GW housing officials said they were aware in October of the University’s decision to require sophomores to live on campus with a large number of possible exceptions, but students found out at least two months later. RHA President Noel Frame said she knew in December about the new requirement but did not know many students would be excluded until she came back from winter break.
In order to comply with a Board of Zoning Adjustment ruling passed in March, the University will require all sophomores to live on campus next year. But GW also created a special exception for students that allows them exemption for any reason, including financial difficulties, allergies or religious conflicts.
Jan-Mitchell Sherrill, associate dean of students, said he was told about the new requirement in late September or early October and does not think Frame was left out of the loop.
“I think Noel had not expected that we were going to have to go through with the new requirement,” Sherill said, referring to provisions in the Campus Plan passed in March.
“I don’t think Noel was kept in the dark,” Sherrill said. “We had been talking about what in fact we should have in place for sophomores and freshmen all along, so it wasn’t brandnew.”
Sherrill said the idea was first discussed a year ago when the University began talking about the Campus Plan.
“We knew for sure going we were going to do it sometime this fall . late September or early October,” Sherrill said.
Frame said she was notified of the sophomore housing requirement the first week of December. She notified The Hatchet at that time so that students could be made aware of the changes.
Frame said Andrew Sonn, associate director of housing services, decided to inform students as part of housing selection information to be sent out in the next few weeks. A letter to parents was discussed but never sent.
“We knew that we would tell students as soon as we knew,” Sherrill said. “It all happened pretty quickly, one right after the other.”
Frame said she was aware of new requirements in the Campus Plan – which requires GW to house all sophomores on campus by fall 2001 and house 70 percent of undergraduates by fall 2003 – but assumed GW was ignoring the sophomore requirement because there had been no effort before to comply with it.
Sherrill said the new exemptions are a way for GW to phase in the sophomore requirement so that GW can comply with it by fall 2003. He said GW officials told him there could be a sizeable “carve out,” or percentage of students exempt of the rule, before GW tightened the requirement next year.
Housing officials predict the new sophomore rule will have little or no effect on who lives on or off campus.
The proportion of students who elect to live off campus next year will likely be similar with past years, Sherrill said. Last year about 800 freshmen opted out of the housing lottery. This year’s class is about 300 students larger than last year. Sherrill also said that he is hopeful the University will not have to purchase more beds to house students.
Sherrill cited some reasons why sophomores might need to live off campus.
“If (students) have to work more hours (to afford an apartment), it would have an impact on their studies,” he said.
Students expressed frustration about finding out about housing changes late in the semester.
Freshman Ricky Yoselevitz was excited to live off campus next year.
“I had already put my name on the Columbia Plaza list, and we had a house lined up. They shouldn’t have told us that late,” he said.
“The RHA has made it clear that it is unacceptable for the University to let the RHA know of the change that late,” Frame said.
Sherrill said that if the beds in the Elliott school are included in housing selection as planned, 197 beds would be available to students. Assuming the complex in complete, Sherrill said, GW will not need to buy any more beds as long as the freshman class does not exceed 2,250. But he said admissions numbers “always surprise me,” an indication that GW is more popular than admissions official think. This year’s class of 2,500 students was 300 students more than planned.
The BZA exemption form in future years will apply to commuters, married students and those with children, disabled students, and those whose religious life is incompatible with campus life. The form currently is expanded to include students who wish to live off-campus for “financial reasons” or anything else students deem a conflict.
This year, anyone who wants to have housing will receive it through the guaranteed waiting list, but it “may not be in the most timely manner,” said Frame, citing last summer’s additions of City Hall and Pennsylvania House.
“We are hoping not to have a waiting list this year,” Frame said.
A large goal of the RHA is to help the senior class to not “suffer again this year, because they have for the past two years,” she said.