Housing Policy Committee Hearing on Student Housing
February 29, 2008
Jerome Greene Hall
MODERATOR: Good morning. Wow, I’m so happy to see so many people here. I didn’t think anybody was going to come. [Laughs] Happy Leap Year. Welcome to the Housing Policy Committee’s hearing on student housing issues. Today we are focusing on students housed by university apartment housing, with particular interest in that body’s efficiency of allocation, level of quality of housing, and availability of support services. We’re going to have several speakers; each speaker will have approximately twelve minutes. Our first speaker will be Suzanna Carlson. She is the GSSC student body president emeritus for 2007-2008 and she will come to speak about how housing issues affected her constituents.
SUZANNA CARLSON: First I just want to thank the senate for hearing me today. This is a huge issue for GS students, and I imagine for many graduate students as well. So I do thank you for taking the time to be concerned about these issues.
So two things. First, I’m going to try to outline, in a representative capacity, things that we’ve experienced in GS representations and also anecdotally. I’m actually a service recipient. I lived in university apartment housing for several years. So I’ve been to the circus and seen the strings.
So first of all many of you have probably heard me talk about parity throughout my tenure. It’s what we certainly focused on last year in terms of our policy initiatives. So very early on in my tenure we determined that we were going to have a walk through of all GS housing because we’d received so very many complaints from GS students about the quality, about availability, about not having a unit to live in, just a variety of housing concerns. So the first thing that we tried to take on obviously is the quality of the units themselves, and so together with Dominick Sweeney, our housing liaison; and our policy committee and several central administrators, some of whom are here today, were gracious enough to accompany us on a walk through of all GS units to really note the disparity in the quality of the housing itself. There were huge problems. There were warning tapes in front of people’s doors. There was massive, massive disparity in the quality. And so on some floors where CC students were housed you saw brand new secured doors with card key entries, you saw brand new floors, you saw brand new kitchen outfitting, very clean, very up to date, very safe for those students. And then when you’d move to a GS floor, you would see quite the opposite. It hadn’t been updated in several years, and there were various reasons for that, but the fact of the matter remained that the quality was really sub-par, and a lot has been done since then, perhaps as a result of the walk-through, perhaps because some things were already in the works.
But that situation has slowly and gradually improved, but not nearly enough. We shouldn’t have to wave our arms about to get quality housing. So there is a huge disparity just in quality itself.
Aside from that, there’s the key issue of availability of goods and services. When students are able to be housed through the university, there are RAs, there’s staff, there are people on call, there are resources in a centralized location where students can be heard and have their concerns addressed. Whether it’s my heater doesn’t work, or whatever it may be, because, as you all know, there are unique situations to being a student. Going through an apartment management company doesn’t allow us to really take advantage of the available resources of the university. The fact of the matter remains to be at least the resources exist. They’re being denied to certain groups of people. We absolutely have the capacity to serve these students and are making a choice not to.
That to me is unacceptable, and it’s difficult for me to intellectually grapple with how we are thinking about and treating graduate students and non-traditional students here at Columbia. We do have the ability to serve these students. They deserve RA’s, they need to have people on call who can address needs and concerns in a centralized location.
So there’s, yeah, the quality of services and all that good stuff. There’s also a speed of turnaround. We have unused units that just sit there while we have students sleeping in the library. I’m not sure how to rationalize that. I’m not sure how we can deal with that in our own consciences quite frankly.
But I personally lived at 362 Riverside, Carlton Arms. It’s one of the university apartment housing halls, and it houses a mixture of GS students and graduate students. Whereas the Nussbaum building was all undergraduate. In my building, however, this is anecdotally, I was in a six-person suite, and three of those units were filled. For an entire year two of those units stayed open, and for the others for the entirety of a semester, while people are sleeping in the library.
For me this doesn’t make sense when we have the resources, the ability to get these people into units, get them housed. Also there are, you know, many units, at least in the building I was in, my room was meant to be a double, and I was the only one in it. So for me there’s an unwillingness to maximize and use most efficiently the resources that we do have available to us. That causes me great concern.
So I would like to see, on behalf of the GS students and hopefully for graduate students, using and maximizing what we already have available. We could talk all day about how we need more units. That is a fact. We all are aware of the constraints that we’re operating within, that units become available when they come available. The problem for me is that they’re not being used most efficiently, the resources we have available to us are not being maximized, and it’s GS students, non-traditional students and graduate students that are taking the brunt of that unwillingness or inability, whichever it is.
And quite frankly a restructuring may be what’s in order. Who knows? I’m not in the conjecture business. But I certainly know that resources and opportunities are available. They exist. And hopefully we can start looking more carefully at how those can best be used and maximized for every student so nobody sleeps in the library this year.
So that’s my hope. For me this is about parity. It’s about treating people the way they deserve to be treated and treating them equally to other students, and not separating them out for ill treatment and ill, unsafe, unsanitary, sub-par housing, which has been our record in the past. I’m of the opinion that is attached to the rental management kind of model. Of course that’s open to disagreement. But I do think that if the university took responsibility for these students, we’d get a much different outcome because the university can be responsible to the students and vice versa, rather than an external management company.
So that’s my opinion. But, of course, there are I’m sure many ways to go about resolving the problem. For me it’s a matter of efficiency, and I’m glad that you all are taking a look at how we can best use and maximize the resources that we already have available in lieu of actually getting more units.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
CARLSON: You’re welcome.
CRAIG SCHWALBE: I’m Craig Schwalbe with the School of Social Work. All right, and I’m a co-chair with Paige of the housing committee. I’m wondering if on your walk-through if you also included walking through faculty apartments? Because I’m wondering if that wouldn’t be a valid comparison. I don’t know if it’s administered in the same way, but it’s administered out of the same office.
CARLSON: For us in our walk-through obviously we were concerned specifically with housing concerns of GS students. And so if there wasn’t a GS student housed in a particular building, we didn’t see it. I think that kind of a comparison would be a fruitful expedition. Comparing what’s available, how those services are rendered, how allocations are made, considerations that are at play, stakeholders, all of those things are probably worthy investigations. For us personally in my tenure, we were absolutely concerned just with the quality of GS students for obvious reasons, and that’s who we were representing.
SCHWALBE: Also, in terms of services, you talked about the lack of RAs for example, and I completely understand what you’re talking about. I was an RA as an undergrad, and the level of support that an RA can provide to young people as they’re going into college and having the university experience, is, can be tremendous. I’m wondering about the other aspect of availability of services that you described. For example, I’m a tenant, and if our refrigerator goes in the middle of the night, or if we have a heater problem or some kind of emergency, I think I can be in contact with my superintendent or somebody who’s on call just within the building. Can you talk about that with respect to GS students and GS student housing?
CARLSON: I can do my best. I would only be able to do so anecdotally based on my own experiences in as a tenant. Indeed, each building I assume has a superintendent, someone of the same stature who – I live off campus now – who will respond similarly to the way that they would if you were in any other apartment building in all of New York City. That may be true. The difference is, for me at least, others received more, better service, more quick turnaround. You understand what I mean? And it may be true that if you go out into the real world and go rent an apartment and go off campus and secure your own housing, that’s exactly what you would have is what university housing provides you. University apartment housing provides you is access to a superintendent, perhaps a phone number you can call if the heat goes out, something like this.
For me the issue is that is not what the majority of undergraduates are receiving here at Columbia. That may be true; however, I would have to challenge that with, well, it’s not every undergraduate’s experience that needs to use a tenant-landlord or tenant-super relationship is unique to non-traditional students, whereas other students certainly are receiving a much more rich and robust services and a much more interested point of view in the quality of their housing experience. They have many more modes of recourse, many more modes of receiving services, making complaints, having conflict resolution with people in your hall, RAs providing support services.
The question is not for me, is it just the most awful thing in the world? The answer would be no. I lived there for three years. You know, and I’m still here. [Laughs] It could be worse. My point is that it certainly could be better.
ANOTHER VOICE: In your description of the walk-through and the disparity that you saw, I certainly can understand if you see new things in some apartments, old things in other apartments. That sends a message, and I think that that can be an important difference. I think you also talked about either unsafe or unsanitary, I don’t remember the words.
ANOTHER VOICE: And so could you, I mean, having an old refrigerator is one thing, but having a safe thing. So could you talk about that a little bit?
CARLSON: I’d be happy to. Absolutely. In one particular unit that we looked at, and this was in the Nussbaum building and fortunately we had the support of several other GS students who had kind of formed a coalition. [?] Cunningham, our current president, was one of those who was working to document the various disparities. One of the things that came to our attention was a rotting out floor beneath the refrigerator. The entirety of the wood structure beneath that refrigerator, because of a leakage problem, the refrigerator was so old that it had begun to leak all the way through the wood that was supporting it. When the floor was ripped away, all that wood was rotted away and quite feeble and needed to be removed and really replaced, and who knows what may have happened. Maybe no one would have had any unsafe thing happen to them. The fact of the matter was that there was a condition in which it increased the likelihood that someone would be hurt, injured.
I personally have asthma. Mold was a huge issue on the walk-through. And I don’t mean in the shower. I mean on the ceiling, on the walls, in the corners, in the light fixtures, in the baseboards, mold everywhere. Now, for an asthmatic, that’s a huge problem. It’s a huge problem, and I’m just one student. For me I had mold issues in my building, and I took it upon myself to purchase products to try to help myself. Because again, my super was not as concerned about my asthma as I clearly was. And perhaps as much as the university may have been.
For us, when I made that kind of a reference, that’s what I mean. That there are health conditions that I don’t think a rental unit can be as sensitive to as perhaps a university community responsible for the health, well-being, and quality of experience for each of their students. For me that’s a distinction.
So I would talk about a lot the mold, the unsafe floors, things like that. There was actual degradation of the infrastructure that happened as a result of things being just kind of old and needing to be replaced: refrigerators, sinks, things like this. But when they were taken out, when we actually looked closer and looked under the fridge and moved it and, you know, did all of that, we discovered the problem was much bigger. We actually had a safety concern at that point, and central administration has been wonderful in trying to help address a lot of that and doing some of those renovations. And I’m sure those things were slated before we had the walk-through, but the point remains it was an unsafe condition and had been for years, years and years.
