Common Interest Communities Block Student Access To Some Residence Halls

With the college’s residence halls at virtual capacity and new common interest communities being formed, some students faced challenges reserving the room they wanted for the coming academic year.

“The reason we have to have rules and structure, that some students perceive as getting in their way, is because we are totally full. Every room around here is full,” Andrew Weingarten, director of residence life, said.

The structure that Weingarten is referring to is the housing deposit, application and full-time status that every student has to fulfill before selecting a place to live on campus.

This year was the first time that Manhattan College offered “common interest communities,” or CIC other than the Arches Program, which the school’s website describes as “a series of themed residences where students can enhance their experiences at the College by living with other students who share their interests.”

This year the school had four of these communities and is adding two new ones for the coming academic year.

Weingarten said that these communities involve reserving entire floors or sections of floors in the residence halls.

“We do reserve space for them because we want to have them established. The whole thing is ruined if you can talk all about how these things are going to be added but you don’t save space for them, where are they,” Weingarten said. “We try our best not to let it be a hindrance.”

Since Jasper Hall is the only residence hall on campus that offers two person rooms, some students who wanted to live there faced a challenge reserving a spot because a new CIC will be in that dorm.

Erin Garcia, a freshman resident in Jasper, was initially unable to reserve a spot in the traditional style dorm.

Garcia said that she and her roommate had planned to live in Jasper Hall but by the time her lottery number for housing came up, all double occupancy rooms were taken.

“Since her and I were the only ones who matched together as roommates, we were only able to see double rooms on the room selection page which meant that we didn’t see anything,” Garcia said in an email.

Garcia attempted to find two other girls to room with so that she could live in a four person suite-style room but did not have any luck.

“So then we panicked and started looking for whoever we could find but I mean it was pointless really. No one needed two more roommates because they already had their set plan so we were stuck with the thought of being roomed with two random people, which wasn’t so appealing to us,” Garcia said.

She said that she sent emails to Residence Life and called the office but no one helped her until her parents got involved.

“It actually wasn’t until our parents called and asked about the situation that we finally got some answers, which in my opinion, sucks,” Garcia said.

“My mom shouldn’t have to call my college to get answers but that is really the only person Res Life would give straight answers to.”

Samantha Prete, sophomore, was also only helped by Residence Life when her mom became involved.

Prete wanted to live in Overlook Manor, the apartment style dorms, but all the four-person rooms were taken when her lottery time came around.

She and her three other roommates were told they could live in a three-person apartment if they all agreed.

“We all emailed them within minutes and then suddenly there were no more three person rooms available again,” Prete said.

“They then told us we were first on the waiting list for four person rooms. Then my other friend got into a three person room about a half hour later. So they clearly lied to us,” she said.

Prete said that her and her roommate’s parents had to get involved for them to get answers from residence life.

“After our moms called, they gave us the option of living in a six person if we found two more roommates. Thankfully we did,” Prete said. “But they lied to us again because another girl I know got a four person room before we did, when they told us were first in line to receive one.”

Both Prete and Garcia said they do not think Residence Life communicates well with MC students.

“I feel like if Res Life just communicated with us more about how the housing selection process worked, a lot more people would understand the steps they need to take in order to ensure they get the room that is most ideal for them,” Garcia said.

“I don’t understand how they choose the order. Each grade should choose on a certain day on a first come first serve basis,” said Prete.

Weingarten acknowledges that students may not think it’s fair to change floors of residence halls, forcing students to find a new room. But he assures students that the common interest communities are a trend in higher education and he sees a demand for them from incoming students.

“Some students might perceive it a little as a bait and switch because we are changing something. Have you ever been in a situation where something new and exciting is coming along but it’s got to fit somewhere? Somebody is always affected,” Weingarten said.

The way Weingarten was able to fix Garcia’s situation is because the residence life office sets aside a few rooms for special cases.

“We have a small handful of rooms and apartments to put out fires, to help students with situations,” Weingarten said. “So yes, if someone is really unhappy do we save a couple and set ourselves up to make the situation better? Of course.”

Garcia said she was finally able to get a room in Jasper, that was not initially listed as an option because she did not like any other options.

“I do love that [residence life staff] were able to help my roommate and I figure out our situation. Had we not pushed so hard to get answers though, we might still be stuck with getting two random roommates and not knowing who they were until move in day,” Garcia said.

Weingarten said that his top priority is to make sure all students are happy with their living situation, whether that be in a common interest community or not.

“Come talk to us if you think there’s some way we can help you.You pay a lot of money for it and we are very much focused on increasing student satisfaction with everything we do from repalcing the laundry machines to common interest communities,” Weingarten said. “You pay $15,000 a year for it and I want you to be happy and comfortable. I understand where it might put a little speed bump in your path.”