Arbor Update

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Royster, Families Square off on Housing

26. July 2004 • Ari Paul
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Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper and the University administration stand firm on their anti-family housing agenda. The Michigan Daily reports:

Three-year-old Wesley Olson held up a sign that read: “I was born in Northwood II,” while his mother, Renee Olson, pushed him along in a stroller and tried to keep up with the rest of the protesters.

Wesley and his mom joined a crowd of more than 100 residents of Family Housing who marched throughout Central Campus Friday. The protesters voiced their opposition to the relocation of undergraduates to three of the Northwood apartment complexes that are currently home to families and some single graduate students.

“I have been very involved with Resident Housing … and I feel like they’ve lied to us,” said Olson, who now resides in NW IV.

  1. It’s a difficult time for people who have to move, and for people who are getting new neighbors unexpectedly. I sympathize for people whose living arrangements are changing.

    Still, I’m not sure how families have the moral high ground here. They’re saying upperclassmen should be pushed off campus, even if there are vacancies in Family Housing. I don’t think that’s a sound proposal, nor very fair to upperclassmen who had a very real wish to live in campus housing.

    In an ideal world, you could keep families and undergrads completely separate, every year. In an extraordinary year with a big freshman class, with budget problems to boot, I don’t think University can provide the ideal.

    I’m also confused about this point: If Family Housing is so in demand, why is it that there were vacancies for families (and undergrads) to be moved into?
       —Gatling Gogh    Jul. 26 '04 - 02:49PM    #
  2. They’re moving families who had been in Northwood I-III to IV and V, which are larger and (usually) more expensive units; displacing families from the more affordable units in I-III. The families are getting a larger space for the same price, which is nice, but this presents an equity problem—why should some folks get big apartments cheaper? It also means, if the future, the more affordable options for families won’t be available because those units will be occupied by undergrads.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 26 '04 - 03:15PM    #
  3. “why should some folks get big apartments cheaper?”

    The rationale given by the Housing office sufficed for me: these people are agreeing to move, at some inconvenience to them. They’re doing the U a favor, which one could argue calls for some consideration.

    Someone also pointed out that they signed their leases with a specific expectation about rent, and it might be a personal hardship to pay more.

    There are families in Northwood IV and V who have exactly what they want—the housing they asked for, still families-only, at the rent that was originally agreed upon in their contract. Nothing has changed for them. They are not being inconvenienced or harmed in any way. Their claims of injustice (“someone is getting an apartment just like mine, but is paying less!”) don’t stir the same sympathy as some of the other concerns expressed.
       —Gatling Gogh    Jul. 27 '04 - 01:18PM    #
  4. In the short term, it’s not entirely unjust, I agree. It will eliminate a more affordable option for future campus families, however.

    Mostly, I think this move just shows how poorly the U has planned for increasing enrollments. They haven’t built any new housing in over 30 years! Filling slum-lord pockets and encouraging skyrocketing resitdentail property values has been the effect.

    I remember there being a undergrad housing shortage here before I transferred to U of M as an undergrad—and that was over 5 years ago. The shortage of housing was entirely predictable. Either this move has been planned for some time or the administration has had a glaring blind spot for at least a decade.
       —Scott Trudeau    Jul. 27 '04 - 05:52PM    #
  5. Yes, I think you’ve hit on the important issue.

    It seems to me that at U-M, Student Affairs (and all its divisions) hasn’t really had a place at the table when it comes to decision-making or long-term planning.

    Enrollment has creeping up a bit over the past few years (this year was really a weird year, not planned) but it’s my sense that many in the administration would like Michigan to be a little smaller, enrollment-wise.

    Of course, enrollment isn’t what really drives Housing occupancy and availability—it’s the number of upperclassmen and graduate students who want to live on campus housing, and whether Housing can (or wants to) accommodate them. I don’t know enough about Housing to know where they stand on this, policy-wise. From a budget standpoint, they need to go for 100% occupancy, which probably argues for overbooking upperclassmen and then gently encouraging some to give up their contract if cancellations don’t meet expectations (or the freshman class exceeds target).

    A few years ago I know they wanted to make a case for Housing being important for recruitment and retention (either for residence hall improvements, or a new residence hall, or both), but I don’t know if they pitched it to the Regents or if the Regents bought it. I am sure that this year’s crisis will put the issue on the radar screen.
       —Gatling Gogh    Jul. 28 '04 - 11:38AM    #