And thank goodness something’s being done about it. But the question is why then. You know, why not six years ago when the fridge started leaking before all the rot happened beneath? You know what I mean? So for me it’s a lack of attention and a lack of proactive seeking out, making sure and insuring that the quality of housing is up to par with the rest of the student population. That we’re not singling out certain sorts of students, based on certain sorts of criteria, like age perhaps, for lesser quality of service.
SCHWALBE: Thank you. So I’m the official timekeeper, and we’ve hit the twelve minutes. But I understand there’s a question. I’m just letting you know.
ANOTHER VOICE: I want to make sure I’m clear on what you’re saying. So a lot of descriptions you’re just doing now about the mold and things along those lines, is that generally from the walk-through, or would this be mostly localized to the Nussbaum building?
CARLSON: Well, I did not live in the Nussbaum building so I can say two. It was a problem in two. Excuse me. We paid most attention to the Nussbaum building because it’s where we had received the most complaints, and so we took much more care to note the details, to take photographs, to document all the various things that we found, and to make sure to involve administrators in that process because we thought we were dealing with a pretty severe health and safety situation. Whereas in my building for example, in Carlton Arms, which I guess is a mixture of GS and graduate students, a more complete renovation had been done in years past from what I understand. But apparently that used to be the problem building. So there was a renovation that took place several years ago, but there was still a mold problem in that building.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. So understanding that there was more than one. And then I just wanted to follow up on something else you said that, I guess you were talking about the timing. That while there is some response happening now, the question is why weren’t they more proactive. So probably they should have taken the step to do something such as walk-through that you’ve done to be able to identify these problems. But aside from that, do you know if these problems had been brought to their attention and that they didn’t act on it? Or was it that they were acting on it more on response to the walk-through?
CARLSON: They would have to speak to that. Obviously I don’t know what their motives were or anything else. What I do know is that some construction was in process when the walk-through happened. So I know for sure that when we talked to our deans, we’d gone through all the normal channels of recourse, we had talked to the students who had complained to us as their representatives, advised them of the appropriate channels to go through to make complaints, to make service requests, maintenance requests, things like this. Many of them had, and were unsatisfied with the resolution received. And again, some of these were not just about, you know, my room is too hot. It was a much bigger infrastructural issue that perhaps students wouldn’t be aware of, for example, the floor rotting beneath your feet. It’s not something that someone would be immediately aware of when they walk into their kitchen to fry their egg in the morning.
And so that was something that took a little bit more investigation on our part. But indeed many students who had come to us had submitted photographs to their council members trying to implore us to go do something about this. Please. You know, we followed up on each one of those photographs and made sure that those students had indeed contacted their representatives and had gone through the appropriate channels for recourse.
I don’t know what the resolution of that was, obviously, but it was what we were responding to.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Suzanna.
CARLSON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: At this time I’d like to let the panel introduce themselves, and I would also like to note that while this is meant to be a hearing that specifically focuses on students housed by UAH which is graduate students and School of General Studies students, a number of our graduate student speakers were unable to attend today. So we do understand if the hearing seems more GS focused.
ANOTHER VOICE: You want to introduce yourself.
MODERATOR: I wanted to let Alma introduce herself first.
ALMA: Hi, I’m Alma. I’m a student senator.
SCHWALBE: Again, Craig Schwalbe. I’m faculty in the School of Social Work and a co-chair of the Housing Committee.
PAIGE LAMPKIN: I’m Paige Lampkin. I’m the student senator from the School of General Studies and the co-chair of the Housing Committee.
JOHN JOHNSON: John K. Johnson. I’m student senator from the Law School. I’m also the co-chair of the Student Affairs Caucus. So while the Housing Committee is hosting this panel, we’re obviously interested because this directly affects student interests.
GOTHER: I’m Gother. I’m a graduate student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and I’m the quality of life chair.
LAMPKIN: Okay. At this time we’d like to call Monica Kuth from facilities. Hi, could you come.
MONICA KUTH: I need to come up.
LAMPKIN: We would like for you to, yes.
CRAIG SCHWALBE: It would just be easier to have a conversation.
KUTH: Clearly, I have never been at something like this. So this is actually a really enlightening experience. I’m glad that I’m here.
LAMPKIN: Great. Great.
KUTH: I’m Monica Kuth. I am the acting director of leasing services. That’s my official title in Columbia University Facilities. As such, I work on student issues, student assignment issues, student vacancy issues. I also work on faculty issues and legal issues and statutory tenant issues. I cover a wide variety of things.
I don’t know if you want me to start addressing anything that we have been talking about at the moment. I would just say that as a person who’s been here in this capacity only through this last year, I’ve been learning a lot about the processes. I think they are complicated. We have a number of complicated things to work through.
We have many, many different kinds of students. We have many, many different kinds of housing situations. We have students that run, that work in, that live in places that are more dorm-like. We have students that live in places that are much more like typical tenant/landlord housing units in New York City.
I was interested a little bit in hearing the previous speaker speak about the outside management of these units that she was in because I guess I feel like I’m very much in the university. I don’t feel like an outside manager. And I really respect and am concerned about the things that she brought up. I think that probably my colleague, Mark Herman, can speak much more to the ins and outs of the construction issues, the maintenance issues. He can probably also talk about the various, there’s a whole new trail of things that you can do right now if you’re having maintenance issues. But I think that these are things that we need to be mindful of and need to make sure that we’re addressing.
I also would say I listened with interest to the thought that the central university, I guess these are dorm situations which I’m not as familiar with, that have RAs and lots of support on their floors for people. This is something that maybe has not been traditionally in the UAH dorm systems. Mark can maybe speak more to that than I can.
Also, again, as a new person, I’m learning a lot about this. But I appreciated hearing that, and I think it would be something that I would want to talk to the various schools about in terms of more presence there. Because I want people to have an experience here that is better than what I was hearing.
LAMPKIN: Thank you. Could you please explain the algorithm by which UAH apportions housing to GS and grad students?
KUTH: I would say when I came here, and I might have mentioned this to you in the e-mail that I wrote. I’m here as a person who manages a staff that deals a lot with customer service issues. I deal with the experience of students in housing. I am not the manager of the algorithm. This is a method of trying to fairly apportion housing among the percentages of the different schools, and I think that Mark Herman is the person who does that, you know, fabulous calculation, but it’s something that I guess would be better left to him to discuss other than for me to say that there’s a limited number of units available. There’s a certain number of units that are vacating at a certain time. There are percentages of applicants from each school, and I think that the effort is made through the algorithm to apportion those fairly with the available housing that we have. And it’s based on the percentage of applicants that we do have. And, Mark, I think if you want to speak at greater length about this, that’s fine. But it’s certainly an attempt to take and make apportionment fair and done through a computer, rather than doing it in some piecemeal fashion. And it was set up way, way before our time. It was set up twenty years ago I think by the provost’s office.
LAMPKIN: So you can’t speak to exactly how that works then, the numbers. You can’t say okay, well, we take this amount of people, we find out how many applicants, we do this, we do that.
KUTH: I think that that’s a better thing because Mark is the person who runs that.
LAMPKIN: We will be sure to follow up with Mr. Herman, but Mr. Herman is not on the panel.
KUTH: Okay. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was the only person impaneled to do this. Okay, well, as I said to you, I will speak as best I can to these things. At this point I am going to get a number of questions that I didn’t know about to speak to on this panel. Is that what we are today? That I’ve been invited to answer questions that I don’t know ahead of time.
ANOTHER VOICE: Maybe we’ll start a step back.
ANOTHER VOICE: Can you make us clear on what’s within your scope, maybe?
KUTH: Sure. I have a staff that manages the client services for university apartment housing. They work on assigning units. They work on making sure that units are vacated at a certain time. We also assign faculty units, and we work on legal issues and social service issues within university housing. That’s just the very broad, very broad outline.
LAMPKIN: I’m terribly sorry. We were directed to you by someone else so we thought that you were the proper person to ask.
KUTH: I’m perfectly, perfectly happy to speak to you. I think it’s just that I didn’t quite understand the scope of what I was being asked to do today. Since I, again, I’m very new at all of this. I’m both new at the processes and new at this particular kind of forum.
LAMPKIN: Would the panel, would the panel like to invite Mr. Kerman to help?
PANEL: Yes. Yes.
ANOTHER VOICE: So that maybe we’ll have the both of you.
KUTH: Do you? Mark, is that okay with you? I think part of it is simply that I didn’t understand exactly what I was, you know, being asked to do here today, and I think it would have been wonderful to have a little bit of advance warning as to what, what the nature of the questions were going to, or.
ANOTHER VOICE: Can I just echo what Monica said. We weren’t aware of format or form or any of the questions that were going to be asked. We were just told to come.
LAMPKIN: Actually I did send an e-mail that had specific talking points.
SCHWALBE: So there was a question that was directed to Monica that Mark, I’m afraid I don’t know your last name.
MARK KERMAN: Mark Kerman.
SCHWALBE: Yes. Thank you. That you had greater expertise to address the question related to the algorithm and how university housing is apportioned to graduate students and GS students.
KERMAN: Yes. I guess basically what the university has is a methodology of allocating spaces. And it’s basically, it allocates spaces that are university sponsored as opposed to spaces that are school sponsored. Because there are schools who have gone and built or purchased or financially taken care of their own space, and those are handled in a separate way. But there are the spaces that are handled by the central university, and the central university takes full financial responsibility for them.
And probably something over twenty years ago there was a group of deans, the provost who sat down and make academic decisions on how they wanted to use the university spaces. Because ultimately this is an academic decision, not a facilities decision. So what we do is follow the policy that was set out for us. We don’t make that policy.
