Freshman communication and dance major Julianne Garnett planned to live with three other roommates on the University of Maryland campus next year. But after the apartments, suites and semi-suites quickly filled up during the group selection for rising sophomores, Garnett’s group had to split up.
Garnett is among many students at this university who felt they were misinformed and given limited options during this year’s housing selection process.
“It was very frustrating because I felt like I never really knew what was going on and when,” Garnett said. “I really was disappointed in Res Life, in how vague their communication was about availability.”
The Department of Resident Life conducted room selection for the next academic school year during late March and early April. The department had 9,597 beds available for students and could secure a bed for every student who signed the housing and dining agreement. Around 600 more students participated in the room selection process compared to last year, according to Tracy Kiras, Resident Life’s associate director for assignments, communications and technology services.
Participating students were assigned a date and time to pick their rooms. During group selection, rising seniors and juniors were given appointment times a full day before rising sophomores. Appointment times for each day were completely randomized, Kiras said.
Like Garnett, freshman communication major Sophia Moseley was unable to secure a room for herself and three others after rooms for groups of four ran out during group selection. Moseley and her group decided to rent a place at Terrapin Row.
“I wish I had known before how limited everything was going to be, or that only a certain percentage of the rooms would be left by the time that our appointments were,” Moseley said.
Resident Life took a multimodal approach to informing students about housing this year, according to Kiras. The department sent emails, posted on social media, displayed flyers, posted lawn signs and hosted an online room selection tutorial webinar.
Resident Life is aware that students often attempt to select suites and apartments in the South Hill and Oakland communities that tend to fill up quickly, Kiras said. This is why Resident Life emphasized in its informative materials that each student should have a backup plan, she added.
Resident Life also displayed on its website the number of room types available to students. Resident Life could not explicitly state on its materials that group selection for rising sophomores would run out quickly because it cannot officially predict the trends of room selection, Kiras said.
“We can try to predict where students may choose to live and the housing type or style that might be most popular during room selection,” Kiras said. “We never fully know what will happen until a student actually selects their room and completes their process.”
Freshman journalism major Stella Canino also struggled to find housing within her living-learning program. Many students in her living-learning program were under the impression that they had two-year guaranteed housing at their dorm, she said. But after finding out that the honors college only provides priority housing as opposed to a guaranteed spot, she scrambled to find a backup plan.
Canino said she felt rising sophomores were the most disregarded during the room selection process because rising juniors and seniors get priority appointment times and incoming freshmen get living-learning priority.
Students can bring concerns about housing to the university’s Residence Hall Association. Although the RHA does not have direct oversight over the room selection process, it does have an advisory team that works with Resident Life.
“Ultimately, every student should be able to leave that experience feeling like they were treated fairly and it’s a shame that that’s not happening,” said Scott Cronin, a junior government and politics major and the RHA’s president. “I hope we’re able to rework this system to some extent [and] improve communication.”
Students who are unsatisfied with their dorm can get a room reassignment in May, according to Kiras. In this process, students can request a certain dorm they wish to live in and Resident Life will try its best to accommodate the request.