University Residence officials led a group of local media through Tarkington Hall Wednesday afternoon to show off some of the new reconfigured housing spaces, hoping to ease some nerves of incoming freshmen and their parents. 

Despite meeting the housing contract deadline, 2,365 freshmen in Purdue's record-breaking class will be placed into residence housing spaces outside of traditional dorms.

While giving a tour of reconfigured spaces Wednesday, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Life Barb Frazee said University Residences is encouraging people to "give it a shot," attributing the misconceptions to how many students were not able to visit the campus in person due to COVID-19. She said that while UR has received more than 1,000 emails and 500 calls in the past days from parents, she believes students will have a great experience once they're here. 

"We are thrilled that so many people want to come to Purdue, and we are working hard to give them great experiences," Vice Provost for Student Life Beth McCuskey, who also joined in on the tour, said.

There will be a bed for everyone who met their respective deadline, Frazee said. The number of permanent beds available is 15,107. This year more than 1,000 were built in-house, and more were added through master leases with nearby apartment complexes.

Those who missed the deadline for signing a housing contract may have been on the wait list of about 1,000 people, though Frazee said UR had to recently inform the people on the wait list that there would not be a space for them through UR. 

The reconfigured spaces are permanent assignments for the academic year. These include doubles that may be turned into triples, or triples that may be turned into quads. There are also some reconfigured spaces which were formerly study rooms or conference rooms but have been redesigned to function as a permanent dorm room.

In addition to the reconfigured spaces, auxiliary housing will be used again, but is expected to only be for about 50 students on a temporary basis. Auxiliary housing is a space where another room in a residence hall has been converted into rooms, or where additional furniture has been added to existing rooms.

The limited term auxiliary rooms rate is set at University Residence’s lowest double room rate. However, once the student moves to a permanent space, their housing rate will be adjusted accordingly, per the auxiliary housing website. 

Each rooms has the same safety measures as traditional rooms, McCuskey said, and the rooms have been inspected by the fire marshal to ensure the spaces are safe and spread out enough. 

Every student will still receive a desk and dresser, and Frazee said the only thing that "may be seen as an inconvenience" is that some of the reconfigured triples (formerly doubles) will have to share two closets. Reconfigured triples will be in Wiley, Tarkington and Owen, she said. 

"We've heard from lots of students that they really don't bring a lot on hangers and we know they don't bring a lot of dress clothes, so we feel like that will be a doable solution," Frazee said. There is also additional storage space under the beds, she said.

Other reconfigured spaces that have been converted into rooms include former study spaces. In Tarkington, one of the former study rooms that's been converted into a triple has the space for three sets of beds, desks, dressers and new stand alone wire closets. Each bed is separated by interior privacy walls. 

During a Wednesday tour of some of the reconfigured spaces, McCuskey shared her fondness for one of the reconfigured triples in Tarkington.

"These were old study carrels were people would tuck away, so it's almost like having an apartment in your room," McCuskey said.

McCuskey said UR is reaching out to families who may be unhappy to line up students with their highest priority choices on the survey.

Frazee said UR has stayed connected with some students who have lived in spaces similar to these in previous years, and those they have been in contact with who once lived in such rooms had positive memories.

"We are encouraging people to give it a shot," McCuskey said. "We think it's a good product, in the apartments, even in living with three other people, we think these students are going to have great experiences and meet friends and just get connected into the Purdue experiences — and we're here to support them."

The Exponent obtained the email which was to by UR to incoming freshman last week informing them that they would be in one of the reconfigured spaces.

"Purdue University will welcome its largest incoming class in history this fall and the demand for on-campus housing is high," the UR email reads. "So high, in fact, that we have entered into master-lease agreements with nearby apartment communities that meet our housing standards. This is not new for University Residences. We have entered into these agreements in the past and they have been successful for students.

"In addition, we have reconfigured spaces within our residence halls (like study areas, for example) into student rooms," it continued. "These spaces have the same security measures, furniture, and amenities of our traditional student rooms."

Unlike previous years, those placed in reconfigured housing or apartments will be given some choice in where they will be placed. The automated email also included a survey. Due to the room/apartment types varying by style and location, UR asked students to rank their preferences before they are manually assigned to a space.

According to the UR email, final housing assignments will be sent out to the students on July 23.

Most students in auxiliary spaces are expected to be reassigned by October Break, or at the latest by semester break, according to an auxiliary housing website. University Residences employs a housing transition coordinator for the students initially assigned to limited term auxiliary housing.

"Based on availability, some students may begin the semester in temporary limited term auxiliary housing, but will receive a permanent assignment as soon as one is available," the auxiliary housing website says. "It is anticipated that about 50 students may begin in limited term housing. University Residences staff will assist students in moving their personal belongings to the new space."