Basically what the policy does is it looks at the number of people who applied. I guess probably should start out with a couple of definitions. One of the things is the housing eligible program. What that means is that certain programs are considered to be housing eligible if you’re full time, and other programs are not. An easy example of things that are not eligible for housing are executive degree programs. Part of that is that, you know, those people, they may be registered in that program, they may be full time, but they’re not considered eligible for housing, and I think there are some obvious reasons why that might be. There’s also probably some other reasons that will come up as I go through the rest of the formula, but part of it is that I think there was some worry that you would have schools who tell all their people in executive programs to apply for housing even though they actually had no intention of taking it, which would then, you know, boost their housing for other groups of people. So those programs are excluded. In most cases you have to be a full time person who’s enrolled in that program also to be eligible for housing.
So then there’s the people who apply housing, who are in an eligible program, who are full time, are looked at in the fall semester after they apply. So if you applied in the summer of last year, then it would be, you would be counted as an eligible person if you are full time in October of last year, October of 2007, you would be considered part of the eligible pool. All those people are looked at and determined how many each school has. If there were, say, a thousand applicants and there were ten schools involved, each school had a hundred applicants, then they would all represent, each school would have ten percent, be equivalent of ten percent of the pool.
Then once, you know, those percentages, it’s then we look at how many people are graduating, how many spaces may be available, and say, well, we said that there will be a thousand spaces available, then each school would get a hundred spaces, and in the schools, it’s up to the schools to decide who gets those hundred spaces. Then we collect the applications centrally, and then we transmit the information, the applications back out to the schools, and they tell us the order they want to do it and how they want to handle use of their allocations. And as people respond, we’ll go back to the school and say this person said yes, this person said no. If they say no, we ask for replacement people, and then it’s generally. We try to facilitate and make it so, help the schools get through the process. But ultimately the decision on housing is an academic decision, and we rely on the schools for that.
ANOTHER VOICE: So it’s mostly the schools who handle that. Who is supposed to handle communicating with, I guess, students to assist them in navigating the housing allocation process and deciding what their unit’s going to look like, those type of things?
KERMAN: In deciding what?
ANOTHER VOICE: When they’re I guess agreeing to go into these units, or as they’re navigating the allocation process, who’s the interface for the students? Is it supposed to be from the schools or is it supposed to be through UAH.
KERMAN: I guess it becomes a joint thing. I guess there are several parts to your question. Some of it is the application that is filled out asks people to rate preferences in terms of the type of unit that they want to get in. It also gets information about their housing needs. Because part of it’s not necessarily, it’s not as homogeneous of a population as eighteen-year-olds who are just entering college for the first time. You know, I think that a lot of the programs, the business school I think the average age is something like twenty-seven or twenty-eight. I think at GS the average age of the students entering is something like twenty-nine. So they’re people who are further along in their life, they may have families, they may have significant others, and so it doesn’t necessarily lend itself. We have to collect more information. You know, obviously within limitations on whether, you know, somebody’s coming with a family or one or two kids, and how old are the kids, and, you know, are they both the same sex or are they not the same sex. And all those types of things we’ll bring in off the application.
In the website we’ll give people updates, you know, and say we’ve received your application, and, you know, we’ve certainly worked on improving that and particularly this year to improve it, to move it to an all internet-based system that will give you updates on the status of your application. In the past, what we had was a voice recognition unit. That you have to call a number up, and that number would give you a certain pre-set recording telling you what the status of your application is.
ANOTHER VOICE: If I may interrupt you. If I’m hearing correctly, it sounds like UAH is who handles interfacing with the students.
KERMAN: Certain parts of the interface. We’re basically handling the assignment side of it. In terms of talking about whether you’re receiving the application, that’s not something that we can really help with. We don’t get involved in that. That really is something that the housing liaison works with, from the different schools, works with the people. And, you know, they certainly talk to us, and it’s back and forth. There’s a lot of interaction, particularly, you know, in the summer I think there’s probably who speak to different housing liaisons from my group, every day or several times a day at certain times of the year. Just going over what are the things that need to be done, particular problems. You know, somebody’s changed their e-mail address in the last month and we need to get that updated so we’re getting the offers out to them.
KUTH: I was just going to reiterate what he was saying. That, yes, it’s a constant interaction with someone like Dominick. I mean, if we have a housing liaison who’s really on the various aspects, they know the students, they’re the ones who’ve made the decisions about who’s approved, and then they’re really working and advocating I think for those students to make sure that they’re getting units that would fit their particular needs. As Mark said, there’s families, there are older students. GS in particular has a number of older students. We make a real attempt with matching, to match all the different kinds of needs that the students have as put down on their applications with the kind of housing that rolls up.
And it’s a fairly intricate dance to make those assignments, try to accommodate those, and then also at the other end deal with the issues that people are having when they’re leaving, and that’s difficult, people who are needing to vacate needing time. People who are coming in, and needing to come in at the same time. And it’s really our staff, I think to answer your question, that’s interfacing with the students as much as possible during those processes.
ANOTHER VOICE: I guess just so you can understand where I’m coming from with that line of inquiry is that, although this might be anecdotal in nature, one thing that has come across is students’ complaints about inconsistent information from UAH about the application process, how many units are available, whom they should speak to about their individual cases. So when I hear that, it seems like there’s a need for streamlining or making sure that there’s a consistent process. So first I wanted to get a sense of whether that falls in UAH’s hand. If there’s currently a gap because there’s multiple parties involved so anything along those lines that helps clear that up is useful. So if there’s anything you want to add to supplement that answer regarding to that, that would be useful.
KERMAN: It’s certainly always useful for us to hear where people think the communication is breaking down. Sometimes when you sit on one side of the table, you don’t necessarily know or understand what people, you know, what the perception is, where we think we’re missing information. Because it could be something that we might think is obvious that really isn’t obvious. And it’s always good to hear that so you can say, oh, that’s a good point. We really should make that clearer than some of it. Particularly if you’re getting people who are coming from different countries or even different parts of this country that they don’t necessarily know how it all works in the New York City market. And so it’s always good to hear about those types of examples, and we try to. I guess we try to get those because we send out a survey to people who are graduating every year. You know, as they graduate we ask them about their experiences living in the UAH housing. When they were assigned, what were the issues that came up in the assignment process. As they lived there, what sort of issues that came up as they lived there. And then also with the whole process of moving out. And we’ve certainly have used those as very useful tools. We’ve done them for the last two years in terms of being able to improve our processes.
LAMPKIN: One of the things that I could think of that seems like a simple communication issue that would be easy to solve is for people that are currently in units, often like graduate student housing is either shared doubles or triples, and when new students are coming, like people move in and finish at different times. And it would definitely helpful to be given contact information of a new student that’s coming into your apartment to live with you, or if someone’s coming to view the apartment, and before they just show up there.
KUTH: You know, we’ve been working a lot on trying to do that. Now that there’s e-mail access, it makes it easier. We have been able to alert I think a number of individuals. Sometimes the timing is really hard. Because when we get something and we’re trying really hard to get somebody in immediately because they have an immediate need, then there is I think a surprise factor which I admit is probably very difficult for you.
I know, Mark, we’re working with the superintendents, and we’re also working on getting automatic e-mail alerts that would just pop out to the other tenants in the unit as soon as we had somebody who was going to be moving into another unit. But I think that’s been identified before as an issue. And I’m hoping that’s getting better, but if it’s not, I’d like to hear about it.
And just to reiterate what Mark is saying too. Not only are the surveys important, and again this is my first year really of seeing how all of the processes work. I think that having a forum like this, or even having a continuing series of, I don’t know, of events quite like this, but places where somebody could even come to our office and talk about some of the issues that they’re having. I would be most happy to hear. Because I think our processes can always be improved. As I said at the beginning, this is very complicated, and ways to hear that we’re giving inconsistent information concerns me. It’s something that I’m trying to work a lot with on my staff now. I’ve reorganized certain things.
I think one of our clear values is to try to somehow take this complicated system and make it something that’s more easily translatable for everybody. So I’d like to continue these dialogues, although this might not be the place to do all this specifically.
SCHWALBE: We’re well over time, of course. Are there other issues?
ANOTHER VOICE: Actually we’re going to take questions at the end. So we’re not doing questions right now. There will be a open microphone at the end.
ANOTHER VOICE: You’re going to miss support for your own.
ANOTHER VOICE: I understand. I understand. But consistency is the hallmark of justice. So one question I have to, also wanted to ask was about vacant units. One thing that was mentioned or sounded quite compelling is the idea that there are vacant units available within units that there could be three beds in a room with six, and that sometimes students will apply and are put on wait lists and the fact that they could be on these wait lists even though there’s a vacant unit. I would appreciate a response to that from your perspective.
KERMAN: It’s somewhat a hard question to answer without knowing the specific vacant unit because we could look at it. There could be a number of reasons that units can end up being vacant at different times of the year. It could be that we have an apartment that’s being offered to different people, but they either haven’t accepted it, or maybe they’ve accepted it but they’re not ready to move in. And so there could be time periods where you may not see any activity, but there is something that’s going on behind in scenes in terms of making offers out to people and then waiting to hear back from them, and then if they don’t accept it to move onto the next person.
You could also have a situation where someone has moved out, and they just haven’t informed our office. And so that, you know, we’re not aware that they’ve left. And so even though we might become aware, that we may hear from someone saying, well, we haven’t seen this person in a while. But that doesn’t mean we can just go in and take over the apartment, and we then have to go and do an investigation, find out, you know, is the person legitimately gone, had not returned their keys. You know, are they still in school? Is there something, you know, cause there could be reasons why somebody may not be there for a while, but are planning on coming back. They could have gone away, you know, gone to do some sort of study abroad, and, you know, they’re living in a furnished unit. They took all their clothing with them so it looks like the apartment is empty, but they’re still paying the rent and are intending to come back once they finish doing that work.
