Students concerned about administration of off-campus houses
THE SANTA CLARA
October 22, 2015
It was another world -— and just a stone’s throw away from campus. Smoke machines blasted plumes of dry ice at bucket-hatted bros and bikini-clad girls clutching red cups, all bouncing up and down to DJ Jai Wolf’s electronic beats pumping from the speakers.
The house where this popping performance happened just two weeks ago, known as Yellow, is among other 20 popular off-campus homes owned by the school that are going to be directly managed by the housing office next year.
Students are concerned that the student-occupied houses, such as Zoo, Top Gun, Sandlot, Hooters, now called neighborhood units, will have an increased Campus Safety presence and more penalties for hosting large parties.
“This [change] will definitely affect the party culture because any repercussions from Campus Safety will be worse than repercussions from the Santa Clara police, since they will go through the school and not just be a fine,” said junior Sarah Draxton, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and a resident of the student-named house, “Cloud 9.”
“Being in bad standing with the school is a much riskier situation to most people, so I don’t think many people who live in a SCU-owned house will risk throwing a party anymore if it is so strictly regulated,” she added.
Other students were objected to how the decision was announced.
Joe Seeger, a junior who lives in one of the affected houses, was upset that the decision was announced this late in October, since he does not have time to find a non-university controlled house for next year.
He plans to make his objections loud and clear to the administration at the informational meetings hosted by the housing office about the new changes on Thursday and Monday, but doesn’t think that there is much that can be done.
In response to student reactions, the Associated Student Government is working to understand the change as best as possible and then formulate an official response within the next few weeks.
“Fact finding is the name of the game right now,” said Jason Back, ASG’s parliamentarian. “We’re just trying to give students as much information as possible.”
Following the announcement, ASG took an informal, voluntary poll of over 500 students about their reactions to the housing change. The results revealed that nearly 80 percent of respondents disagreed with the decision to bring the off-campus houses under direct university management.
Neil Datar, junior ASG senator and chair of a special committee charged with responding to the creation of the new neighborhood units, recognized the biased limitations of the poll, but he still thinks the information is valuable.
“Within three or four hours we had over 400 responses to the poll,” he said. “That is massive.”
Datar expects that the ASG senate will eventually pass an official “position” on the merits of the issue.
In the meantime, ASG is clear on the fact that they would like to see more visibility surrounding decisions like this in the future.
Datar hopes that the administration will utilize student focus groups before finalizing future changes.
Referencing the information gathered from the informal ASG poll, Datar said, “I’m not sure if it would have shaped the decision, but I think it would have been valuable for administration to have that perspective before the decision was made.”
About the change, ASG is also trying its best to serve as an educator, making sure that students have all the pertinent information, according to Datar and Back.
The university has responded to student reactions by emphasizing the need for dialogue, discouraging students from jumping to conclusions.
“I would urge us all to not make assumptions about how and why this decision was made,” said Mike Hindery, the university’s vice president for finance and administration, who was responsible for the ultimate decision to bring the 20 university-owned houses directly under the housing’s management.
Hindery said he decided to make the change in order to integrate property management into one area.
He said that students will benefit from the change, noting the ease of paying rent through the Bursar’s Office and the level of upkeep the school will provide.
However, Hindery is aware that some students have concerns with the decision and is open to discussion about the future of this change.
He said that he has heard complaints about the mandated partial meal plan, paying rent through the Bursar’s Office and anxiety that the houses will be managed like residence halls.
Ultimately, Campus Safety Services will decide how to patrol the neighborhood units.
John Loretto, assistant director of Campus Safety Services, compared the current plan to oversee the units to the model used for the University Villas.
“We tend to patrol in a broader sense the property and the area surrounding the property, but you don’t see us just randomly walking into a unit,” he said. “So translate that approach to an off-campus house. That will probably be the framework for how we address the community out there.”
Many of the details about how these properties will be managed are still up in the air.
Both Loretto and Hindery described the plan to manage these properties as an ongoing process that has room for growth and modification as it is implemented.
They are eager to speak with students to clarify any misconceptions.
“We need to have engaged conversations about what [students] don’t like about those things – what are some possible alternatives?” Hindery said. “We’ll evaluate those discussions and go from there.”
Contact Nicolas Sonnenburg at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852. Krista Clawson contributed to this report.