years, were assigned rooms with more students than the intended layout — including student lounges converted into rooms, Karen Brown, senior director of campus life marketing and communications, said in an Aug. 4 email statement to The Sun. At the time of the email, Brown said that the number of impacted students would decrease over the following few weeks as housing adjustments were made.

“If, during the course of the academic year, space becomes available, we will ask the third student assigned to the room to relocate into a new assignment,” stated Kristen Loparco, director of Housing and Dining Contracts in a July 13 email obtained by The Sun from affected students. “We will be doing everything possible to reassign your third roommate to an available space prior to move-in.”

In a Aug. 22 email, deputy director of Cornell’s media relations office Lindsey Knewstub provided an update that as of Aug. 21, there are only 21 students who are currently residing in converted lounge spaces. “Cornell is continuing the effort to relocate these students,” she said.

An adjustment occurred early on for Rishi Shah ’27, who had also been placed in a forced triple, or a room meant for two students converted to a triple. On July 27, Shah was notified that he was switched from the temporary space back to a single, which was his original request.

Shah told The Sun that when he was placed in a forced triple, it added “fuel to the fire” after receiving a lower financial aid package than he expected and waiting over 60 days for a response to his appeal. He also said that the class registration website crashed throughout his pre-enroll process, which meant that many of the courses he planned to register for were full once he had the ability to complete class enrollment.

“Obviously Cornell has a pretty bad reputation in terms of mental health, [and] people always attribute a lot of problems to the administration,” Shah said. “And I guess I got to see that firsthand before I even officially became a student or stepped foot on campus.”

William Rosenthal ’27, who was interviewed by The Sun after move-in, said his friend was placed in a lounge space converted into a dorm room, shared with four other individuals. The day after his friend moved in, though, two members of the space were already switched out.

Brown said that Cornell Housing and Residential Life accommodates approximately 8,500 undergraduate students in on-campus housing, meaning that impacted students represent approximately 1.53 percent of the on-campus housing population.

Modifications of housing spaces include converting rooms typically used as doubles into triples and vice versa and converting lounge spaces into housing spaces, according to Brown. Brown said that this year, affected buildings include Low Rise Six, High Rise Five, Jameson Hall, Just About Music and Holland International Living Center — selected as the most readily adaptable buildings.

In an Aug. 22 email, Knewstub clarified that the forced triple rooms were originally designed to house three residents “comfortably,” but in recent years were converted to double occupancy.

Rosenthal, who was placed in a forced triple, said that he was concerned about having ample living space after being assigned a forced triple, although he was excited to meet new people.

“I was upset, but only because I knew that Cornell just made [around] two or three brand new residence halls,” Rosenthal said. “So I was [thinking], they should have more than enough space.”

Starting fall 2022, Cornell has mandated all first-year and sophomore students to reside in on-campus or University-affiliated housing, a policy partially made possible with Cornell’s North Campus Residential Expansion. Previously, only first-year students were required to live on campus.

Now that Rosenthal has moved in, though, he said he is very comfortable with the amount of space he has. The room comfortably fits three closets, three desks and bunk beds, Rosenthal said.

These housing modifications are not out of the ordinary, Brown said.

“Adjustments in housing at the start of the semester are very common and occurred almost every fall semester pre-Covid,” Brown said. “Accommodation space on campus is configured to provide flexibility and allow for changes based on needs.”

This year, Brown said, the Cornell Housing office decided to make interim adjustments to on-campus housing spaces due to a larger-than-anticipated incoming class size. The Cornell University Class of 2023 profile stated that 3,218 fall freshmen were expected to enroll.

In future years, the need for adjusted housing could potentially occur, Brown said. According to Brown, the addition of the North Campus Residential Expansion residences and the reopening of a portion of Balch Hall next academic year, however, will provide more space for on-campus housing.

In an email to students on May 1, 2023, Housing and Residential Life announced housing selection changes for the 2023-2024 academic year including facilitating upperclassmen on-campus housing selection in the fall, providing continued-occupancy opportunities for upperclassmen and establishing more beds for upperclassmen on-campus housing. This year, already approximately 300 more upperclassmen students were able to live on campus than expected.

Brown said that students placed in triples will be billed for a triple occupancy rate for the 2023 fall semester, which is $5,318 compared to the double occupancy rate of $5,781, regardless of when students are switched to a double room. Impacted students will also enjoy priority second-year housing selection, according to Brown.

“There’s not much more that I can ask for [from] the school than to try to solve the issue as soon as possible,” Goncalves Vieira said. “I feel like [the reduced cost and priority housing selection are] an understandable compensation. I feel like they’re handling [the situation] pretty well. But it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck.”

Affected students with questions about their housing situation can contact the Housing and Residential Life Office at [email protected] or 607-255-5368.

Clarification, Aug. 22, 12:26 p.m.: This article has been updated to provide the number of students affected as of Aug. 21. A clarification was also added about the size of the forced triple rooms.