There could be things that we’re waiting to do, you know, in a larger apartment. It’s up for a cycle of being renovated. You know, that we want to replace the kitchen cabinets or something like that, and we know that the other people will vacate, and we want to wait so we could do a larger amount of work in that unit, and we need it to be empty to be able to get that work done so that we don’t fall so far behind in the work which is one of our problems, trying to keep up with the units particularly when they’re occupied most of the year is trying to keep up with routine maintenance and routine upgrading. That, you know, typically we want to replace the kitchen every ten years or so, and to replace a kitchen, you really need to have the apartment vacant to do it effectively. And to replace bathrooms every twenty years or so. And so that you have to, your timing says, well, we just have to hold these vacant so we can get the entire apartment done to be able to do that.
ANOTHER VOICE: But in theory, rooms are allocated as they become available. It’s not like you wait for a set time period.
KERMAN: It’s a rolling throughout the year. I mean, there’s also times when we do transfer periods. Where we allow people who are already within the system to move because you may have people who are married now have children so they’re trying to move to an apartment that’s more suitable for them. Another might be that if you end up with a unit that’s suitable for a family, but, you know, as, you know, right now there are no families who are on the wait list. So if we had a family unit that was vacant, we wouldn’t take a family unit and go and lease that to a single student. We would hold it because certainly in September we know we won’t have enough units to handle for families. So part is matching up the need.
There’s also types of units. You just may not get half doubles. Like right now, this time of the year if we’re taking people off the wait list, we find that people just don’t want to take a half double. They’re probably living someplace else which may be a better living situation than living in a half a double. So I think that that’s something, I mean, when you talk to Scott you’ll probably even find that’s true in the undergraduate side also is that this time of the year you end up with lots of half doubles or half of the double being empty.
And then there’s also, which is also good to hear from us, is that we just made a mistake and missed it. It’s a system that runs about 8,400 contracts between the university and different students and faculty members. So it’s certainly is easily possible to miss something out there.
ANOTHER VOICE: It’s a large, large load. Certainly. All right, I think that we need to move on. So thank you so much. Is there anything that you’d like to say just to wrap up your comments or something that might be important for us to note.
KUTH: I guess just to reiterate what I said before is that I would like this to be an ongoing dialogue. I’d like to not wait until the end of the year and say, oh, you know, here we’re getting all of these evaluations. Look at these things we might have worked on earlier. And maybe there’s a point where you and I can all speak and set up something on a regular basis to look at this.
ANOTHER VOICE: Thank you so much.
LAMPKIN: Thank you so much. At this time we’d like to call Dominick Stellini, the housing liaison from the School of General Studies. Good morning, Dean Stellini.
DOMINIC STELLINI: Good morning, everybody.
LAMPKIN: Can you explain a little bit, give us a better idea of the housing allocation as it affects you as a housing liaison or what you know about it, the algorithm?
STELLINI: You know, the way that Mark and Monica explained it is pretty much how it works for us. We get a set number of spaces every term based on the algorithm. It’s based on our previous fall’s numbers. I think that may have gotten lost in the explanation. So this fall ’07 numbers were based on fall ’06. The fall ’07 allocations were based on fall ’06 numbers. So that’s important to know.
You know, the allocations come to us, and we have to deal with it, and we have to look at that. Are there our allocations never meet our need? Our need for housing has grown tremendously. I’ll give you an example, in fall ’07, our allocation was, I don’t want to be wrong, it was on the order of eighty-five spots. I received close to 244 applications. That’s both new and continuing students. So obviously our allocation doesn’t meet our need.
However, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t get more than eighty-five students into housing that term. A good number of students came off the wait list. That’s a number that’s harder for me to track because I don’t get necessarily those reports right after the term starts. So because they come out, and that’s all handled by Monica’s office. They do a pretty good job of that, and the wait list has been running pretty quickly in the last couple of years, which is great. But, yes, no, so our housing allocation numbers don’t meet our needs, but I’m not sure they meet any school’s needs. There’s just a dearth of housing.
This is Columbia. I can use big words, right? [Laughter].
LAMPKIN: Do you know whether or not grad school admissions numbers come into UAH at the same time as GS admissions numbers?
STELLINI: I’m not sure that UAH gets admission numbers from any school. They give us numbers. Granted I would think that graduate schools probably know who they’re admitting a little bit earlier than we do. Because of the nature of our population, our process goes a little bit more into the summer than other schools. We have put a priority deadline for people in our literature. If you are going to be looking for housing, we suggest that you apply and get your application completed by X date so that you have plenty of time to go through the housing process as well. I think that answers your question. Does it? Okay, if it doesn’t.
ANOTHER VOICE: We’re going to take open comment at the end. Once again, can you give information on the GS population? And just for context, because you deal with housing considerations that relate more directly to School of General Studies, correct?
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. So can you give a sense of whether there’s any reason that the GS population has a unique housing need regarding the percentage of international students, students who live out of state, those type of things?
STELLINI: Unique needs. I don’t know because I don’t know what the population of the other schools that are being served by housing. I can say that, yes, we have a large number of students that are coming from out of state, which is a change for us over the last five to seven years. Currently we’re looking at the point of application between sixty and sixty-five percent of our students come from out of state. Which, you know, from what the way our school looked five, ten years ago is a big change, where a lot more of our students were from the metropolitan area. But that’s changed.
Currently about eighteen percent of our students, again at application, are international students, either F1s or permanent residents. So that’s, that number’s a little bit skewed in terms of this conversation.
So, yes, we have a lot of students that are coming from a great distance coming to school. Is that different from the other graduate schools? I don’t know. I wouldn’t know that information. You’d have to compare it to what the graduate schools are saying.
ANOTHER VOICE: Do you have an approximate number as to how many GS students live in university apartment housing?
STELLINI: Yes. Currently, actually I just got these numbers yesterday, which was great. We have 344 students that are being served by UAH. Two hundred and ninety-seven of those are in UAH spaces, and forty-seven of those are in GS sponsored spaces. These are apartments that we have worked with the UAH to rent on behalf of GS, and so those are spaces that are earmarked for GS students. That’s out of a population of about 1,500 students, both of our undergraduates and our post-graduate program.
ANOTHER VOICE: In your capacity as the housing liaison, do you work with students after they’ve been placed in housing, or do you have reason to talk to students after they’ve been placed in housing?
STELLINI: Yes, I do.
ANOTHER VOICE: And so, what kind of support do students seek in coming to you? And I guess more generally I’m trying to craft a question related to Suzanna’s comments earlier about the lack of an RA, for example, and what kind of support an RA could provide. And so I’m wondering if you have any kind of reaction or comment about that?
STELLINI: In my capacity I try and do a little bit of everything. Obviously the allocation process, when there are concerns about roommate issues, we try and jump in there. It’s a little bit more difficult when we’re dealing with adults, and it’s a little more difficult when you’re dealing with multiple schools. If both people are my students, you know, we call them in, we can mediate, and it’s a lot easier. When you’re dealing with two or three different schools, you’ve got two or three deans’ offices and procedures and policies and it gets a little funky.
In terms of building staff, RAs, I think that would be a great idea. There’s a lot of resistance on the part of students who are twenty-nine and twenty-seven to feeling like you’ve got somebody that’s watching over them or making sure that they’re not doing. I mean, that’s not how I would see building staff in those kinds of spaces, but that’s sort of the reaction we get sometimes when we bring it up. I think it would be great for community building. I think that’s one of the things that doesn’t happen in the UAH spaces.
For example, I have 297 students in UAH spaces. That’s at over eighty-two different buildings. The largest concentration I have is one building where I have seventy-eight students, and the next I have twenty-one students. Everything else is under ten, and most of them are two or three students per building. So that’s hard to build community.
Now in terms of GS community, does a building staff help with that? Maybe in the building where I have seventy-eight students and twenty-one students, but for the other, you know, 200 students, I don’t know how that works. But having, you know, whether it’s a group of buildings that are close together or with a group of apartments that there is somebody that is linked to UAH in terms of being the student advocate on certain things, I think that would be helpful. I don’t know how we work that. Again, with multiple schools you get into a lot of different who’s responsible for things, who do they report to, things like that. And I think that can be worked out, but it hasn’t at this point. I hope I’m answering your question.
ANOTHER VOICE: No, you’re doing very well, and I’m wondering, it occurs to me. I mean I want to be a little bit sassy or sarcastic and call you the RA for 344 students. But then so the serious question is –
STELLINI: You don’t pay me enough. [Laughter]
ANOTHER VOICE: Yes, I’m sure. Well, I don’t pay you anything actually. [Laughter] DIs that a defined part, a role, is that a defined part of your job description?
STELLINI: Good definition of job description. Yes, it is. I’m the housing liaison. That’s part of my role is to make the housing experience a positive one. Am I successful in that a hundred percent of the time? No. There are a lot of things that go into that. You know, students, they have a mechanism to talk about maintenance issues and even roommate issues through UAH that gets funneled there. When the roommate issues become big enough, either they’ll come to me, or I’ll get information from Monica and her staff on that, and we try and work things out. So, yes, we do that, and that is part of my job.
In terms of the maintenance issues, sometimes I don’t hear about them until they’re severely problematic or someone’s really upset because they feel that they’ve gone through the process and haven’t been heard or haven’t gotten a reaction. You know, that’s less easy for me to deal with because I’m not a facilities person. But again, when I hear about that, I’ll talk with Monica and her staff, and sometimes this is the first time they’re hearing about it and the person hasn’t gone through the process, even though they think they have. I don’t know where that communication breaks down. But then times there have been people who have gone through process, and things are in the process of being addressed, it’s just, maybe that information didn’t get communicated to the student, or I don’t know.
ANOTHER VOICE: Just to make sure, check all the bases here, does your school, GS, guarantee housing to any students?
STELLINI: No. We’re very forceful about that, though there are students who, believe it or not, don’t read all the literature we send them. But we do not guarantee housing for anybody. We can’t.
ANOTHER VOICE: And you mentioned earlier that there are some part of trying to alleviate the housing demand has been by making arrangements specifically with UAH, I guess, to have specific designated units for GS. Is that a correct characterization?
