When I first opened the door to my apartment at Campus Crossings Durham, I distinctly remember the sinking feeling in my chest as I looked inside for the first time. Vents were covered in dust and cobwebs. Dishes and used towels were still scattered throughout the apartment. Smoke detectors had no batteries.
All I could think to myself was, “How the hell did I end up here?”
The story of how I ended up having to live off-campus in my junior year is similar to those of many other upperclassmen. It’s a tale that involves a lack of communication, transparency and responsibility by N.C. Central University’s Department of Residential Life to get more money out of incoming freshmen and sophomores.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On Feb. 27, Residential Life sent out an email detailing their plans for the 2017-2018 housing selection process that would begin on March 20.
It was broken down into three phases: phase one, finish the application and pay the housing administration fee; phase two, pick a roommate; phase three, pick a room.
Sounds easy, right?
But here’s the catch: the Housing Administration fee is just $150. $150 just to click on a screen and select a room. Don’t worry, though—they strategically placed a “waived fee” selection period on the same day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m … for rising sophomores.
Rising juniors and seniors, however, had their fee waived on March 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Unfortunately, many other upperclassmen and I thought it’d be a good idea to wait that extra day to avoid the fee, or at least consider it. However, that never even became an option since all on-campus housing options were filled in little over an hour on March 20.
From there, every poor soul that didn’t make the cut for housing selection got placed on the dreaded waiting list.
When I applied for housing that same afternoon, I was somehow designated number 101 of 98 on the waitlist.
I didn’t find out until later what 101 of 98 actually meant.
After the spring semester was over, I called Residential Life every single week, multiple times if I could, just to find out if I would have somewhere to live on campus in the fall. The month of May came and went and I moved up a whopping three whole spaces to number 98.
I called and called, but June left me a little more hopeful. I got in contact with an employee of NCCU’s Office of Faculty Professional Development, who happened to be a former Residential Life employee, who assured me that I would find housing on campus. The employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that it was common for students to drop from the waiting list by early July and space would clear up from there. I made it all the way to number 52, so I thought things were on the up and up.
But then July 4 came and I was pushed back down to number 53 on the waiting list.
How did I get pushed down again? No clue.
My long-developing anxiety and panic that grew over the summer because of this situation reached a peak as I realized living on-campus probably won’t be an option for me.
I tried to call Augustus Forte, NCCU’s Scholarship Coordinator in order to break down what financial options I’d have in order to pay for housing and school.
Of course, he never picked up or returned any of the multiple calls or voicemails my family and I left him over the summer because that would be convenient. Hell, I left him a voicemail two months ago that he never returned.
I reached out to my FPD contact again and even they were baffled by how I had yet to secure housing. They called a friend and former co-worker that helped lead the housing selection process for Residential Life. From there, they discovered that I was number 53 of 98 on the men’s waiting list.
In reality, I was up against 52 other men and an unknown number of women who were given priority due to their gender, for a single spot in an unknown residence hall.
Why was no one told there were separate lists? Why did the Department of Residential Life give so many students false hope that they’d actually have a place to live?
Well, the answer is in off-campus housing. NCCU can continue to increase its freshman size in order to garner more money in fees, since their on-campus housing is mandatory, and keep pushing off juniors and seniors to make space.
That would explain why each consecutive freshmen class is bigger than the last but we somehow still don’t have enough beds for students for all of these students, no matter what the administration says.
Out with the old and in with the new.
NCCU acted as though all hope was not lost for students seeking a home for the school year by recommending 10 housing locations. Only one of them offered transportation to school (Campus Crossings Durham, where I currently stay).
A majority of the housing locations were in downtown Durham with some monthly rental rates of $1,500. It sure sounds like the department is really in touch with their students since they think that’s a reasonable price for any college student to pay.
That’s how I wound up at Campus Crossings Durham. My family and I scraped together all the money we could and took out an increased financial aid loan to pay the first month’s rent and secure one of the last few spots left.
I guess things are looking up though! My apartment complex finally gave me working air conditioning after two weeks and “functioning” internet after a month and half. Plus I have just enough to avoid going into debt, so things are looking up for me.
But for other students, they’ve endured a lot worse and will continue to if Residential Life doesn’t start taking real action.
According to Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management Jonathan Peeler, the school is just “assessing the need” for further housing options for the next 3 to 4 years.
That, along with the aforementioned claim that there are enough beds on campus for every student that wants one, was said at the ‘Catch Me Outside’ Residential Life forum where both he and Executive Director of Residential Life James B. Leach took a few questions from students.
(Side note: If you’re going to name an event about a serious issue affecting students, don’t name it after a meme.)
While NCCU uses temporary tactics like last-minute announcements for hotel housing a week before school starts, students and faculty alike will wonder when Residential Life is actually going to be transparent and take some real responsibility.
Until that happens, we’ll just have to keep calling them at (919) 530-7298.
Photo caption: Eagle Landing Residence Hall, one of the upperclassmen on-campus housing options offered by the university. Photo by Autavius Smith/Echo Multimedia Editor.