When Christopher Radebaugh, a first-year in physics, received a university email telling him housing was full, he panicked.
“I didn’t know where I was supposed to find off-campus housing. There’s an Ohio State branch in my hometown and I almost transferred there,” he said. Radebaugh lives near the OSU-Lima branch.
Students coming to campus know they’re going to have to make a lot of adjustments, but on June 27, some freshmen who had forgotten or neglected to fill out their housing contracts with the university received an email that told them they might not have a place to live at OSU. The email said on-campus residence hall housing had reached its capacity for the 2012-2013 school year. All students who had completed their contracts had been slated for university housing at this point.
The email from the Office of Housing Services under University Residences and Dining Services said that all campus housing options had been fully committed.
“Unfortunately, due to scheduled renovations to three housing facilities for the 2012-2013 academic year, on-campus housing availability is exceptionally reduced,” the email stated. “Because of high demand for on-campus housing, we are no longer able to offer or accept on-campus housing contract submissions.”
The three housing facilities mentioned are Steeb Hall, Smith Hall and Siebert Hall. Historically, these residence halls have housed a significant number of students, primarily freshmen.
The email suggested that students search for other living arrangements in the off-campus area, and reach out to the Off-Campus Student Services for help. Finding housing in the off-campus area has somewhat of a competitive nature, and many upperclassmen students sign leases six months or more before they move in at the start of each academic year. The high demand for off-campus housing, and leases signed months prior to even their acceptance to the university, left these students with few options.
The email offered students a place on the on-campus housing waiting list, but OSU was not confident they could accommodate students, despite the anticipation of possible housing cancellations.
“Please be aware that we are not hopeful that we will be able to use the waiting list, so we would strongly advocate for you to begin your search for off-campus housing as soon as possible,” the email stated.
While three dorms are closed for renovations this year, the newly renovated Park-Stradley Hall reopened, and the new 10th Avenue residence hall and Gateway Residence Halls in the South Campus Gateway, which were previously off-campus apartments, were purchased by the university. The Lantern reported in October 2011 that the 10th Avenue residence hall would accommodate 510 students when it opened.
Dave Isaacs, communications and media relations manager of Student Life, said that there were approximately 297 beds added to residence halls that weren’t renovated this past year, making the total number of beds on campus this year roughly 9,800 beds, compared to last year’s 9,504 beds. When the housing distribution process began in the spring, there were about 500 more students that were planning to live on campus than beds available. Isaacs said that many of them were international students.
Isaacs said all students who applied to be on the waiting list did receive university housing by the start of August. He said it is hard to determine how many students were on the waiting list at any given time because it fluctuates significantly due to cancellations. The number of students who chose not to put themselves on the housing waiting list is also unknown.
Radebaugh was lucky. His mom called the university to talk to someone about another issue and was told about a fraternity house that was subletting. The fraternity was Phi Kappa Tau, who has a management agreement with the university. Isaacs said the university places students there to fill vacancies in the house.
“Usually, we use it as a place for transfer students, but when there is a need, there are some freshmen that can live there,” he said.
Radebaugh said he was originally feeling nervous about living in the house, but has since heard that several freshmen in the same situation will be living there too, and feels better about it.
“I would probably rather be staying in a dorm my first year, just to get the dorm experience, but if I have to be staying anywhere other than a dorm, I could have done a lot worse,” he said.
Due to the first-year live-on requirement, the university typically houses 95 percent of the freshmen class in university housing, with the other 5 percent living with a parent or close relative. First-year students are prohibited from living in off-campus area apartments or houses, however students who could not be accommodated by the university this year were encouraged to look for housing in those areas.
Whether intentional or not, some first-year students found a way out of the first-year live-on requirement by not filling out their housing contracts.
While unusual circumstances occur, Isaacs said he didn’t consider not filing out a housing contract to avoid the on-campus requirement “an advisable or viable strategy.”
Audrey Will, a first-year in special education, tried to make the best of her situation. She said she forgot to fill out her housing contract because she was distracted by a mission trip and hanging out with friends over the summer. When she received the email explaining on-campus housing was full, she chose not to be added to the housing waiting list. Her older sister, a fellow OSU student, sent out an email to members of an on-campus church she attends, to see if anyone was looking for housing.
Will received a response and quickly found a place to live for this academic year.
“I think I will at times miss learning to live with someone in a dorm … but I’m grateful for my situation,” she said. “It’s partially my fault I’m not on campus.”
Will said she will have opportunities to make friends through student organizations, and that she already made a lot of friends at orientation she plans to stay in contact with.
With talks of adjusting the live-on requirement to two years in university housing, the university will have to nearly double the number of beds on campus to accommodate the extra students.
Isaacs could not give a time frame for when he expected a two-year live-on requirement to be established because the matter has to be approved by the Board of Trustees before it can be enacted, but President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern last spring that he expected the requirement to begin in 2015 or 2016.
Isaacs said the housing situation this year could not be called “by any means unusual,” since enrollment levels fluctuate year to year.
“We’re committed to housing all freshmen at Ohio State,” he said. “Our priority is for them to live in one of our residence halls, but
once housing is closed, occasionally we need to consider other alternatives.”