STELLINI: No, I don’t think it’s a correct characterization. It’s not that we’ve worked with them to get certain units of theirs given to us. We’ve worked with them to look for additional units that we’ve gone out, the university’s entered into rental agreements with outside building owners, management companies, and what we’ve done is that we’ve guaranteed those spaces. Those are GS spaces because any difference between what the university pays and what the students pay we pay.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. And what’s the likelihood of your school being able to get even more units?
STELLINI: That’s a budget issue, and I’m not equipped to answer that.
LAMPKIN: And with the numbers you said it sounds like about a third of the students that request housing get it, and how’s it determined?
STELLINI: I’m not sure that that’s accurate because I don’t have numbers of people who are coming off the wait list.
LAMPKIN: I thought you said like eighty-five spots for like 240 requests.
STELLINI: Right. But more students than the eighty-five got housing in fall ’07. They just came off the wait list.
LAMPKIN: Yeah, on the wait list. But I mean, of the 240 that request, how did you determine which eighty-five are going to get the spots? Like first come, first serve or based on where they’re coming from?
STELLINI: It’s a combination of things. We give priority to new students. The idea being that because a lot of our students are coming from out of town, I probably would say that, you know, while we say sixty to sixty-five percent of our new students are coming from out of state, the number, that percentage jumps to probably seventy-five to eighty percent of housing applicants, new housing applicants are out of state. So those people, it’s very hard to try and find housing in New York when you live out of state. So that’s why we give those students priority.
From there we do look at the distance and the date of application. And then when we’re looking at conditioning students, there’s a whole, there’s a lot of different things that come into that, but a lot of it comes down to date of application, because we consider them all sort of local once you’re here.
LAMPKIN: Obviously there’s budget constraint issues. Has GS spearheaded any particular fundraising events to specifically address this issue?
STELLINI: I can’t speak to that. Fundraising is not part of my job. I don’t want to say yes; I don’t want to say no. I don’t know the specifics.
ANOTHER VOICE: Do you hear that? Do we have any other questions?
ANOTHER VOICE: I have a question about Roger Clemens.
STELLINI: I was thinking about starting with I just wanted to say I have not used. But my wife said that probably wouldn’t go over well.
LAMPKIN: Thank you so much, Dean Stellini
STELLINI: Thank you.
LAMPKIN: At this time we’d like to hear from David Greenberg.
DAVID GREENBERG: Hi. I’m David Greenberg. I’m associate vice president for finance administration for facilities. Don’t really have any prepared comments because I wasn’t aware I should prepared them. So any questions you have, feel free.
LAMPKIN: Sure. As you know, the Nussbaum building at 113th is a mixed use building. Do you know which students currently live at that building and which schools they belong to?
GREENBERG: No, I think that it’s Columbia College and GS, but beyond that I’m not aware. That’s probably, Mark I’m sure can tell you exactly who lives there. Probably by name in fact. [Laughter] He’s back.
KERMAN: Yes. It’s actually College, Engineering, GS, and then there may be a few other graduate students who are in there.
ANOTHER VOICE: I’m sorry. And some of anecdotal we received, some of the comments from Suzanne earlier, also an independent study that was done by the Law School student senate looking at various units, one of the big things that was mentioned is that there can be disparities between units, disparities in the condition, disparities in the quality of furniture, things along those lines. Can you help explain, I guess, the reasoning, the reasons behind this? What efforts are made to, I guess to make sure that there’s a sense of equity in what people are paying for, and, yeah, things along those lines? And make sure that at least there’s a base line condition as to what is acceptable for housing.
GREENBERG: Yes, one of the things, just going back to those comments. I thought they were very helpful. One of the things that of course we want to hear about are any sort of safety and unsanitary conditions because those are things that we should mitigate, you know, right away.
I think that as far as condition goes, two things when those comments were being made that popped in my head is that on the one hand we upgrade according to sort of life cycle schedules as we can, and then if there’s any situations particular to a unit, to a certain extent we also rely on the tenants to let us know if there’s a situation that needs to be mitigated.
As far as the replacement cycles go, I think, again, you know, Mark will probably talk a little bit more to how we get around to certain units, and a lot has to do with occupancy and our ability to get into units that are vacant so that we can fully renovate them. But other than that we replace things on a capital plan cycles which, you know, the senators who are on the committee are pretty familiar with.
ANOTHER VOICE: Well, I guess I could probably add to for it like two hours. It’s one of the big things that we’re always pushing for. Because one of the things to understand is that the stock is very different in age. I think the oldest buildings that we operate were built around like the early 1890s, and the newest buildings were opened up in 2003 or 2004.
So obviously you start out with very big differences in the buildings just because of the differences in the ages. And then as we go into things we try to, as David mentioned, to do things on a life cycles. That we’re looking at like ten years on a kitchen, twenty years on a bathroom. You know, all these things obviously, you know, partly controlled by the availability of funding to be able to do that, the availability to be able to take spaces off line. Because part of it is, you know, it’s not something, the housing is so tight we couldn’t just go in and say. Well, the best bet is we take this building completely off line for the next two years, gut it out, redo it from the beginning, because then that it just costs so much housing that it’s not something that we can necessarily do. So we end up having to do a lot of it on a smaller scale basis.
I think that generally we’ve been fairly successful on it. I mean, that in the case of the Nussbaum building as we worked through that, one of the things we actually did before we did the kitchens was we actually had a cycle where we’d gone through and replaced all the bathrooms and then came back to the kitchens. And so that I think when Suzanna went through it, we were getting ready for the kitchen part of the cycle. But the bathrooms had all been replaced about two years earlier, and we were doing that as the building is under occupancy. So you have to set up so that people can use alternate bathrooms and, you know, alternate kitchens as you go through those things. And it’s certainly something that we look for.
And I guess we also are concerned about safety issues and, you know, realize that those are out there and we have to be vigilant about them. And we certainly have changed our management structure over the last couple years to try have more people who are actually out there in the field to see it, to see conditions. And then we’ve brought in a number of new people in the last couple of years who are actually out there, you know, spending more, trying not to give them administrative burdens, but making them, you know, more people who are out in the field.
ANOTHER VOICE: You know, and just to add. On the top of the building staff that are there, you can always call the facilities help line which is 24/7, and that’s 42222 and report conditions, and tickets will be entered, and remediated.
ANOTHER VOICE: I’m sorry. Just wanted to follow up. So I understand that there’s a time cycle that you use to decide, to make sure that you hit on the various major parts of the apartment, such as make sure to address bathroom, or what have you, the quality of the bathroom, the kitchen, etc. But I wanted to follow up on something that I think I heard you say a little earlier. Usually you rely on the tenants to identify.
ANOTHER VOICE: No, no. As one of the sources.
ANOTHER VOICE: Oh, one of the sources.
ANOTHER VOICE: Yes, not sort of the source.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. Do you, do you, what?
ANOTHER VOICE: For example, you know, if you’re living in an apartment, and you look down, you see a leaking refrigerator, and you choose not to report that, then that leak continues on, and it won’t be found out until somebody from facilities does go in there, which, you know, depending on when that is, more damage could be done than not. So that’s what I mean in terms of, you know, a tenant just reporting a situation like that.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. So then the last question I have is do you do things such as independent walk-throughs. Because it sounds like there are a lot of things that were discovered by this one time walk-through. So is that standard operating protocol to have walk-throughs of all the different units, and if not why?
ANOTHER VOICE: This would certainly be very easy to point to Mark. When units are vacant, they’re inspected.
KERMAN: Yes, and we certainly have tried to become more vigilant about making sure that we have people who are doing walk-throughs of spaces. We obviously don’t go if it’s somebody’s apartment. We don’t generally go into their spaces. I mean, one of the other areas that my group operates is we do the operation of the undergraduate spaces also. We do walk-throughs there. But we don’t enter people’s private areas. We certainly try to respect people’s privacy and not go into their, their bedrooms, or even if they’re in a shared apartment, we generally try not to go into their bathrooms or kitchens or anything like that unless they’ve identified a problem for us. That being said, when it’s vacant we certainly go in and take a look at that, and we’ll look at conditions of common areas when we’re in an apartment that has a vacant room in it. And we also try, you know, particularly in the Nussbaum or the 362 that we made some management changes that should be providing some more management people on site walking through those buildings and making upgrades.
ANOTHER VOICE: So that was, those were questions about the conditions. Any other questions about conditions?
LAMPKIN: I have a question or a clarification in relation to the disparity that you were just asking about. When Suzanna was making her comments, like I’ve seen some disparity just it seems like at random you can’t really predict someone’s apartment was just renovated, someone’s was on a different cycle, but it sounded like she was saying that there was specific disparity between CS and SEAS versus GS, and what would be the reason for that?
KERMAN: Some of that was based on a cycle, is also based on a cycles. And some of it was we got an opportunity when the College and the Engineering went into is those spaces actually, were ended up the entire suites were vacant for six or seven weeks. So that allowed us to accelerate the cycle of going in and doing it. But I mean, now I think that we pretty much finished in the Nussbaum building in terms of upgrading all the suites. Upgrading the lighting in the hallways, placing flooring in the hallways, bathrooms, kitchens are all now replaced. We obviously can’t cycle through every kitchen and every bathroom in a building in the same year. So it’s just there’s funding problems. There’s also timing, just how. I guess we also look at how much noise and dust are we actually subjecting all the people in the building to.
And then we’re also in relation to other things that might be going on, which may or may not be obvious, particularly to people who don’t live there. If we have to do, you know, mandatory façade work on the outside of it, and we have people hanging off on scaffolds outside of the building for, you know, six months, cutting out mortar and creating noise, we try not to do other things in the building to add to that. So we’re trying to always juggle, juggle all the cycles so we’re also not, you know, there’s not a team of maintenance people inside of the building and inside of the space, you know, every day of every year.
ANOTHER VOICE: So basically it’s based on schedules while trying to do the maximum amount of work within the constraints that we have.
