Students and Residents Express Concerns Over Northeast Dorm Expansion

At a meeting hosted by the Boston Planning and Development Agency on February 16, members of the public were able to ask questions and voice concerns about the northeast plan to add approximately 900 beds to rooms in the East Village, or EV, and International Village, or IV, residence halls.

Northeastern released the plan in October 2021 to address an ongoing on-campus housing shortage after an over-acceptance of students led to a record freshman class of 4,504 studentsnot to mention those of the NUin and NU Bound programs. Previous classes have not exceeded 3,300 in recent years.

“Last year’s admissions performance was unplanned and unexpected, resulting in an additional 1,000 freshmen,” said Viktorija Abolina, associate vice president of campus planning and real estate at Northeastern. “Pent-up demand due to COVID postponements and withdrawals has resulted in what we call a ‘bulge year.'”

After the proposal was made public, it was subject to a public comment period, which ended on November 4, 2021. Following the February 16 public meeting, Northeastern will seek approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency, or BPDA, board on March 10, and according to the plan, the beds would be added to residence halls over the summer in preparation for the fall 2022 semester.

Many students have raised concerns about the feasibility of this plan with respect to the physical space, especially as it may impact the mental health of the student occupants.

“I understand this is a very tight housing situation, and it’s important to get students out of the surrounding neighborhoods, but it seems like a very poor choice to have so many students sharing this space” , Luke Saville, a 2020 Northeast graduate and former IV resident, said at the meeting.

Northeast alumnus Luke Saville posts a photo of a single dorm in the International Village. Saville wondered if it would be fair for the students to reduce their living space by doubling the furniture in many rooms in the residence hall. Photo courtesy of BPDA.

Saville showed meeting attendees photos of a single IV dorm. Furniture and a resident’s personal effects took up most of the space, and there was little extra room.

“How can you expect students to have an environment that is conducive to their ability to study and maintain their sanity, especially freshmen who will have no idea what to expect in this domain ?” he said.

Parents at the meeting also raised similar concerns, given that the reduced living space is not what they expected when their students committed to Northeastern.

“The kids all feel like they’re stuck. The feeling from the families really feels like bait and switch,” Vanessa Ignacio, a parent of a first-year student living in Hastings Hall, said at the meeting. . “I understand that dorms aren’t meant to be giant luxury accommodations, … but this pushes the boundaries of what should really be acceptable. I don’t know how these kids will have enough space to study, enough space to store their things, not to mention a modicum of privacy from time to time.

Representatives from the North East explained that many rooms were originally built to accommodate double or triple rooms, but were used as single or double rooms when the student population was lower.

“We sent the people who spend the most time working in the residential dorms through these buildings to look at the rooms to see which ones were actually sized to be able to become a single to a double,” said Kathy Spiegelman, the vice -President and Head of Campus Planning and Development at Northeastern. “Some of them are too small to [add extra beds]this is why not every single becomes a double and every double becomes a triple.

Beyond the issues raised regarding capacity and mental health, students employed as resident assistants, or RAs, fear that housing more than 200 additional VE students and 500 additional IV students will increase their workload. beyond their capacity.

University officials were quick to confirm that their plan is to hire additional staff to maintain the current AR-to-student ratio.

“We evaluate the ratios every year just to make sure students get the support and attention the programming needs,” said Chong Kim-Wong, vice chancellor and dean of students at Northeastern. “We are not going to change that. If we need to add more RA to ensure we are able to support our students, we will, and we assess this every year.

Many members of the surrounding Boston community, alongside members of the Boston City Council, have raised concerns that the increase in student numbers will lead to an increase in the number of students living off campus.

“We are keenly aware that North East students are both our neighbors and members of our community, and I am proud to represent many of them at Mission Hill and Fenway, and also that, as we know and has long been established, there is a direct housing pressure on our neighborhoods,” said Kenzie Bok, the Councilman for District 8. “This is a very important meeting for our office. We’ve been watching this unexpected surge with concern and trying to figure out how to think about the impacts on the neighborhood not just for the year ahead, but for years to come, given the swell in this class.

University officials stressed that this approach to the housing issue would help mitigate the negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods. By adding beds to existing buildings, no construction would take place. Community members also expressed hope that the additional living space would reduce the number of students leaving university accommodation to live in off-campus buildings.

“I think we all have to recognize that we’re between a rock and a hard place here,” said Richard Giordano, director of policy and community planning at Fenway Community Development Corporation. “I appreciate and hear all the concerns and issues raised by the students in the dorms and by the parents. On the other hand, I think we unfortunately don’t have good alternatives. … I understand the issues of security and dormitory capacity, but your alternative is to have overcrowding and madness in the neighborhoods.

University officials explained that Northeastern is committed to returning to a normal class size as soon as possible to minimize overcrowding on campus and prevent more students than usual from migrating to neighborhoods. surrounding.

“For next year we are aiming for 2,500 because we want to respond to what happened last year and the additional students. This fall there were about 4,300 freshmen who ended up with us in the fall, and next year we hope that number will be 2,500, and in the future we hope to return to 3,500,” Spiegelman said.

Northeastern is seeking approval for these additional beds by March 10, and community members and students remain hopeful that they will ensure the final plan addresses comments and concerns raised at this public meeting.

“It’s probably one of the toughest, but honest and most helpful meetings we’ve had,” Giordano said. “It’s not an easy fix here, but I really appreciate everything that’s been put together. I hope people will respond to the comments. There have been a lot of great ideas.”

Comments are closed.