Housing has been a complete mess for this upcoming fall, and possibly spring semester at UH Mānoa. They screwed me over, along with many other students. Here's the four things that made me the most upset.
1) Lack of communication
I'm upset right now. I'm extremely upset and I'm a person that doesn't get mad easily. And you know what? I might be less mad IF Housing communicated with us about the process and what they were trying to figure out. We're all going through a hard time right now. We get it, it's a trying time and you've never had to do this before. But NOPE. No communication whatsoever.
I got an email from Housing about the renewal process on April 29th that didn't have a hint that no one would get housing. On May 13th, I got a reminder about submitting forms for renewing. And then, over a month later, I got an email on June 24th about how some might not get housing. No numbers of how many they're going to accept. Just to let you know you might not get the hall you wanted and some might not at all.
Right before this email, I had heard rumors of people not getting housing. From a UHM Parent Facebook page. Not from our university or from Housing. From a Parent FB page.
This page is where I found the priority list for Housing. Where I found out about the Q and A's to be occurring. Not in my UH email inbox.
I tried calling Housing. Either no one could tell me anything or I couldn't get through. Especially on the days the emails went out. Which, conveniently, a lot of the emails went out after the Housing office was closed. Interesting.
2) The order the emails went out
I hadn't heard really anything from Housing until late June about potentially not having a place. Really late to be telling us less than two months before the semester, but we have to know soon, right?
On July 2nd, a Thursday, the first round of emails went out. Parents of freshmen on the Facebook page were overjoyed. Me? Less so. I figured, okay I'll get my email tomorrow. The next day, nothing. Then it was the Fourth of July weekend, so probably Monday right? Wrong. More people who did get housing got emails confirming it. Finally, July 7th I got my email and yeah, I was denied.
I'm sorry, but why would you send out the emails for the people that did get housing first? We have less than six weeks until students need to absolutely have housing. Don't you think that the people who didn't get housing need that extra time to look for places?
I guess not because during that time I got to see multiple people take a sigh of relief. I haven't been able to yet.
3) Priority list
For the first part of this one, I'll be discussing freshmen as Housing's number one priority and bringing in the words of the Provost himself about their decision (which you can watch here).
"This year we made the very difficult decision to first accommodate our first-year students, that is our students who have not yet attended a class at Mānoa, who are not from O'ahu, so this means first year students who are from a neighboring island and those first year students who are from the US mainland."
"We really struggled with this decision, but at the end of the day and I-I really for those students, particularly the upperclassmen who are watching, I want you to remember your first day of class and how lost you might have felt, how absent of a support group you felt you had in terms of friends and peers to lean on in those times when you needed someone to talk to or needed guidance. So, now think of a student who has never been to this island, let alone to this campus, and is expected to somehow in a COVID environment where they haven't been able to, and this is important, they were not able to come to campus for the campus tour because we canceled those. They were not able to come to campus for any sort of orientation and so they have no information."
"I think back to when I-I started at Cal Berkeley and-and rolled my suitcase up the hill from from the BART station and I had no idea where I was because I-I couldn't afford the-the plane fare to go to the campus before I started. So, essentially, all of these students are in that same boat and like me, they had no idea where to go on campus."
Guess what? A lot of students who attend UHM have never been here before, myself included. When I chose UHM, I had never been to Hawai'i, to any of the islands even. I was able to see the campus during the required Student Orientation, but my guide didn't show us every building. He pointed out a few that usually held freshman classes and that was it. I still didn't know a lot after my orientation and I had to learn as the semester went along.
Also, I think how lost he was as a student is irrelevant because guess what? You can put whatever building you need into Google Maps and it'll tell you how to walk there from the dorms. Yeah, sometimes Google Maps tries to take you the longer way, but the more you get used to campus, the more you find the shortcuts.
Another thing to point out is that they're still having freshman orientations. They're just online now. And anything that freshmen are really concerned about they can hopefully ask during their orientation.
Plus, most freshmen aren't going to be on campus regularly because most of their classes have been, guess what, moved online. So, what's the point of caring so much about how disoriented they're going to be (like any other previous student) if they're not even going to be on campus? Which brings up my point about how freshmen shouldn't have been top priority, but I'll go more into that later.
"So you know, this kind of thought process that says that those students who have not been able to understand anything about our campus, our community, Honolulu and the rest of Oah'u, we need to make sure that they are taken care of and that they are placed in accommodations where their families know that they will be safe. And quite frankly, if I am a student who lives here on Oahu then I have the ability to-to understand where alternative accommodations might be. I know that many of our students who are sophomores, juniors, and seniors often get together with friends and rent an apartment or even a small home. Many of them, frankly, find that to be much cheaper and more flexible than living in a residence hall."
"And so this was a very difficult decision and I know there are those out there who think well you know you're-you're devaluing me as a-as a student. And I should be more highly valued and I say to that that you are all highly valued we are we are just trying to keep safe those students who we feel are most vulnerable."
I'm sorry? First, if you're so concerned about the safety of freshmen, why even have them on campus? Why not let them have the option of all their classes being online for their first year and let them stay home? From that FB page I mentioned before, I've seen that some freshmen are getting placed in Frear (one of the most expensive halls) AND getting charged the Frear rate! For a hall they shouldn't even be in. How is that fair?
And look, I get it. The incoming freshmen have been given the short stick this year. Most of them didn't get high school graduation, proms, etc. to finish out their high school experience. And you want to make sure they have a good incoming college experience. I get it, I totally do, but what freaking experience are they going to have? Being in their dorm rooms all day? Not having a roommate to bond with (or hate)? Getting to sit in the dining halls, maybe? A maybe on attending sporting events? Not being able to go see the plays on campus? Oh, but wait, the Starbucks is open! Silly me, I forgot.
Second, do we upperclassmen feel devalued? I don't know. I mean, we've already spent this much money, have shown our commitment to the school, and for what? To have to scramble to find housing less than six weeks before school starts after getting zero communication? In a city that already has a housing crisis? Where I'm going to have to get as many roommates as possible to cover rent, utilities, and furnishing a cramped apartment? Yeah, thanks, I feel so valued.
4) Rejection email contents
"For those students who we are not able to accommodate on campus, we are working very hard, and by we I mean our student housing professionals, are working with partners and potential partners out in the community to identify other alternatives for our students and their families and we will have a list of properties and contact information to provide to those families and those students. Our hope is that at the end of the day everybody who needed help getting an accommodation for the fall will be able to do that through our work."
Oh, you worked very hard on that list? Oh great, I just got my email saying I didn't get housing. Let me scroll to the bottom to see that list-
Hawaii Student Suites Corporate Office (Kalo Terrace and Waikiki Vista)
Market Place (FB), Zillow, Roommates.com, and Craiglist.
To everyone that was already casually looking before they got their decision, I'm sure you're also reliving the laugh you got at seeing that. The two most common options for UHM off-campus housing? Thanks UH! I didn't know about those!
Also, how is Hale Mahana a sustainable option? My housing last year was about $620 a month. Hale Mahana is over $1000 a month. Per. Person. The Hawaii Student Suites are better, but they're still over what campus housing was. I rely on financial aid heavily to be able to go to school. What I get for housing will be $620 a month. I can't afford these. And these places are going to run out of spots quickly because EVERYONE is going to scramble to get them since they are the only two concrete options given.
Which means I have to find roommates and an apartment off campus. In less than six weeks. In a housing crisis. Where it will hopefully include utilities. And be near campus. And it won't be furnished.
Can you tell I'm stressed? And maybe I wouldn't be, if Housing didn't fail so hard and disappoint us all.
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