International Student Housing at UMass

May 8, 2012

UMass- Drastic changes have been made by the division of Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL) due to the high demand for on campus housing.

Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of SACL,  Jean Kim stated “We have known for a couple years that we would be hitting a crunch for undergraduate housing.”
However it seems, more than ever theSACL have become the mainstream of today’s Daily Collegian headlines and causing under siege within the university.
“This is a pressing issue because the SACL decisions are having influential effects on the student body”  according to the editor of The Daily Collegian, Katie Landeck.
The SACL have decided to raise the rent and move all families out of the Lincoln Apartments to house the surplus of undergraduates who wish live on campus.

The Lincoln Apartments, located on the south side of campus, right behind southwest has been known to occupy graduate students and some faculty workers. There has are no reports of undergraduates living in the Lincoln Apartments.

Graduate Student Senate believes SACL changes violated the Wellman Document.

According to GSS Treasurer, Robin Anderson,  the Wellman Document  “ is a governance document, stating governmenting bodies on campus that is recognized by the university have the right to have their input heard on any policies changes that directly affect them.”

On April 4, GSS wrote a formal letter to Chancellor Robert Holub, demanding to suspend the new policy so both governing bodies could re-evaluate about the new policy and asking for a response by April 13.

There was no response so on April 19, the GSS held meeting and voted 11-2 for no confidence in Jean Kim, Vice Chancellor (SACL) and Executive Director of Residential Life Edward Hull.

Reportedly neither Kim nor Hull have responded but Anderson believes GSS has made their motives clear to Jean Kim and Edward Hull, who are very much aware of the situation.

“It’s an ongoing thing, a trend towards the erosion of on-campus housing for graduate students” said Matthew Ferrari, Family Issues Advocate for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO).

Ferrari said the changes will allow the University  to increase its revenue by 100 percent because it will now be able to charge $750 per person in each apartment in Lincoln. Under the new guidelines for the Lincoln residential area, tenants, which will include undergraduate and graduate students, must adhere to a 24-hour quiet policy.

“The average graduate stipend is about $14,000 or $15,000 and rent is about 50-60% of that every year. To put that in perspective, Vice Chancellor Kim would be paying about $12,000 per month and Chancellor Holub would be paying about $20,000 per month” said Ferrari.

According to the UMass Strategic Residential Plan [page 23 of 27] – a qualitative and quantitative study done by Biddison Hier on residential life in 2002 – nearly all graduate students are dependent on their stipends for a living and are therefore in a price sensitive situation, where the University should provide housing for a cost that is reasonable based on a graduate student’s stipend.

“With international student it’s a tricky situation because their only allowed to work twenty hours per work, they can’t find jobs outside of campus, it has to be within campus. Their limited within their hours so they can’t find more income elsewhere. And these changes directly impact [graduate students] in ways more negatively than the population” stated Anderson.

“Their housing needs to reflect [these restrictions,]” says Ferrari. “If the University wants to raise our wages accordingly, that’s fine. They either need to do that or lower rent, or keep it where it is at the very least.”

Occupancy for the Lincoln apartments will increase to 160 students  in 2013, and to again 182 in 2014, effectively removing all graduate family housing options from the Lincoln apartments and funneling all families into the North Village apartments in the future.

“They are trying to fix the vacancy issue at North Village by evicting families from Lincoln and trying to fill North Village with [those families] because of the 6 to 12 percent vacancy rate,” said Ferrari.

The UMass Strategic Residential Plan [page 23 of 27] – is a qualitative and quantitative study done by Biddison Hier on residential life in 2002 – nearly all graduate students are dependent on their stipends for a living and are therefore in a price sensitive situation, where the University should provide housing for a cost that is reasonable based on a graduate student’s stipend.

According to Ferrari “The average graduate stipend is about $14,000 or $15,000 and rent is about 50-60% of that every year  and to put in perspective, Vice Chancellor Kim would be paying about $12,000 per month and Chancellor Holub would be paying about $20,000 per month.”

The biggest impact of these changes will be the University’s struggle to recruit and retain top-level researchers from abroad believes Ferrari.

The Framework of Excellence, a vision created by the Chancellor and President, put emphasis on recruiting top-level researchers and becoming a premier international research institution, but when the cost of living is higher than the stipend a graduate student would receive, its hard to recruit the talent to fill those research positions.

“Most of these top-level researchers are going to have other options like the University of Connecticut or Rutgers, I know for a fact that the average annual stipend is anywhere from $16,000 to $25,000 and the cost of living is about the same” Ferrari said.

“This trend we are seeing, it’s very similar to how they’ve handled other university situations such as recent the peer mentor situation and the housing shortage in general this year” Landeck said.

“A lot of graduate students are going to have to live off campus, might have to buy cars meaning more vehicle traffic coming into Amherst” said Ferrari.

Lastly, Anderson stated “SACL has a motto throughout campus that this is a student first campus. It’s everywhere. We [GSS] would actually like to see that in practice not just a motto that they can put up on their websites and in their pamphlets to sell the university to their student and that [SACL] would actually adhere to that motto.”

By Tyler Manoukian, Melissa Gately, and Remy Schwartz

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