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  • Aishanya Gupta and Raghav Bansal

Housing Issues Mar Move-In Day; several students remain without permanent rooms

Move-in days for the Monsoon 2023 semester, scheduled for the 26th and the 27th of August 2023 were marred by housing inadequacies. Roughly 80 returning students found themselves without permanent accommodations in the student residence halls and were directed to temporary arrangements inside faculty housing and Lake Grove TDI.

The ongoing situation has prompted widespread discontent amongst the student body, raising concerns about the University’s ability to provide adequate housing and accommodate preferences.

The initial expression of frustration came from an email by Shreya Khobragade, ASP’24, on the 26th of August. Addressed to the student body, the email highlighted the cumbersome and time-consuming check-in process for students who returned before the official move-in days to assist the incoming freshman batch during orientation week.

Reporting that the students shifting to their permanent rooms had to wait outside the warden’s office for more than 3 hours, Khobragade's email continued, "There were unprecedented delays, no explanations of what went wrong, and many students, myself included, ran from office to office before we could move in." Exasperated by the delays, the student further called into question the behavior of the Residence Life members, describing it as "...abrasive, to say the least."

They also alluded to the fact that the 10th floor of RH-5 being operated now as a gender-neutral floor has caused apprehension for some ASP’24 cisgender female students, as they were uninformed of the move before moving in. In response, some students pointed out the ongoing challenges related to housing for transgender individuals on campus and emphasized that this is the first year they have seen gender-affirming housing arrangements.

While the contents of this email brought the housing issue to notice, the situation on the 27th of August led to an even greater outrage, leaving many students disheartened and frustrated.

Ritikaa Kaila, an ASP’24 student, took to X (formerly Twitter) on the 27th of August, stating, "The housing situation at Ashoka has deteriorated so quickly because the university simply could not calculate the number of rooms required for the number of students, enrolling way too many freshmen, and now senior students are struggling to find housing."

It was reported that the room allocation system experienced a "crash," resulting in students waiting for over 5 hours for room assignments. The Edict reached out to Pooja Manaktala, the Director of Student Affairs, enquiring about the details of the reported “crash.” She responded by saying that the system did not crash. Rather, the system “could not optimise for all variables and choices students wanted, hence the midway team decided to move to manual allocation as the rush increased on Sat/Sunday.”

Meanwhile, some students were left without explanations for the allocation delays. A UG’24 student, who wishes to remain anonymous, voiced frustration with Residence Life, stating, "They refused to tell me what the problem was or even talk to me at all. They just kept saying that they're working on it."

Another ASP’24 student mentioned that their parents were forced to ask for an immediate allotment to be provided to their daughter. They reported that a few of their batchmates were asked to move into TDI temporarily and were given no assurance of recourse in the coming weeks.

The experience of this student echoed in a mass email sent by the ASP’24 student Rishika Arora - “There still remain several students in living conditions that do not adhere to their preferences that they listed well before the semester started”.

Discouraged by the “mess”, the email dispiritingly questioned the actions of the administration leading up to the move-in day, “It’s naive to assume that the situation will only tide over after placating students. What was even happening in the 3+ months we were on break, preparing for our next semester?”

On 30th August, the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) emailed the student body, providing an update on room allocation. The email acknowledged, “As you must be aware, we are operating our Residence Halls at full capacity this year, and hence accommodating requests with respect to roommate preference/access floor/residence hall preference has not been possible in all cases.”

The email mentions that this led to a delay in room allocation on Sunday, with around 80 students facing this issue.

However, many students felt that the email understated the severity of the situation. Echoing this sentiment, Zaahrah Merchant, UG’24, replied to the OSA’s email on Wednesday, characterising the administration’s housing management as a "euphemism."

Merchant expressed frustration, recounting, "On move-in day, my peers and I were wandering around campus for 12 hours, which we spent fighting for a room that was guaranteed to us during our induction into the university. During these 12 hours, we were told to remain patient and even asked to seriously shift off-campus to TDI. We were then told that the only option was to move into rooms where one roommate was yet to arrive, and on following up with this, we often found that these rooms were fully occupied."

The practice of directing students to temporary accommodations contradicts the university policy, which mandates that undergraduate students reside on the Ashoka campus to fully engage in student life activities and extracurricular events.

On 3rd September, Manaktala emailed the student body identifying several factors contributing to the housing problems. Firstly, as the administration relies on the fee collection data to allot rooms, the office cited the tardiness of students in registering for the monsoon semester as the primary reason for the miscalculation of the number of required rooms.

In addition, the university traditionally maintains sufficient capacity to accommodate unregistered students on move-in day. However, this year's circumstances resulted in a "tight" availability of beds, preventing the fulfilment of preferences related to roommates and residence hall assignments.

Lastly, some students reportedly “checked in directly into the rooms without registering,” further exacerbating the miscalculation of available rooms.

The Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and the student life team met with the affected students on the afternoon of 2nd September to address their concerns.

It was decided that a ‘working group on student housing’ consisting of 3 members of the SG, 6 RA’s, and residence life staff would be constituted to work out a plan to solve the roommate and residence allocation problems “within a week”.

Regarding the matter of students seeking access floors being assigned non-access floors, the Residence Life team has been tasked to resolve this within the same timeframe.

Writing to the student body on 7th September, the Campus Life Ministry said that a potential solution being explored to accommodate students on campus is to “split the 3rd floor into access and non-access through a gypsum wall with strict monitoring for infractions”. This is being done to ensure the privacy and comfort of all students.

Looking ahead, the Director of Student Affairs has emphasised that “in the future, the university will have to not only have strict timelines on registration of returning students but also work on keeping some buffer in housing.”

The latest reports suggest that a sizeable portion of the 80 affected students has now received permanent rooms on campus. The exact number, however, remains unknown.

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