The Purdue housing crisis, well-known to many in the Purdue community, has recently gone viral due to a series of Buzzfeed News and Purdue Exponent articles and their responses on social media. The attention has also led to an investigation by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
The Buzzfeed News articles don’t provide the entire context for auxiliary housing at Purdue and, therefore, miss a portion of the story. Social media commenters suggest the conditions in overflowing housing at Purdue aren’t so bad — which may be the case — but these commenters are unaware of the adverse impact overflow housing can have.
Furthermore, this is an issue because of poor administrative decisions, and could probably have been avoided.
Last year, I lived in the Cottages at Lindberg, a student housing complex on Lindberg Road, a few minutes’ drive north of campus. I was surprised to meet several freshmen who were living there in overflow housing. In fact, I’d later come to learn that many freshmen were living in Blackbird Farms next door as well.
These apartment complexes are not the proper environment for freshmen. Many Purdue students meet their first friends in the residence halls. Since residence halls house a large number of students in close quarters and offer many social events through residence hall clubs and other organizations, they are the perfect place for freshmen to meet new people and adjust to college life in a supportive environment.
Off-campus apartment complexes are not like that. They tend to be quieter, and individual apartments are more isolated than dorms because there are generally no halls joining many rooms together.
Forcing freshmen to live in overflow housing deprives them of an essential part of the college experience. Surely there must be better ways of handling student enrollment to address such issues.
Beth McCuskey, the vice provost for student life, told Buzzfeed News that more students matriculated to Purdue this year than enrollment figures projected. Indeed, this year’s freshman class is larger than expected by about 500 students. However, increasing enrollment is no surprise to Purdue. Enrollment at Purdue has risen every year since 2014, and this isn’t the first year Purdue has been forced to provide auxiliary housing.
The only new residence hall that has been built since enrollment figures began rising in 2014 is the Honors College and Residences. The circumstances surrounding HCR highlight the inadequacy of Purdue’s efforts to adjust to increasing student population.
When HCR first opened in 2016, it proved to be too small to house all incoming Honors College freshmen and 50 were placed in Shreve Hall. Students reported parts of the building were still under construction when they moved into their rooms, underscoring the comically frantic pace in which Purdue is trying to adapt to increasing enrollment.
Over the summer, the Purdue Board of Trustees announced plans to build two new residence halls. However, this is a decision that should have been made four or five years ago.
To its credit, Purdue Dining and Catering did surprisingly well adjusting to increased enrollment in 2015 and 2016, when lines at Wiley Dining Court would regularly wrap around the building. A new dining court, 1Bowl, and the Daily Bite food truck are just two of the ways in which Purdue Dining has adapted to increased student population.
Purdue also has plans to expand Wiley Dining Court. However, in a testament to Purdue’s painfully slow pace in adjusting to student population, such an expansion has been in discussion as early as 2015 when the Student Senate voted for a resolution in favor of it.
I’m not sure why Purdue seems to be shooting itself in the foot by accepting ever-increasing numbers of students without the facilities to accommodate them. Perhaps Purdue needs to accept more students to help pay for the ongoing tuition freeze?
Regardless of the reason, the Purdue administration needs to do a better job of handling this housing crisis. In particular, Purdue should decrease the acceptance rate and reduce enrollment figures — at least until new facilities are built to accommodate a greater number of students. Purdue owes it to its students to at least do that.