As the race to find a home for the upcoming school year rages on throughout Isla Vista in the annual winter quarter scramble, there are several large vacancies — some even touting ocean views — that won’t be found on the shores of Craigslist or Del Playa Drive, but in university housing.
The housing gods are putting fate back in the hands of students with a new two-part university housing application process (rolled out this January) that allows current University of California, Santa Barbara residents the freedom to hand-select the building, room and roommates of their choice for the following school year.
After electing or declining to keep their current room, residents of both the university residence halls and apartments are greeted with a newly developed interactive map that details the layout of the general campus and zooms in on various housing facilities. Much like picking a seat at a concert on any familiar ticketing website, students are given highlighted options that show the number of units available and the number of people housed within each room and/or suite.
Though many agree that the virtual process and the software behind it feel fairly cutting edge in comparison to the simple “box checking” process of prior years, there are many who still feel wary about the consequences of such ease. As Chance Adkins, a third year psychology major and Anacapa desk attendant, said, “From a housing standpoint, this sounds like it could be a logistical nightmare.”
It is understandable, however, that many may initially see this process as too good to be true in a university system and densely populated beachtown that notoriously suffers from overcrowding. But Jessica Fougere, Placement Services Manager at UCSB’s Housing and Residential Services, is determined to debunk the initial hesitation and assure students that this system is a step in the right direction.
“Firstly, it takes the stress and uncertainty of finding a home off the student’s shoulders,” Fougere said, herself a UCSB alumni and former Resident Assistant. “You don’t have to worry about being a number in a lottery system anymore. And you also don’t have to wait until August, like before, to know where you’re living for the next year. You’ll know immediately, and you have full knowledge and control of where that will be.”
Unlike in prior years, students have the freedom to choose their housing before they sign the nine month university housing lease. This way, students can compare university housing options and Isla Vista leases simultaneously and choose the right fit for them.
The living accommodations of new and continuing students is a constant worry in the face of rising enrollment rates, especially after receiving a record 94,015 applications for undergraduate admission in Fall 2016.
Fougere reiterates that Housing and Residential Services is attempting to provide a solution, not a complication, to the problem through the new application process.
“All incoming freshmen, transfers and even grad students are guaranteed a spot in university housing,” Fougere said. “This remains very important to us, and the new housing application process hasn’t done anything to deter it. This isn’t going to edge anyone out.”
With a Long Range Development Plan (passed in 2014) that includes the construction and adoption of the Sierra Madre Apartments, Tropicana Villas and soon-to-be San Joaquin Apartments, university leaders are making ample room to house over an additional 1000+ undergraduate students.
The thing that Fougere, and Adkins, look forward to the most is the breaking down of barriers between freshmen and upperclassmen.
“I think mixed class residence halls are going to be a really great change,” Adkins said, himself a prior Anacapa resident and desk attendant of three years. “Continuing students willing to stay on in the res halls will definitely be great mentors to freshmen who tend to feel a little like fish out of water their first quarter on their own.”
As a former resident assistant and resident director at UCSB and a former resident in the mixed population residence halls of Indiana University and Seattle University, Fougere agrees.
“The idea of having a mixed population residence hall is nothing new; we had it back in 2007 when I was still an RA here,” Fougere says. “I loved the sort of legacy and pride seniors felt living in their freshmen dorms in those days, and I can’t wait to see that renewed for students in the future.”
Whether it be for the ease of mind, ocean views or sense of community, students and administrators alike are hopeful that the new university housing, and its application process, will help everyone feel a little less stressed and a lot more at home.