GW searches for space on crowded campus

With GW recently recapturing a berth in U.S. News & World Report‘s list of the top 50 universities in the nation, more students may flock to GW for an education.

But, with more students on the way to a campus where students are living in study lounges, administrators and students could face a space crunch.

“There is not an easy answer,” said Residence Hall Association President Justin Lavella. “It’s not nice to be tight.”

Linda Donnels, associate vice president for Student and Academic Support Services and dean of students, said the residence halls are not over-crowded but simply occupied. She said campus housing has not reached full capacity yet but is where it should be right now.

“The goal in housing is to have all of the spaces filled,” Donnels said.

Freshmen and sophomores are guaranteed housing on campus. Students who choose to live on campus are given random numbers for the February lottery, with rising seniors receiving the lowest lottery numbers and rising sophomores the highest numbers. Upperclassmen pick housing first, though they are not guaranteed on-campus housing.

Donnels said administrators will examine the housing policy this year.

The housing lottery system changed in 1996, when the in-hall lottery system was abolished. The system permitted residents of a hall to stake a claim on a room in that hall for the following year. Residents who did not want to live in the same hall the next year would be put into the larger lottery pool.

The abolition of the in-hall lottery did not completely alleviate the housing problem but shortened the waiting list, Lavella said.

While some students choose to leave campus if they are placed on the waiting list, Lavella said others leave campus for financial reasons and the autonomy of living off campus, free from University housing regulations.

“The lottery system never restricts people from being on campus longer,” Lavella said.

Students are more interested in living in on-campus housing because of the proximity and amenities, Donnels said.

She said the University will account for the trend when it formulates long-term plans, which still are in the early stages.

Bob Ludwig, a public affairs specialist in the Office of University Relations, said the University will construct a new residence hall similar to New Hall within the next two to three years. Neither a site nor funding has been located, Ludwig said.

The University’s urban locale often makes it difficult to build more rooms to accommodate growth. Plans also need community support and approval, Ludwig said.

“Because of the tight situation with residents on campus, we are always looking at the possibilities,” he said. “We also are located in an urban environment where space is a premium. When we do get some space, we try to evaluate our needs and residential housing is always a need.”

Al Ingle, associate vice president for business affairs, said administrators have some ideas for funding a new residence hall. Ingle said funding for the hall would be equivalent to that of New Hall – $22 million, possibly more because of increased building costs over the next two to three years.

Possible locations include the site across the street from the planned site of the new health and wellness center at 23rd and G streets, as well as the site of the old hospital at 23rd and I streets, Ingle said. Ingle said a new campus plan to be released by the end of 2000 likely will include a new residence hall.

“That would be the most immediate (plan),” he said.

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