Demand swells for group-based housing assignments

An unexpected 1,200 students applied to live in groups through affinity housing during the next academic year.

The University accommodated all 100 applications for joint housing, an option dominated by rising sophomores. The groups were notified of their placements last week, Director of Housing Seth Weinshel said, adding that affinity clusters were placed in more than a dozen residence halls.

Affinity housing – introduced last fall – will effectively replace Living and Learning Cohorts, which were nixed as a housing option for the 2012-2013 academic year in the Center for Student Engagement’s effort to cut superfluous spending and programming.

The groups will fill Building JJ and the Dakota – space previously given to LLCs – but not more than half of any other residence hall. Affinity groups will have a presence in “nearly all” sophomore residence halls, as well as Ivory Tower, City Hall and 1959 E Street, Weinshel said.

Affinity housing allows groups of 10 or more students each with GPAs above 2.0 to apply for clustered rooms before the regular housing assignment portal opens. Unlike LLCs, which supplied a budget to students with a designated learning goal and required them to host activities to live together, affinity housing’s purpose is to provide a communal living option for students who want to stay with groups larger than one room.

“We were a little surprised that it was that many [applicants], but it was a pleasant surprise,” Weinshel said, calling affinity housing a tool for “community building.”

Weinshel said the increased demand for group housing will not limit the options available to students who apply for regular housing.

Weinshel also said the group arrangements would not disrupt the Center for Student Engagement’s class year-based housing model, which is currently in its inaugural year and depends largely on addressing the specific needs of students by class.

Last summer, the CSE absorbed the University’s housing office, breaking its employees into four class year-specific teams that oversee house staff and coordinate programming catered to the needs of residents by class year.

The few affinity groups composed of students of different academic years were placed in the Dakota and Building JJ to minimize disturbance of housing programs, he said.

“We stuck to the class year intentionally, in order to support the CSE model,” Weinshel said.

Participating students hail from registered student organizations, similar academic tracks and social groups, Weinshel said, citing clusters for Greek chapters, the Muslim Student Association and the current residents of a floor in Madison Hall.

“I think what we know is we don’t have enough Greek housing to accommodate all the chapters that want it,” Weinshel said. He added that the University will continue to look for ways to accommodate members of sororities and fraternities “if demand continues to show.”

“For me, the success of affinity is the opportunity to give students what they really care about, which is to live together. This made it less important for us to keep doing the LLCs,” Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller said.

Weinshel hopes to computerize affinity assignments next year, instead of manually placing each group in a residence hall, as was done this year.

“We’re trying to figure out how to operationalize it a little better,” he said.

About 500 students currently live in affinity housing and LLCs, Weinshel said. He noticed that many of the current LLC groups re-applied as affinity groups for next year, but did not have exact data on how many.

Students can choose to reject the assignment, delivered before the normal application process is over, and still apply for housing through the iHousing portal.

The housing application portal closes Monday for rising sophomores and March 5 for upperclassmen.

Sonya Gould, a rising sophomore who will live with an affinity group in West End next year, said she chose the option because of the closeness of her floor in Thurston.

“I don’t mind the new affinity program versus the LLC program because I can’t think of any reason my particular affinity would need funding from the University,” she said. “It was a weight off our shoulders to not have to create a learning goal.”

Chelsea Radler contributed to this report.

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