ANOTHER VOICE: So am I understanding correctly that the disparities that Suzanna reported on may have been due to the flow of people through the buildings. Yeah, the movement of people through the buildings as they vacate or as people are moved around as compared to a way that the buildings are managed. That Columbia College students aren’t necessarily provided with, with superior maintenance than GS or GSAS students are provided. Is that what, am I understanding that correctly in terms of maintenance?
KERMAN: In terms of maintenance that everybody, you know, the people who live in the UAH building, if they’re, if somebody’s in a UAH building, it doesn’t really matter to the building staff whether. Most of the time the building staff actually has no idea what school anybody’s from. I mean, it’s not something we tell people. You know, it doesn’t really matter to them in terms of doing their job.
And as I think Dominic mentioned that GS students are spread out over eighty-two buildings. So it’s, you know, they’re spread over a wide variety. There may be some areas which we’re actually working with and some places that are more problematic, when you get into spaces that we’ve leased from other landlord. You know, there we’re trying to fight, fight through I guess at some level the typical, you know, New York City mentality or owner’s mentality about how they take care of the buildings, which actually doesn’t typically rise up to the standard that we try to maintain in our buildings. And so there’s constant battles with them and talking to them about, you know, lease negotiations and trying to make sure that we get things that are hopefully better than what they might normally give to other tenants who are coming in.
It also becomes more problematic because the people who maintain those buildings aren’t Columbia employees. You know, I can’t walk in and tell somebody to do something and expect them necessarily to listen to me.
ANOTHER VOICE: I just have a question regarding the general cleanliness of UAH buildings, and you sometimes see disparity in that, and the answer that is given, not by the admin but by people around, is it’s the difference of the super’s taste and his sense of cleanliness. Could we have something like a unified system?
KERMAN: We certainly have a unified cleaning schedule. And we certainly have been trying to put more management people, who have more time to be out in the field to follow those and make sure that, that, you know, that everybody’s idea of cleanliness is closer to the same. There are certainly variations. I mean, we have gone into buildings and seen superintendents who are on their hands and knees picking lint out of a rug, and, you know, other people think that running a carpet, you know, using a vacuum cleaner over the top of it will be fine.
ANOTHER VOICE: But, you know, standards are the same across all buildings. So if there are certain circumstances where there are buildings that are sub-par and for whatever reason we’re not, we need that feedback so we can correct that issue.
ANOTHER VOICE: So I’d like to formally acknowledge the building staff at 531 West 112th Street. They do a fantastic job. So if you could send the message to anybody who’s appropriate. [Laughter] David, I want to ask you one last question, and this is in relation to another issue that’s been discussed in our forum so far. And within the scope of your knowledge and your position, I’m wondering if you could address the capacity question about whether or not there are plans in the university to increase capacity of housing units for GS and graduate student housing?
GREENBERG: Really when it comes to addressing capacity, that, as mentioned before, is really an academic decision, and as facilities we are really the implementers. So we build, we lease. So it’s not really something that I can answer.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. So when the university builds a new apartment building, the planning for that happens in another unit of the university, not within facilities or?
KERMAN: We would do the –
GREENBERG: We would do the very specific planning.
KERMAN: They would say build a senior faculty building, and then it would be our responsibility to say, okay, here’s what we think a senior faculty building would look like or here’s what we think a student building is like. But we’re not the ones who would say. You know, we don’t go the provost and say, by the way, you need another five hundred of these.
GREENBERG: Right. So that’s really more of an academic issue.
ANOTHER VOICE: Thank you. Do they tend to ask for you, do they consult you on those type of needs at all? I knew that it wouldn’t necessarily be your role to say you need this when you build this.
GREENBERG: You know, we can provide data on how many people we have in housing, and what the current stock is. But beyond that, it’s a higher level decision.
LAMPKIN: With respect to people coming to you and saying build me a senior faculty building, I know in different schools attempts to meet their housing needs, somebody say like the medical campus, can come to facilities and say, hey, give me a space in the northwest corner building and I’ll raise you fifteen million dollars. That’s not really an option for a school like GS. So because it’s not, again, within your scope or at least in your opinion, what do you think would be a viable option for GS to help meet their capacity needs?
GREENBERG: I mean actually I think that’s kind of being addressed now in terms of GS going out and leasing additional. You know, we’re leasing additional units to fill whatever additional capacity GS has. But again that has to come from GS to us, and then we’ll meet the needs as facilities and a real estate organization.
ANOTHER VOICE: Do we have any other questions? Would you like to like close, tie a bow or anything on what you’ve said. You’ve been very helpful, and we appreciate you being here.
KERMAN: Just as a point of reference, I think you might want to say that GS now has 344 students in housing, but four years ago it was less than 200. So there has been, just in terms of context of where.
ANOTHER VOICE: Thank you for that. Thank you.
LAMPKIN: Now we’d like to hear from Scott Wright.
SCOTT WRIGHT: Hi, I’m Scott Wright. I’m the vice president of student auxiliary and business services. Should probably take a moment to thank Monica for pointing out, I wouldn’t have known where to sit either. [Laughter] And as well as Paige knows, I didn’t come with prepared comments. I’m happy to answer any questions I can. My area manages the guaranteed housing for Columbia College and Engineering students.
LAMPKIN: How do students managed by your department obtain housing?
WRIGHT: So there’s two different ways. An incoming student is going to, as part of the admissions process, be given an application form where they show their preferences, which I think amount to nine different styles of housing across five buildings. It’s fairly limited, it’s fairly restricted. Based on what they ask for, we place students, first year students into the buildings. Everybody else is part of a self-serve selection process. Students determine whether they want to be part of a group entering into a suite style building, or if they want to live on their own and vie for a single room through an online general selection process.
LAMPKIN: Is this through a lottery system?
WRIGHT: Yes, it does start, for the returning students, the first thing that happens is there is a lottery and the prioritization of it is such that it’s twofold. The lottery numbers go one to 3,000, and then also we go by class standing. So for instance, the senior with the highest lottery number will pick before the junior with the lowest lottery number picks.
There’s actually twenty-four pages of room selection instructions on our web site. We met with students for three or four months to try to reduce and clarify and the vote was not to. That they liked the diversity of options. So there’s a lot of different nuances we have. Sophomores, rising sophomores can live with rising seniors, and we blend their class standing into different number categories and that. But essentially it is a system where it goes by class standing and by lottery number.
ANOTHER VOICE: Can you describe the nature of any connection you have with UAH?
WRIGHT: There’s a couple of things that we work with. I guess we don’t think of them as UAH. We think of them as facilities management.
First and foremost we have a service-level agreement with them for the undergraduate buildings which are thirty-four properties, Mark, I believe. See, we always turn to Mark. But I believe it’s thirty-four properties. Seventeen residence halls and seventeen brownstone buildings that we work together on to house undergrads. And we have a service-level agreement that talks about what the custodial services are going to be and what the response protocol is for maintenance services. All custodial and maintenance work for the undergraduate buildings is provided by what has been referred to as UAH, and by the custodial maintenance team within facilities.
As part of that we work on everything from budget transfers to each other. We also take a look at different capital needs to determine part of that cycling which properties need to be renovated, which properties need to be gut renovated versus just, you know, a new coat of paint or carpeting. We also work on other amenities within the building. If we have some open space and we capture some space, and the outcry from an undergraduate student might be to put another, you know, computer set up with a printer available for residents in the building, something like that, to modify the space before we bring CUIT to put the actual equipment in.
The other side of that that you were asking about is just where we do have some shared space. There’s probably I guess three different ways to think of our properties. There are fifteen, whatever we’re going to call them, traditional undergraduate residence halls. We also lease space or an entire building from UAH in two residence halls, which are 47 Claremont and what has been called the Nussbaum building, and then all of the brownstones originally were part of UAH where that property is managed a little bit differently because the different style of housing. But again, I really only focus on the students that we house, the service-level agreement that we have there.
Just to say it because I was part of the walk-through that Suzanna referred to and other things like that. The one thing I do want to call out is that the properties that we were viewing for the undergraduate students in that building were the most recently renovated properties of any of the thirty-four buildings that we manage. So you were sort of comparing the very newest of the CC and SEAS undergraduate housing to the other properties.
LAMPKIN: I have a question that you might not be the right person to answer, but since you mentioned CUIT, one of the minor concerns that people had was there’s a twenty-five dollar mandatory charge ethernet charge, and the people that lived in the unit at the time got to choose whether they wanted the ethernet access and wanted to pay that fee or not. But then once the unit as a whole was wired for it, anyone that moves in in the future whether they want the ethernet or if they subscribe to wireless on their own, has to pay that mandatory fee, and is there anything that like you can choose to turn it off and not pay that?
WRIGHT: Yes, we don’t give that option. And one thing that I guess just should be pointed out is we talk about the way housing services manages CC and SEAS housing.
It’s a more narrow program. So that we not only don’t say give that option of turning it off, we don’t give the option of doing your own wireless in the buildings. And some of that just comes down to, as you’ve heard already, the date of the buildings, the infrastructure of the buildings. We follow CUIT’s advice about the overall security of the services for the students, things like that. So it is a little more rigid I guess in some of the protocols, and one of my goals as the person that administers it is to be sure that we’re very clear with the students as to what the costs of being in a room are. And we don’t put options out there that we actually can’t offer to students.
There really are only three room rates within what we do. It’s not based on square footage. The whole pricing thing, everything else like that, is very different in our section.
ANOTHER VOICE: If a student has a problem let’s say at 4 a.m., do they all call at the same place? Because it’s like, my understanding is that they’re spread all over.
WRIGHT: Yes. Oh, they’re definitely spread all over. There’s two different things that a student can do at 4 a.m., and it’s really up to the student as to which they do. There’s been some discussion about RAs, you know, and what that role is. Some of you know quite well what that role is. That is actually not a group of students, I believe there are a 144 RAs within undergraduate housing; we do not supervise that group. That’s through student affairs and their residential program section. But that would be one of the things you could do. At 4 a.m. there’s somebody on call, there’s somebody on duty, whether it’s the resident assistant, there are graduate assistants that live in our buildings, and then assistant directors, all of whom live in undergraduate housing, who a student might call at 4 a.m.
