Donner, Morewood E Tower become hubs for extra students

Donner Hall, the linoleum and steel den of first-year housing, may seem a little crowded this semester. The lounges in Morewood E Tower may seem even more so. This is because students in temporary housing are no longer living off campus.

These students are a small, often overlooked demographic of Carnegie Mellon’s first-year class. Their living arrangements are formally known as temporary housing, informally as “temp house.”

For the past three weeks, those in temp house have called increased-occupancy spaces in Donner Hall and Morewood E Tower lounges home. This is a change from previous years, in which temp house students lived in the Wyndham Garden Hotel until permanent on-campus spaces opened up. The Wyndham sits a mile down Forbes Avenue on the far edge of the University of Pittsburgh’s (Pitt’s) campus.

The changes reflect Housing and Dining’s new policy for placing those few first-years dwelling at the bottom of the housing lottery.

“We want to keep people on campus,” said Wil Forrest, the associate director of Housing and Dining Services. “And students have said, ‘We would rather be on campus.’” Forrest referred to the choice between living on campus in an increased-occupancy space versus off-campus in a hotel.

“This was a lot better than if I was in a hotel,” said Matt Glantz, a first-year in the Tepper School of Business and temp house student. Glantz lived in a double that was converted to a triple in Donner.
“I was really part of the hall. I’ll come hang out here after I move out,” he said.

Other temporary housing options included triples converted to quads in Donner and quints (five-person occupancy) set up in Morewood E Tower’s student lounges.

“Donner has the largest doubles. It worked for the Tulane students for a whole semester, so why not three or four weeks?” Forrest said.

Last year, about 25 students from Tulane University in New Orleans came to Carnegie Mellon for the fall semester in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They were given similar increased-occupancy spaces in Donner.

Forest noted that 1430 first-years arrived on move-in day, even though admisions predicted fewer.
“We need to fill all our spaces,” he said. “It is a function of the art and science of admissions and housing.”

In recent years, there have been 30 to 50 temporary housing students. In some years, there have been as many as 90. The number of spaces opening up each fall fluctuates depending on how many students drop out during the semester, fail to show up on the first day, or transfer last-minute. As time goes on, Greek housing and dropouts allow for more spaces.

“Frat rush traditionally solves a lot of the housing problems,” said Tim Michael, the director of Housing and Dining Services. “We allow all upperclassmen to retain their spaces, and more did that than expected this year.”

This year, temporary housing started with 49 students without a place to live. Four Morewood lounges held five students each. Housing placed locks on the doors and replaced the couches and tables with wardrobes, beds, and desks.

Overall, 29 students were placed throughout Donner, mostly in converted doubles, and two in converted triples.

“The Donner [rooms] are pretty big,” Glantz said. “There isn’t a lot of space for personal belongings, but they provided storage space. That definitely helped.”

Glantz moved into Scobell on Saturday. He said things worked out well with his two Donner roommates, called “hosts” by Housing and Dining.

Michael explained that Housing met with students designated as hosts and discussed their responsibilities. Housing selected hosts from students permanently placed in Donner and asked them to take in an extra student until space opened up.

“We put $10 on their PlaidCa$h accounts, encouraging them to get a meal together,” Michael said. “Hopefully they spent it well.”

Michael noted that in some cases, students decided they wanted to stay in their current arrangements for the rest of the year. In these cases, Housing provided a reduced rate on the room.

While less than five temp house students remain in Donner, with one opting to stay for the semester, the Morewood E Tower lounge residents were forced to move out by last Saturday.

“Morewood needs its lounges back,” Michael said.

David Drochner, a first-year in CIT, was one of the temp house students in Morewood forced to move out last weekend. He is moving into Cathedral Mansions, the off-campus Oakland apartment building where Housing and Dining leases some apartments, typically for upperclassmen.

“It’s going to be hard going off-campus after living on. I tried to hold out for on-campus but they said I had to be out Saturday,” Drochner said. “I definitely would have preferred the lounge.”

Drochner had positive feedback for Housing and Dining.

“I like that they were pretty worried about us. They are going to send people to help me move,” he said.
Vibhav Sreekanti, a first-year in the School of Computer Science, described his experience as temporary housing student in a mostly positive light.

“College is about meeting people. As a freshman I want to be on campus,” he said. “So in a way it does work out.”

Sreekanti is still living in a triple converted to a quad in Donner. He was displeased with how well Housing and Dining kept him informed of the situation.

“I wish they gave me more of a heads-up. The initial e-mail after they said I had been placed on a wait list did not mention that I was living in a triple.”

According to Sreekanti, the e-mail he received over the summer regarding his fall housing assignment only said that he had been removed from the wait list. It did not mention that he was still technically a temp house student living in a temporarily increased occupancy space.

In the years in which temporary housing students were placed in the Wyndham Garden Hotel, Michael found that they seemed to participate in campus organizations and activities as much the rest of the student body.

“The idea of taking longer to connect during Orientation resonated, though,” he said.

The director described the Student Dormitory Council’s role in making the decision. “We talked with them about it in the spring. We told them we wanted to try it. They were generally positive.”

Jeremy Neuberg, a sophomore in public policy and management, lived in the Wyndham last year for several weeks, waiting for a spot in campus housing to open. He explained that the shuttle for commuting to campus was unreliable. Maid service, he said, was also scaled back from the typical hotel service.

“I was barely involved in Orientation at all,” Neuberg said. Air-conditioning in his room, he said, was the highlight of his experience.

“I felt very detached from Carnegie Mellon — more like a Pitt student,” Neuberg said. Students in the Wyndham traveled through the heart of Pitt’s campus to get to classes everyday via a shuttle departing every half-hour.

“Folks love to have maid service, but they felt mixed into a business,” Forrest said of students at the Wyndham.

So what was one of the drawbacks to being on campus? Glantz noted that in the future, Housing and Dining could improve the situation for on-campus temporary housing students further by providing air-conditioned rooms for increased occupancy rooms.

“Orientation week was unbearable with all the extra bodies, furniture, and stuff in the small space.”