The Collegian
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Students encounter housing difficulties after returning from study abroad

<p>The Estates at Horsepen, located approximately three miles from campus, is a popular off-campus housing option for students.&nbsp;</p>

The Estates at Horsepen, located approximately three miles from campus, is a popular off-campus housing option for students. 

After returning from spending the fall semester studying abroad, several University of Richmond students dealt with housing difficulties for the spring. 

In November, Residence Life sent an email announcing that it would be wait-listing female students coming back from fall-semester study abroad who wanted to live in on-campus housing. 

For students participating in fall study abroad, the housing department assigns them a random lottery number when they return, said Carolyn Bigler, associate director of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing. 

When the department has no more beds to allocate to students, an on-campus housing waitlist will form, Bigler said. 

Claire Powell, a junior who studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain, was initially number 41 on the housing waitlist. She ultimately made the decision to take her name off the waitlist and sign a binding lease to a unit at The Village at Horsepen, located approximately three miles from campus.

“Everyone was finding off-campus housing and grouping together," she said. "I knew I had to sign a lease soon.” 

Powell, who is from Highland Park, Illinois, does not have a car at school. 

“I feel bad having to ask students for help,” Powell said. “None of the apartments [near] campus are walking-accessible." 

Despite the fact that she had already taken her name off the on-campus housing waitlist, Powell received an email from Residence Life with an on-campus room assignment a few days later.

“I signed a lease at Horsepen because I didn't think I had a chance of getting off the waitlist," she said. "Four days after signing my lease, I was sent a housing assignment from [Residence Life administrator] Amy Collins, even though I had already taken myself off the waitlist."

Powell sent an email to Collins explaining she had felt taunted being assigned housing after receiving confirmation she had been taken off the waitlist. 

Collins was apologetic in her response and said it had been a “simple error on her part," Powell said.

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In order to assist students like herself, Powell had suggested that the university set up a shuttle system that stops at popular apartment complexes near campus.

Collins responded in an email saying that Powell’s suggestions would be taken into consideration, Powell said. 

Whether a student has a car with them does not impact their spot on the on-campus housing waitlist, Bigler said. Neither does a student's financial-aid status, she said. 

Junior Jasmine Feng who studied abroad in Milan, was surprised to receive an email saying she had been assigned to gender-flexible housing for the spring semester, despite never telling the university she was comfortable with that style of housing.

“I thought it was weird that they didn’t ask me,” Feng said. “What if I wasn’t comfortable with it? I would have no place to stay on campus and would have to live off campus. I don’t have a car.”

Despite, this Feng says she loves her roommates and does not hold a grudge for being put in gender-flexible housing.

Junior Brier Clough has lived in a University Forest Apartment all year with her emotional support cat, Tucker. When her two fall-semester roommates decided to go abroad in the spring, Clough needed to find two students who were comfortable living with a cat, she said. 

Clough requested two of her friends, but Student Housing denied the request, and she was given two other roommates.

“It was up to me to tell them I had a cat,” Clough said. “To me, housing should be the ones to provide that information.”

Clough went through four apartment mates before finding students who were not allergic to cats, she said.

“The process we went through and the fact that it was my responsibility to let them know was annoying,” Clough said.

Director of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing Patrick Benner said in an email that UR uses the lottery system in order to ensure fairness. The department accepts requests, but accommodating them is based on the student's lottery number, Benner wrote.  

Students have the option to decline their assignment, and Student Housing is not able to share any personal or private information about a student to potential roommates during the assignment process, Benner said in the email.

Contact news writer Kyla Coleman at kyla.coleman@richmond.edu. 

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