Art by Sacha Irick
Early Tuesday morning, hundreds of incoming freshmen performed the ritualistic check-in in front of the Student Health Center to retrieve their university freebies and schedules and start their new lives. The first day of New Student Orientation is a glorified tradition at Pepperdine. After all, everyone remembers their first minutes on campus getting screamed at by an upperclassman dressed like a clown. What some of us won’t remember, however, is what came next: roughly 174 students moved into a triple room this week.
Students wrapped around the Housing and Residence Life trailer (newly moved from the Towers office) on Tuesday with concerns about their living situations, indicating that Pepperdine Admissions and Housing and Residence Life may have bit off more than they can chew this year.
Only a couple of years ago, Housing sought to fill empty beds through discounts to juniors and seniors and a more personalized housing selection, compared to the previous lottery system. But the incoming class size from the past years has been the largest for the university, with no improvements to the infrastructure. Despite the crowd, administration supports the growth. In a meeting with the Graphic staff, Seaver Dean Rick Marrs commented that this is a “good problem to have.” Growth means potential students are more interested in what our school has to offer. The more the merrier, right? Most would agree that growth as a university benefits the institution in terms of quality and experience. That being said, the school needs to grow with its students.
For the second year in a row, HRL offered discounted room and board to juniors and seniors as well as to students in a triple dorm. There are also the coed dorms for sophomores in “themed housing.” These changes may seem like a stark contrast for those who have lived on campus for a couple of years now. In late 2011, Housing had roughly 34 percent of its beds empty. Today, juniors and seniors have even been turned away by Housing. When these problems are coupled with Malibu’s luxurious realty price tag, on-campus housing becomes a hot commodity.
Dean Marrs said that there is “extensive communication” between Admission and Housing throughout the year — during the fall, the two departments discuss target class sizes and what they’re expecting from applicants; during the spring, they are in constant communication as acceptance letters go out and enrollments come in, and by the latter part of second semester, as well as throughout the summer, numbers are finalized and the housing situation is organized.
Now the focus must be on what Housing can do to improve our long-term situation. There is a plan to put 468 new beds in “Greek Row” above the soccer field, but that’s part of a ten-year project that is still lacking in funds. At the university’s current rate of growth, 468 beds ten years from now may not be enough.
In this year’s case, more new students enrolled in Pepperdine than Admission had expected. This, along with the increased interest in on-campus housing from upperclassmen, created a housing shortage.
What can we do now?
Housing policies have been in flux for years. Perhaps letting sophomores finally live off-campus can alleviate these growing pains. Students shouldn’t have to live in a triple room two years in a row if they can secure something cheaper elsewhere.
And if elsewhere is what students desire, the prospect of Pepperdine purchasing off-campus real estate, like they’ve done in the past for designated off-campus housing, appeals to many. Until the 2003-04 academic year, Pepperdine had university-run off-campus housing at Oakwood Apartments. The apartments came complete with Resident Advisors, rent charged to student accounts, a waived security deposit and a shuttle service to Oakwood, which cost the university an estimated $110,000. The university also used to own units at Malibu Canyon Village, more commonly known as “the Stinkies.”
Another option is to stretch undergraduates’ reach in Drescher and George Page. In the past both were closed to undergraduate students and only available to married and graduate students. As the flagship school of this university, Seaver might have to take more of the graduate campuses’ rooms.
The triple rooms were a smart solution to problems of both the students and HRL, but the strain on capacity will necessarily put a strain on efficiency. We laud Housing for creating more affordable on-campus housing options, but they are increasing demand by baiting juniors and seniors with housing and prices they can’t give to everyone.
It’s only the first day of school, but things have already started to feel a bit crowded. Familiarize yourself with the Campus Life Project, and let your SGA representatives know how you feel. Let’s help Housing help us out.
As published in the Aug. 26, 2013 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.
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