The perpetual housing shortage at USF resurfaces with the start of a new school year and influx of new on campus residents. Overcapacity in the residence halls has been a matter of concern for several years, and as each incoming class grows in size, the Office of Residence Life (ORL) has begun to reconsider their housing policies to alleviate overcrowding.
In the past, the issue of overcrowding led to the conversion of double rooms into triples, and the creation of “non-traditional spaces”—lounges turned into five-person rooms. These modifications in the residence halls have been the source of objection from many residents; nonetheless, some have found friendship in the crowded rooms.
Briceyda Lopez, an on-campus sophomore representative in ASUSF, lived in a converted triple in Gillson Hall last year. This year, Lopez has been working with the Residence Hall Association (RHA) to enhance the students’ experiences in the dorms. RHA is an organization that represents the students who live on campus that tries to make living in the halls a more enjoyable experience.
“It is a very hard situation to live in especially when you want privacy,” Lopez said of living in a triple. “To make it work my roommates and I had to cram our desks together, stack our dressers on top of each other, and turn a two-person closet into a three-person closet. It was just uncomfortable.”
Though housing is still scarce, ORL has been working towards enhancing the USF student’s on-campus experience and making necessary adjustments for the future.
“We look at how we can enhance the student residential experience,” Nygaard said. “The positive impact on student experience is going to be through increased social spaces on the floors, which our students do not have right now. That is something we need to take seriously.”
Some of the ways ORL is looking to modify the residence halls are through the redesign of the bathrooms and creating some more lounge space for the students. Also, the requirement for second-year students to remain on campus is in the process of being reconsidered. Sophomores can now go through a petition process to waive the requirement.
“In my first year here, we put together a campus wide group [Housing Residency Requirement Workgroup] to look at the housing residency requirement,” Nygaard said. “The group felt that it was deserving of consideration that we remove the second year requirement. At this point, it is still up for consideration, but I think that now that we have a better sense of how the economy is, it is certainly a possibility.”
According to Nygaard, it is not about the number of students in a room or in the building, but it is about their experience in that building and what can be done for them.
“We try and go around and work on those rooms and we prioritize those rooms where students are struggling more,” said Nygaard. “There are a lot of students who adapt to it well. We had students last year that lived in a triple as freshmen and [asked] us as sophomores if they could live together again. They made it work. I think one of the things to point out is the importance of attitude.”