I think what they probably do is though, they probably call our hospitality desk, which is open every day of the year. And depending on what the issue is. I mean, we get a call sometime to say it’s 4 a.m. and I just took a shower and locked myself out of my room, and I only have a towel. And it’s like today, and we come over and open your room for you. And there can be other things that might be more serious where we look at actually moving that student into another housing space, usually out of issues of safety. So either avenue is open to the residents.
LAMPKIN: Also since you mentioned safety issues, students have been concerned with campus security like, you know, around the buildings and stuff. And does housing work at all with NYPD to insure safety or is all done internally? Because other schools, like for example Cornell, on the east side has mentioned that working with the NYPD with their campus security has really helped their situation there.
WRIGHT: So we direct all of our security protocols through public safety on campus. And, you know, I think one of the great advantages we have in doing that is their relationship with NYPD. But to describe that, we’d need somebody from public safety to really talk more about that.
In terms of just some of the quick protocol that we have, we do have a card swipe system at all of our buildings, even buildings like Nussbaum where it’s mixed use and maybe a little more on the honor system as to whether an undergraduate is recognized from CC and SEAS in swiping versus GS where they would not be required to do that. But we recently went to a new system, as part of the re-carding of the campus, and the idea just being that we want to make sure that the folks that come into the building ought to be there according to the policies that are in place.
Happy to be the only one who finishes ahead of time.
ANOTHER VOICE: I actually have a question.
LAMPKIN: How are maintenance requests handled?
WRIGHT: Again, there are two different ways that we do maintenance requests. Everybody is shown the way to do this through the online system which is managed by facilities. So again, there is a self-serve process for any maintenance request that you have. But certainly is the maintenance request or the issue is urgent, the toilet just broke and there’s water flowing into the apartment, whatever it may be, we would expect students to go through the hospitality desk, to call so we can urgently call over to that line David referred to and get somebody, a mechanic, on the job immediately.
The other thing is sometimes people just for whatever reason, it’s a fairly simple, you know, four- or five-step process, but if for someone reason that’s not working for a student, we’ll put in the maintenance request for them, just being sure that it’s directed back to their attention, not ours. So the right person is getting an e-mail to say, you know, we fixed your toilet and you should be okay.
LAMPKIN: As you may have heard Suzanna and a couple others speak today, there have been lot of comments about students living in Butler and what not. Would your offices have the resources to at least handle some spillover of GS students if there were people that didn’t have places to live for that semester?
WRIGHT: You know, that’s an interesting question. We manage, and again, I might get the exact number wrong because we look for new space each other, but I believe we have 5,260 beds available for students. The last, last year on Labor Day we had contracts for 5,251 of those beds. The nine empty beds were, you know, kind of half doubles, those sorts of things that remained open, and those beds were then offered to students who were not guaranteed housing. There are usually about forty or so students who sign up, not all of whom are looking for housing. If you’re a senior, you might be looking for a certain kind of open room in East Campus or Hogan Hall, something like that. But we reserve those to offer back to the guaranteed students, and certainly those who are traveling from far away or something like that usually take that up.
Once the study abroad program kicks in, and we move into the spring term, some students have taken leaves, etc., there are more rooms or beds within rooms available. But again that would be a decision that we would need to work more with residential programs on because you move into less of a straight housing contract question and more into a community question there. But are there empty beds in the spring term? Yes.
LAMPKIN: If you were able to offer those, offer those beds to students in GS or whoever that didn’t have guaranteed housing, would they be able to have the same service agreement with you? Would they be able to call the Hartley hospitality desk, etc?
ANOTHER VOICE: How are the room transfer requests handled?
WRIGHT: Students, the vast majority of our students, meaning non-first years, would handle that through, typically it’s through the summertime. And students will put in a transfer request. We just call it the summer transfer process. It’s an electronic form that comes off our website, and the reason why it’s done this way is, remember, everybody is self-selecting. So you pick your roommate to live with, and then you pick the space on your own that you got. But if you’re a sophomore with lottery number 3,000, it’s possible you didn’t get the best room in our inventory and you’re looking to upgrade. And those are the students that typically would go through.
There aren’t a lot of transfer requests from seniors, a few more from juniors, a whole bunch from sophomores that we would get. First-year students are a little bit different. They do need to go through residential programs for their transfer. And that’s just to insure that they’ve consulted RAs, and that people are, as they try to possibly live on their own for the first time, work through issues that quite frankly can be solved on their own. I heard the beep.
ANOTHER VOICE: That was the beep. So I think that’s great. I know that there are a lot of people who were hoping to ask some questions, and so you don’t have to stay in that seat. You can be over there. But I think it’s something we agreed would be that. So we’re going to have time for people to, your option is to if you want to make a statement that’s relevant and we might do a quick follow-up. But we’re trying to have it to be no more than I guess about a minute about fifteen seconds for that exchange. Or if you want to ask a question directly to anybody who’s spoken, if that’s okay with you all, and if it’s within the scope of what you can answer. So I guess we have a little under a half an hour to do that now.
MATT THOMPSON: I have a question to direct to I guess any one of you guys that spoke. First of all, I’ll preface this with housing has kind of been the bane of my existence here at Columbia so I can speak about this for an hour. But the first issue that I want to bring up is that [background conversation]. I’m in GS. Sorry. My name is Matt Thompson. I was president of a fraternity, and I was not allowed to live in the fraternity house. I would like to know why there were open beds. We were in discussions with Herman Matay, one of the directors of housing, and we were in trouble for not filling our beds, and I was president, and I was asking him if I could live in one of those beds, and he would not allow it. Why?
WRIGHT: Sure. I can answer that. So again the design of the program that we have is guaranteed housing for Columbia College and Engineering students. Within that list, this happens continually with, to some extent, usually it’s one or two openings per brownstone building or per organization, but at the same time that those beds aren’t being filled, we have a wait list of non-guaranteed students from the same schools hoping to get housing. Much like what you’ve heard to a different degree, we have more demand than we have supply even within the undergraduate population. And so part of having the brownstone is working with the students to say there’s always a much greater membership. So there were probably a number of people in your organization that were living in the other seventeen other residence halls, and were they to live in that brownstone, it would open up an opportunity for another student.
Additionally, with that, whether it gets down to rules on conduct, dean’s discipline, other things, the entire program is actually built towards Columbia College and School of Engineering. And again that moves us into a totally different area. It’s not our responsibility, but it is something that we’re asked to make sure we comply to only housing Columbia College and Engineering students in.
THOMPSON: If I can say one more, there were other students in the fraternity living in other residence halls, several of whom were willing to trade their bed in your system for the bed that I had in the GS system. But that also was a request that was denied. I just wanted to mention that and point out this discrepancy.
WRIGHT: Again, it’s supposition. My guess is that if there was an open GS bed, folks would not want that going to a Columbia College or Engineering student.
ERIC WONG: Hi My name is Eric Wong. I’m a senator representing CC. I have a question regarding housing after study abroad. I hear from some of my constituents, they went to study abroad, they came back, the housing they got is really crappy in their senior year. So they decide altogether not living in housing and live off campus. They don’t want to live off campus, but they just have a sort of forced situation. So I’m just wondering if you can comment on some of those issues or how the study abroad housing works?
WRIGHT: Sure. This might not seem logical, but study abroad housing is handled the exact same way everybody else’s is. Study abroad students are expected to register, get a lottery number, either join a group or do their own general selection. You could do that from anywhere where you’ve got a computer. You have a right to put in a room transfer request. We do prioritize room transfers the exact same way where we do seniors first. And would work very diligently to be sure that they didn’t get a, I believe you said a crappy room. And that seems like an unusual experience. Because typically what you would hear from juniors and sophomores certainly is the worst senior room is probably on par better than the best junior room.
But the process is exactly the same for study abroad students. They’re on the listserv that goes out to everybody saying it’s time to register, click this link, go in, and then if they’re part of a group, there’s an online proxy form so that the other members of their group would be given the permission to pick them into a room in a group suite setting. You would not need that for general selection, you would just need to make sure you calculate the time difference for wherever you are when it’s your turn to pick in general selection.
WONG: So their seniority status still applies. Okay. Another quick question regarding follow-up. Then would those people who study abroad would still be able to regroup? Some seniors, for instance, a lot of people went into five-person suites, and a lot of people regroup into two, but those regroup happen in person.
WRIGHT: So again I don’t want to be too long-winded with this response, but essentially seniors who are looking to live in suites, if at the point they reach the end of that process and they have not picked into a suite, it’s sort of like you can trade a friend. And, yeah, that would not favor a study abroad student if the other members they picked in with boot them out without telling them. That’s going to drop them into general selection. However, in doing that, they’re going to be notified that they’re in general selection and retain their position within the lottery system to pick. You know, so if they had a good lottery number, they’re going to pick very early in general selection. And again, worst case, they’re picking before any of the juniors.
ANOTHER VOICE: I understand from the housing, or correct me if I’m wrong, I do understand the housing committee did make some outreach to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, maybe to the wrong point of intersection, but this is going to be a moving process so definitely look forward to having you involved.
LAMPKIN: Thank you so much. We do appreciate any information that you have. We did reach out to several graduate students and administrators, but as we said at the beginning of the hearing, they weren’t able to come at the last minute.
BRODIE BERG: Hello. My name is Brodie Berg, and I’m the VP of communication for the General Studies student council, and in my role as the VP of communication, I run all our technology and e-mail and website. And that’s a facility where students are able to constantly reach out to me with their feedback about their lives on campus and student life as well. I’d just like to respond to various things that people have said. Survey is a really interesting idea. A lot of our students don’t graduate. You know, a lot of our students never get into the housing system. So there needs to be a more effective way to reach out there.
