7/29/2020 Meredith Residence Hall

Some incoming freshmen say they're paying for rooms that aren't worth the price tag, after Purdue de-densified several residence halls on campus.

Receiving housing and roommate assignments is a fraught yet exciting waiting game for many incoming Purdue students.

Many questions run through students' minds: "To which hall will I be assigned?"; "Will I despise my roommate?"; "How will I survive the sweltering heat if I'm put in a room with no air-conditioning?"

Typically, "What do I do if my housing rate is more than double than I was expecting to pay?" isn't one of of those questions. Some incoming Meredith Hall residents, however, say this is their reality.

Taylor Benes, an in-state freshman coming to Purdue to study English education and film, said she found out last week that her double room had been converted to a single, when she received her housing assignment via email.

That email, she said, did not include whether she would be charged for the rate of a double room or the rate of a single room.

"We had to ask Auxiliary Housing, ... and they said we'd be charged for single, but we didn't really know what that price would be yet," Benes said, "because they didn't tell us."

It wasn't until a few days later, when she received her billing statement, that she found out she was being charged about $6,900 — more than double the rate of a double room in Meredith.

After hearing from several other residents who had a similar experiences, Benes said she decided to make a Change.org petition requesting the Board of Trustees to revert the rates of the rooms back to what they were originally.

"I thought it'd be fun to make a petition to get our point across," she said. "I just really love to stand for justice, and I'm surprised how far it's taken off."

The petition, which has garnered more than 800 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, expresses residents' distaste for the rise in price and frustration with a lack of direct communication.

"We of Meredith do not believe that it is just, nor fair, to be charged more than double of what was the price of living in Meredith Hall: $3,200. This came as quite a surprise to many families, as ... (they) do not have the extra $3,600 lying around, which can cause much distress and problems," the petition reads. "When asked why they are charging as much as the newest and most well-maintained dorms on campus, Purdue higher-ups say that the nearly 75-year-old Meredith Hall is 'comparable' to the other single dorms, single dorms that have air conditioning, personal bathrooms, and more than 10x17 feet to live in. Our 'singles' of Meredith also contain doubles of all dorm furniture that cannot be removed, making the small space even more cramped."

Benes emailed the petition to The Board of Trustees on Tuesday but has not received a response as of Wednesday. The board has not responded to The Exponent's request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.

Most of the residents who felt blindsided by the rate change, Benes said, had prioritized their room choices from least to most expensive because of budgeting worries, including herself. Though she is not yet in financial hardship because of this change, many of those residents are unsure of what to do now.

When these students contacted Auxiliary Housing again, asking for a solution, Benes said they received an email that offers to be put on a 'waitlist for reassignment.'

Joyce Yu, a freshman coming from Houston to study pharmacy, said she and her parents have received this response from more than just Auxiliary Housing.

"I've emailed multiple people — the new resident email address, along with the head of housing and Auxiliary Housing — and I've gotten the same exact email copy-pasted," Yu said, "and (my parents and I) compared the emails, and they're word-for-word the exact same."

When asked about these concerns, Barb Frazee, assistant vice provost of student life, said the students received notification prior to receiving their finalized housing assignments.

"Any student who had selected a room that was reconfigured during contract renewal was in fact notified," she said in an email, adding that the students would have been notified "in early June after the de-densification plan was approved.

"We had a 100% response rate from those students and allowed them to remain in the room at the higher rate or move to a lower priced room if that was their desire," Frazee said.

She said in the email that the reason the rates of the converted rooms was simply to match those "of identical rooms in the system that were set up as singles. We have had small singles in non A/C spaces with shared community bathrooms for many years and ... have been charging the exact same rate for those rooms since 2012, as we are charging for the converted spaces."

The "standard single" in Cary Quadrangle is the only other room offered by University Residences that has the same rate as the converted Meredith singles, according the UR website. Singles that have air-conditioning and a private bathroom in Hawkins Hall are nearly identical in price as well, and singles with air-conditioning but a shared bathroom in Hawkins cost about $1,300 less than those rooms, per the website.

Frazee said the incoming students are "overwhelmingly the most upset, and a part of that frustration is that they did not have a clear understanding that not every request is able to be filled," but hopes the students know UR will continue to work hard to accommodate as many students as possible.

"We have never been able to meet the demands of every incoming freshman," Frazee added, "and this year we have more women requesting housing than we had women’s spaces so that has compounded the situation. Anyone who is not happy can request a room change."

Yu, who is also on the reassignment waitlist, said the problem isn't that the residents are simply unwilling to pay the increased rates; it's the inaction and the lack of transparency.

The rooms still have two sets of furniture in them, she said, "so I feel like if they took out one set ... I'd be fine (paying the increased rate) because that's an actual single room." In an email sent to Meredith residents regarding furniture arrangements, UR asked all furniture to remain in the room, "even if it is not being used."

Benes said she knows the University typically "works for students" because she has a sister who is also a student at Purdue, so she is shocked that this problem even exists.

"Purdue ... is an exceptional institution, and I'm honored to be attending there," she said, "but this just seems really out of character for them.

"For the sake of my hall-mates and their families, I really hope this gets resolved because this seems very unlike Purdue."

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