New school. New town. No home.
Such seemed to be the case for many of the estimated 2,700 students who transferred to Temple this fall. With freshman enrollment at the all-time high of 4,300 students, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, few incoming transfer students received on-campus housing for the semester.
When sophomore technical theater major Sarah Splaine transferred from Rhode Island College in Providence, she looked forward to starting her new life at Temple. When the Columbia, Md. native first applied for housing in May 2007, she said the Office of University Housing gave her no indication that she would not be assigned a place to live.
“They [University Housing] didn’t guarantee it, but made it seem like I had pretty good odds,” Splaine said.
Splaine patiently waited to hear back on the status of her application and frequently checked it on OWLnet.
“When June came and went, I called and said ‘Are you missing something, and you do you need more information?'” she said.
During that conversation, the receptionist at the Office of University Housing informed her that they were “not housing transfer students,” Splaine said.
It wasn’t until August that she got an official email from the Office of University Housing stating that there was not room for her on campus. She immediately began scouring Craigslist, the off-campus living listings and other various classifieds.
“I really wanted to go to Temple, but I needed to find somewhere to live,” Splaine said.
As was the case for sophomore psychology major and transfer student Christopher Tomasetti.
He attended Neumann College in Aston his freshman year but gravitated toward Temple because he got tired going to a small school in small town.
Tomasetti handed in his application on time and said he was punctual throughout the entire process.
“I really thought I had a chance,” he said. “I was led to believe they were going to find me something.”
At the beginning of August, Tomasetti became worried when he had not heard from Temple regarding his housing application.
“We called in because my mom was concerned,” Tomasetti said. “They told us there was no housing due to an increase of freshmen.”
Sophomore pharmacy major Amit Sheth, who transferred from Rutgers New Brunswick, experienced a similar situation.
“I just assumed everyone who was new to the school got housing because when I was filling out the application, it said, ‘Do you want to live on campus?'” Sheth said.
Sheth became nervous when a friend of his who is a freshman told him she had received her housing assignment.
“They didn’t even tell me [that I didn’t receive housing],” Sheth said. “I had to call at the end of July.”
Many transfer students seemed to be confused with the university’s housing policy, which affected the fate of their future dwellings.
According to Michael Scales, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of University Housing and Residential Life, at no point did anyone in the housing office guarantee that transfer students would receive on-campus housing.
“It’s important to note that we didn’t renegotiate [transfer] students’ housing because we don’t guarantee housing to transfer students,” Scales said.
However, because freshmen and sophomores do receive priority for on-campus housing, the 200-plus student increase in the freshman class made it necessary to put some transfer students on the backburner.
In late May, Enrollment Management informed the housing department that the incoming freshman class would be larger than projected, Scales said. “It’s typical that we meet to discuss the projected class size so that we can plan accordingly, which includes determining how many freshmen and transfer students will be offered housing,”
On May 22, 2007, transfer students received one of two letters stating that if they returned their application in on-time along with a $250 deposit, “it was likely they would receive housing,” Scales said. The letter also stated “it would take until late July or August before they would know specifically,” Scales said.
“The second group of transfers received a letter indicating that it was not likely they would receive on-campus
housing.” With little time and a lack of Philadelphia neighborhood knowledge, many students scrambled in search of a place to live. Splaine, who found out two months before the semester started, had enough time to search for a room, though “it was a rush through the last two months of summer,” she said.
University Housing directed all transfer students who did not receive on-campus housing to the Off-Campus Living Office where Splaine luckily found a room in a house with five other girls in close proximity to campus on Carlisle Street.
Tomasetti also seeked the help of the Off-Campus Living Office, which he said was helpful. He was given a list of other students who were also in the same predicament and found a place on Susquehanna and Carlisle streets. Sheth, on the other hand, was not so fortunate.
“As of right now, I’m still looking for a place to live,” Sheth said. For the first week of classes, he commuted from his hometown of Glassboro, N.J., which he estimated to be a one-hour ride and about $150 in gas money for the first week.
“[Off-Campus Living Office] did their best to help me,” he said. “They gave me five or six places to call, but everything was taken. There seemed to be nothing else they could do to help me out.” Because Sheth found out so late in the game, many popular off-campus student enclaves – like University Village, Oxford Village, the Edge and Kardon-Atlantic Terminal – had already been taken, which posed a problem for him because he was unfamiliar with the various Philadelphia neighborhoods.
“I’ve been looking in Center City, and at anything relatively close to campus,” Sheth said. “Basically everything’s
either too expensive or not in the greatest neighborhood. I might have to suck it up and spend $100 to $150 more than I wanted to on housing. Hopefully by next weekend I’ll move in somewhere.”
Safety certainly came into play this summer during the housing searches of transfer students. Temple is in the heart of the 22nd Police District, which happened to have the second highest murder rate in 2006, according to the Philadelphia Police Department Patrol District Crime Statistics.
However in 2006, within the confines of campus, which technically ranges from Oxford Street to Susquehanna Avenue, and Delhi Street to 16th Street, zero murders occurred, according to the Campus Safety Services Main Campus Crime Statistics for 2006. Charles Leone, deputy director for Campus Safety Services, said much work goes into building a better cohesiveness in surrounding neighborhoods, expanding patrols in correlation to increasing numbers of off-campus inhabitants, and surveying to see where students are living.
“Students are in areas that are densely populated,” Leone said. “If they ever feel the need, they can always come in and they can talk to us. They should never feel like they’re alone.” All in all, the transferring process for incoming students may have been more efficient had they known earlier that they would not be receiving on-campus housing.
“My parents had already paid for tuition,” Tomasetti said. “I didn’t really have a backup plan.”
“Two weeks before school starts is really, really late to tell students they’re not going to get housing,” Splaine said. For some students who wanted the on-campus housing experience, their choice to transfer to Temple may have resulted differently had they known it was not an option.
“Originally it might have weighted my decision because they said I had a really good chance,” Splaine said. “I would’ve loved to live on campus because
I don’t know the area well.” Disappointment set in for Tomasetti when he realized that while living off-campus, it would not be as easy to meet new people.
“I’m just going to join a lot of groups,” he said. “There’s nothing better than the dorms because you get to meet a lot of people. I just thought they wouldn’t tell me I could get a spot if I really couldn’t. I was really at the mercy
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at email@example.com.