“It’ll give us so much more room for activities!”
Over 100 first year students have been caught out days before moving into their halls of residence. Students have been told they will be sharing their single room with another student in a bunk bed, and were told their fees would be decreased. The halls that have been affected are Katharine Jermyn Hall (KJ), Te Puni, and Weir House.
Students who wish to reside in their chosen single room can opt to be waitlisted, but it is unclear how long for, or if a room will become available at all.
Director of Victoria University Campus Services Jenny Bentley said that the bunk beds were “temporary”, and students who had serious health problems would be prioritised.
Bentley said KJ hall is currently “32 single rooms short, although this situation is expected to be resolved in the coming weeks.”
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By the end of the day on 18 February, Bentley said that “a number of students” have been offered “free accommodation in shared rooms until single rooms become available”.
Bentley said that before asking students to consider sharing, Campus Services had “investigated all other options for finding rooms, including hotels as well as other student accommodation elsewhere around Wellington. With big events on in the city, there is nothing available”.
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) President Linsey Higgens has criticized the university’s actions, “You can’t just cram students into rooms like they are cattle…these students are now being denied the privacy that they had signed up for.”
NZUSA has questioned whether Katharine Jermyn will be able to resolve the problem. Higgins asked “Is the University hoping for students to fail and drop out so students will get their single rooms back?”
VUWSA President Jonathan Gee is concerned about how the university’s actions have affected students, and said it must be “a great deal of stress for these new students, many of them leaving home for the first time and being told less than a week before move-in day that they didn’t get what they signed up for.”
Gee is concerned that students who do not want to take up the offer of a bunk bed will be left hanging, “the reality is that these students won’t have many options so close to move-in day.”
Two RAs, who did not wish to be named, said they had been told of the situation “about a week ago,” and that the over-offering of places was a result of decisions made by Accommodation Services.
They told Salient that Accommodation Services normally advises hall managers to over-offer places by 25%, but because many halls had free places at the start of 2015 it was upped to 30% this year. They had made allowances for withdrawals, but the withdrawals were far less than anticipated.
RAs were told to reassure students and parents that they were at least lucky to have a place, as approximately 140 students are still on the waitlist for halls of residence.
Former VUWSA President Rick Zwaan said the root of the problem is systemic, and told Salient that the overselling of beds is “symptomatic of how the university’s profit motive overrides the strategic goal to have a student experience second to none”.
A first-year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, applied for KJ because the hall only offered single rooms. The student ignored an email on February 12 that offered them the option of a bunk. They received a further email on February 17 implying that the offer of a bunk was in fact an imperative, and it gave them no option to retain a single room.
The student said that after emailing KJ their phone calls were ignored. In an email, KJ then told the student they had worked hard to pair them with a resident who they thought they would “get along well with,” again ignoring the fact that the student did not want to share a room.
At the time of publishing, the student had not been given the option to opt out of the bunk room or withdraw from the hall.
Clause 11 of the accommodation offer for Victoria University halls of residence states that if circumstances arise that make it “impossible for VUW to provide the resident with accommodation or services at the hall” the university will endeavour to “provide alternative temporary accommodation” until services at the hall can resume, or “adjust the accommodation fees payable under this agreement by giving two weeks notice to the resident.”
The email the student received notifying them of the change came only seven days before their move-in date.
With two weeks notice not having been given to the residents about the changes made to fees, the current situation could be in breach of the agreement which all residents have signed.
It seems there are too many people wanting to ‘know their mind’ at Victoria University of Wellington this year. On the upside, Lily from Big Save Furniture will be stoked—bunk sales must be going THROUGH THE ROOF.
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