More than 120 students were placed in Purdue temporary housing in 2018, followed by fewer than 60 students living in auxiliary spaces in 2019, according to previous Exponent reporting.

The reconfigured and auxiliary housing options given to the students in the email from UR were as follows:

  • $2,446-$3,670 per year for Central Campus Triple (Reconfigured Space in Residence Hall)
  • $3,646-$4,092 per year for Central Campus Quadruple (Reconfigured Space in Residence Hall)
  • $2,446-$3,646 per year for Central Campus Quadruple Plus (<10 occupants in large Residence Hall space)
  • $6,734-$7,638 per year for Northwest Campus Apartment (Master Leased Property)
  • $7,790 per year for Southeast Campus Apartment (Master Leased Property)
  • $7,782-$9,134 per year for East Campus Apartment (Master Leased Property)

While the number of students who would be in one of these reconfigured housing spaces is 2,365, Frazee said, fewer than 50 are expected to be in the limited-term spaces.

Student and parent concerns

Olive Marangoni is one of the incoming freshman who will be placed into auxiliary housing. She posted information that she received about the temporary housing situation from the University Residences office on an online page for new students.

Marangoni, who will be in first-year engineering in the fall, responded to a message Monday, giving more insight into the survey.

"The survey asked us to rank how we’d prefer to be placed, between apartments in certain areas outside campus (East, Southeast, Northwest) and the different types of reconfigured student rooms – a triple, quad, or quad plus (quad plus being like nine people in one room)," she said. The quad pluses are the "limited term" spaces.

An email sent under the alias "The parents of the 2,500" — a rounded-up version of the official number — said their main concern was for the safety of the students who, despite signing their housing contract on time, may end up in housing "below a minimum threshold of quality and safety."

“The problem is simply one of not preparing adequately, knowing those challenges are on the table," the letter read, "as well as a problem of depth and exponentially, and lastly, withholding this massive oversight from the students and parents until after they are able to alter their college plans.”

A parent who responded to an attempt for comment did not provide more information.

A Purdue News release said the incoming freshman class includes more than 10,000 students, topping last fall's record-breaking class by more than 1,200.

According to the Auxiliary Housing page on the University Residences website, all students who signed housing contract by May 5 are guaranteed some type of living space through University Residences.

“Due to the continued popularity of living on campus with returning students and a large freshman class, we utilize auxiliary and limited term housing spaces,” the website says. “To meet housing commitments, University Residences provides auxiliary space for students with signed housing contracts. In addition, a few spaces are designated as limited term housing where a student will be prioritized for placement into a permanent assignment."

The Exponent published photos of some of the limited term spaces, which received national attention, in 2018. Marangoni said they suspected that the "quad pluses" may look similar to what it was in previous years.

Buzzfeed News used photos from The Exponent in 2018 of the converted rooms, reporting on the unexpected student living conditions.

“I’m annoyed because of the size of this class in general,” Marangoni wrote in her original post. “They shouldn’t accept more people than they have housing for ... especially since this has happened in the past and it blew up back then too.”

Marangoni told The Exponent she first found the situation humorous, thinking, "Well, go figure."

"It was only afterward that I really started to get a little concerned, like, we haven’t even started our year and they already have to take steps like this," she said, "and it makes me worried for what they’ll do for this class later, since it’s so big."

Marangoni said she worries for classes, that this situation may foreshadow GPA cut-offs or weed-out classes and program admission.

"It’s like they’re making our housing weed-out, too."

Madeline Tiedt, another incoming freshman in FYE, said she signed her housing contract on April 15, well before the May 5 deadline for guaranteed housing, but will still be stuck in one of the alternative housing options.

"I was just really kind of upset because I had pretty much planned (everything) out," Tiedt said. "What I was planning on bringing, and how I was gonna loft my bed or not, and all of that kind of went out the window because I didn't really know what exactly was happening. I still don't know where I'm going to be."

As soon as she got the email with the survey last week she jumped to fill it out, she said, because she'd been late to signing up for move-in times and had to wait as the website reportedly crashed for multiple days. 

"Basically for my first three (priorities), I put for the reconfigured spaces," Tiedt said. "Because it's not ideal, like none of this I guess is really ideal, but it's cheaper than the apartments. Like some of the apartments are really expensive, and they're not on campus, and as a freshman I'd like to be on campus."

She said she was still unsure about the details of the reconfigured spaces vs. the auxiliary housing, and didn't understand which one was permanent and which was temporary, saying, "The whole thing's still really confusing." But despite the situation being less than ideal, she said she is still really excited to go to Purdue, she only wished the situation was different and she didn't have to deal with this.

"I guess whatever I get stuck with, I will figure it out," she said. "I'll make it work — because I have to."

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