I lived in a building managed by Kanar Realty, and it’s run by a person who I’m ninety percent certain does not speak English. Like really. Like it’s amazing. And so what that speaks to is my culture shock getting to New York City from elsewhere. It’s like I’m not used to the system, I don’t know what it takes to get a New York landlord to do anything. It’s a big problem.
So another thing is what is the housing number? Like, we get this number in e-mail, and I agree, it’s a much better system than the phone system where you had to call and talk to a robot and the robot was like, I don’t know who you are. So it’s much better to get that number in e-mail. The problem is that we have students, and they register multiple times. They get multiple numbers, and then there’s this really big problem where Joe Schmoe has a lower number than you, but you got a housing unit before they did. So it’s like this huge problem. But what it really boils down to is it’s not perceived that the housing lottery system is actionable, and by actionable, I mean plannable. If you’re away during the summer and you get a housing number, does that number and its relative magnitude mean that you can make a plan? Does it mean that you can budget a certain number of dollars for your housing, or does it mean that you’re never going to get a unit period? So plannability is a huge deal.
Let me continue. One of the most compelling features of our General Studies website this fall semester was a student who blogged while living in Butler. And what was interesting about that situation is that I just had gotten university housing for the first time. I had an empty unit in my building for my four weeks while he was doing the blog, and then he moved into my unit.
It’s appalling because it makes me feel like if I tell him, then he’s going to feel really bad. But I don’t have power over the situation. So what I did is I gave the facility to message Right? I gave him the facility to get the word out.
There’s a perception of gender bias. There’s a perception that women that apply get housing first. I don’t know where that comes from. It just seems like whenever I talk to. Apparently there’s no gender bias. You know, the issue is there is perception. It’s a perception. I think that’s the major component of my questions. It seems to be a system that’s hard to get information out, and it’s a situation, even though I’m massively lucky and I now have a unit, it’s hard for me to do things like get maintenance or figure out why there’s a crazy chemical smell in my building as of last night. Things like that.
MICHELLE STOCKMAN: Hi. My name is Michelle Stockman. I’m the university senator from the Journalism School, and I’m a part-time student so I haven’t dealt with the housing facilities here, but I am representing the full-time students, and so I think a lot of them are confused as to who they should call and contact. So I just want to clarify with you for the Journalism School who is the housing rep that they should contact.
ANOTHER VOICE: Melanie Huff is.
STOCKMAN: Okay. Great. I’ll take that back to everyone.
NIKO CUNNINGHAM: My name is Niko Cunningham. I’m the current study body president in GS. I prepared some more executive comments earlier in the week, but I thought since Suzanna succinctly summed up some of the situations we dealt with, I could just talk off the cuff here for a minute or two.
It’s true people do live in Butler in GS. Two of these people were relatively close friends of mine, and it seems unacceptable for an Ivy League university to allow students, regardless of school, regardless of age, regardless of any mitigating factor to shower in gyms to get ready for class the next day. Two years ago a group of students and I, we actually took photos in the Nussbaum building, and everything that Suzanna had spoken to earlier: the mold all documented and fixed, you know, exposed wiring, police tape in suites.
In fact, I do believe one of the suites that had housed GS students, I believe that one of the suites had had police tape as a matter of fact. We came back after the summertime, and that suite had been transformed into a Columbia College and SEAS suite. So at least for that specific suite and that specific building the housing stock for GS had shrunk. What Matt Thompson had spoken to earlier, presidents of fraternities and sororities who can’t live in their own brownstones. We seem to be pulling policies that have been on the books now for many years, and we seem to be justifying a lot of policies and why we can and can’t make changes to those polices. And all these things seem to point to one conclusion, and that’s there needs to be a massive overhaul on how we think about resources for General Studies students and grad students. Perhaps a centralization of services is key.
In fact, I’ve never seen a building with so much. It’s kind of like living conditions apartheid in Nussbaum, at least two years ago, and I know those conditions have greatly improved. So that’s pretty much it. I just encourage the panel and as we investigate these situations to take some of these piecemeal policies and maybe try to make an overall vision of how we should attack this, this housing issue. So, thank you.
SUZANNA CARLSON: Again, I’m Suzanna Carlson. I have a question. It’s kind of grating on me. I heard the same set of responses when I walked through the Nussbaum building with a lot of the supporting documentation that Niko and his colleagues had provided us last year. We keep talking about maintenance cycles and so forth, and, you know, well, golly gee, GS students never leave and so how are we to renovate. My question is, if we know for sure that CC students move out of their units, vacate their units over the duration of the summer, at which time they’re reassigned to a different unit, probably in a different building, and we also know for sure that those residents of Nussbaum that are GS will probably keep their units throughout the summer for whatever reason that there’s a variation in the housing contracts. Why is, my question is why we can’t in order to close this quality gap between the schools, why it is that we can’t move those CC students into currently GS units that are deplorable, why those students weren’t moved into GS units, and vice versa, and GS units moved into CC units so that we knew and could predict with one hundred percent accuracy that those units would be vacated for the duration of the summer at which time they could be renovated and overhauled. Why did it take ten years or twenty years or fifteen? Why?
Like for me that doesn’t add up because what we’re talking about here is a quality disparity, and we know with certainty that those units can and should be vacated for renovations that are scheduled for whatever reason. Perhaps they need to be done ahead of the traditional cycling if there is a particular concern like mold in a unit, for example. Why it has to be that floors three, four, five, and six are CC and floors seven, eight, nine and ten are GS and that’s fixed for all of time and carved in stone. And if you’re on a GS floor, well, sorry for you, you’re just never moving out so we’re never going to renovate it.
I’m having a hard time grappling intellectually with the idea of why those students weren’t swapped, and the units that needed the work, housing CC students who we know are going to leave, allowing opportunity for maintenance to occur on a schedule that we can predict.
ANOTHER VOICE: I guess, Suzanna, the summer housing program that we manage, we don’t ever actually vacate the rooms that you’re talking about. But if there is a question of could we come up with a building like say 47 Claremont that we don’t use over the summer, and largely because it’s not air-conditioned, it is prohibitively warm, that sort of thing. But if there would be a question of that being the difference in facilitating the opportunity to do some work, then I’m certain that that’s something that Mark and I could work on to do.
Typically the renovations like what we had in the Nussbaum building were done prior to ever getting in there, and that those spaces at this point, like spaces we have in East Campus, Broadway and Shapiro and probably about a half dozen other buildings, are actually only vacant about two weeks of the year, which happens in the period between mid-August and Labor Day. But there are certain buildings that are not used currently in the summer, largely because people didn’t want to live in those. The other buildings are occupied the other, you know, forty-nine to fifty weeks of the year.
ANOTHER VOICE: There are two issues that are being brought up here. One is things that have to do with cleaning up the facilities that exist, and the other one is there’s simply not nearly enough housing for all the students, GS, GSAS, CC, SEAS, all these, we don’t have enough housing. If we were to go to some other reallocation system, that’s all we’re going to do if you just shift the particular students who might get housing, but there still wouldn’t be any more housing. What you want to work on is going to the central administration, we should all get together and go to central administration and say we have to figure out a way to produce more units. This is not an issue with respect to UAH. It’s just there are not enough rooms.
ANOTHER VOICE: My question is for David, yesterday I remembered you mentioning that there’s some non-Columbia affiliates living in Columbia housing. So I’m not too sure what that meant.
GREENBERG: We have people who live in the buildings for a long time, prior to when we acquired them, who have say a rent-stabilized tenant or rent-controlled tenant.
ANOTHER VOICE: So it’s like, it’s Columbia housing now or still.
GREENBERG: That unit is not a Columbia housing, the building is a Columbia building.
ANOTHER VOICE: So do they get the same facilities that we get from that building, like the super, the maintenance, everything?
GREENBERG: Yes. Same building staff.
ANOTHER VOICE: Which we pay for or do they also?
GREENBERG: They pay rent as well.
ANOTHER VOICE: Okay. Thank you.
ANOTHER VOICE: I was just wondering if some of the administrators might be able to talk about the communication between these different departments, and how much of this information coming up today is new information to you, how much you may have already known about it, how you communicate as different aspects of different housing, and how this might be able to alleviate some of these problems if communication were better?
KERMAN: I think that as facilities that I can go through this. It’s actually not internal communication.
ANOTHER VOICE: The schools and UAH, I mean, the day that I don’t talk to somebody in Monica’s office is the day I’m not here.
ANOTHER VOICE: I have maybe one last question to Scott. I’m just wondering how does housing enforcement, especially in terms of quiet hours or noises. I personally have the experience of a very, very bad situation right now for the past year. Every day I have to call public safety or RAs or the guy downstairs from me for three times a day, you know, sometimes after like three hours because their music’s so loud, and then sleep for three hours at another time when they turn down their music. And it has been very frustrating in terms of getting enforcement, and I considered moving out many, many times, and it’s completely destroying my quality of life for senior year, but I’m sure some other students might have a similar frustration in dealing with enforcement. The RAs sometimes will tell them, but they will try to turn down the music for two minutes and they will turn it back up again when the RA leaves. There’s no follow-up to that process. So I’m just wondering how people who face this situation, how can they get the issue resolved.
ANOTHER VOICE: I’d like to make just a real quick additional comment. Also one situation that’s happened that with one of my friends is that a student was playing the music too loud and the RA, public safety was called, and the student had violently yelled at public safety as well as the RA on duty. The RA on duty had basically left in tears afterwards because she had, after calling public safety and trying to address the situation, it’s been, it’s been taken care of, but it just is a situation that has to be addressed.
LAMPKIN: I want to give you a chance to answer, but I just want to remind people that are asking questions that this is supposed to be focused on graduate students and GS students that are housed by UAH, but go ahead.
WRIGHT: Quick. That has to go over to student affairs. That’s not our area.
ANOTHER VOICE: So thank you to the presenters and to the panelists and to the audience for participating in this forum with us. I bet there’s more pizza.
END OF SESSION