On August 7, Residence Life informed 16 students that the housing they had intended to live in was not prepared for students to reside in for the beginning of the fall semester. Those students are temporarily being housed in Ross and Sullivan Hall, which are mansion and traditional-style housing, as opposed to the 77 West apartment style housing that they were expecting.
The three students in Sullivan are in a triple, and are all senior nursing students: Victoria Kraft, MaKayla Keister and Alexis Graves.
“I wish they could have informed us closer to the middle or beginning of summer than two or three weekes before we came back,” said Kraft,“We also had furniture we were supposed to bring. I have not unpacked yet because I am not sure if I will just need to repack in a week or two.”
“I feel the same way,” said Graves. “They sent an email July 29 that confirmed our housing assignment and then a week later we get the email telling us that it is not done. That email did not tell us what the temporary assignment would be and we had to wait for phone calls to talk about it.”
Deborah Scheibler, director of Residence Life, laid out the timeline for what created the delays in the housing.
The apartment building was purchased by Wilkes University in March/April of last semester, according to Scheibler. The process for finishing the purchase was delayed to the summer due to a Luzerne County internet breach in May.
“Since it is a private property unit it was not on our cable and internet connection. In order to run the cable you have to run from one side of the street to the other. To do that you have to cut asphalt and close roads. Other than IT, the building is ready to go but, because of the fire suppression system, security cameras and [internet concention issues] we cannot get a certificate of occupancy.”
The work was done in cooperation with third party contractors. In particular the parking lot behind the building is owned by an entity other than Wilkes. Residence Life stated that Wilkes was completely ready to handle the acquisitions but setbacks outside of Wilkes control prevented a smooth transition.
The October timeline is the realistic timeline, meaning that potentially students could be in earlier, but in the same way if more delays emerged that are out of Wilkes’ control the October timeline has a chance of being extended.
In the email sent out in August it was recommended to students that they bring furniture at another time for the apartments in 77 West which leaves one large issue.
“I do not think they took into consideration that we have to furnish 77, because we do not know what is in the building. Our families now have to come up here with our stuff because we had no room to store furniture. It becomes a hassle for them and us, they have the moving company but I live two hours away and our furniture is not on campus,” Kraft said.
Graves added, “This is the reason why I think the $250 is not comparable to the inconvenience that us and our families have to experience.”
Scheibler said, “Every single person who was assigned to 77 West is going to get a personal communication from our department, we are going to let them know exactly the date and time the moving crew is coming and they will box up their own things and the crew will come to move them.”
In return for the complications with 77 West all the students received the lowest possible dorming cost available for the semester, resulting in a refund of $250 for each student. However, it is clear that many students felt that while the amount was nice to receive that if did not cover other complications the students have begun to run into during their time in Ross and Sullivan.
Julia Firestine, sophomore studying pre-pharmacy, said, “I feel anxious about the 77 West apartments still remaining under construction. Dorm life was not what I envisioned all summer nor wanted to live in again when returning to school. 77 West seemed a promising housing option due to its individual rooms and kitchen space. The kitchen is a very important feature for me due to my restricted dietary needs.”
“We planned on having space to cook in and therefore opted for the lowest meal plan. This means we cannot eat on weekends and are currently lacking adequate nutrition. I am not sure if this is relevant to your article but it poses the largest issue as I am vegan and my roommate is vegetarian.”
Firestine is not alone, Kraft, Keister, and Graves all also took meal plans for the semester with the intention of cooking in kitchens in the apartment style housing at 77 West. What seems to have not been mentioned is that the students are able to change their meal plan to one that costs more, however if they do so they cannot change their plan back down once they are in 77 West. Not only that the $250 only goes so far when it comes to proper ingredients for food especially if the delay extends further.
Scheibler said, “As soon as we know that we can occupy that is when we are going to reach out to facilities to contract with a moving crew, that Saturday and Sunday would be a moving weekend. If they chose to move before that point or after that point they will be on their own and we will clarify that clearly.”
“I had asked in the beginning of the summer if I could come in and look at the apartments, none of us know what it looks like. They told us no at this moment we are not letting anybody tour the building, and that was understandable. It is frustrating going in blind, and then in the first week of campus we still are not allowed to go in. We have been trying to see what it looks like for three months to see what it is like and know what we can bring. Even our RA does not know,” said Keister.
Without the certificate of occupancy the 77 West building is considered a construction zone, as such Residence Life for the students safety will not allow tours or physical viewings of the building. When obtaining the property Residence Life did attempt to obtain blueprints or anything to provide an idea of what the apartments looked like, but anything that was given was incorrect. This means that students still lack knowledge of what their apartments look like, and the option of photos being taken and given to students seems to not be in the plans.
Residence Life confirmed that not only is the date for students to move back in almost set in stone to be early October, but also that students would be informed ahead of time of the move in. However, it is important to note that the letter from August 7 students received was the last communication about the time 77 West would be finished. In that letter the time slot given was late September early October, this means there was a change from possible late September to a definite early October, information that was not known to the students until now.
The importance is that communication is critical in keeping a healthy and trusting relationship between students and faculty on campus. Students with no update since August 7 begin to think the worst about the situation, and are potentially discouraged from reaching out if they feel like the other party does not care to update them.
Communication however is a two way street and more students need to realize that their voices matter. This particular story would not have reached the Beacon if not for students speaking out and asking for coverage of the housing situation. The students interviewed were able to express their concerns and potentially improve their temporary housing situation with information gained from interviews with Residence Life.
Scheibler said, “This is the students’ home, and it is very important to me that students feel comfortable and happy in their home. Spread the word I do want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly, I am on the third floor of Passan hall. Shoot me an email [email protected] , I am happy to talk to anyone and problem solve. How can we make it better, how can we be Colonel.”
So, as students, faculty, or community members, if there is ever a time when the living conditions, or other aspects of campus life feels like it is lacking or not up to the standards promised by Wilkes University know that the people have the power to speak up and make a positive change for themselves, their campus and their fellow classmates.