I, like Lauren Dines and many other students at Wellesley, did everything right when it came to the housing process. I had a room selected before I came to campus, and even called before my arrival to confirm the selection. But what if I hadn’t? What if I’d forgotten to acknowledge my housing agreement, or forgotten to confirm my room? What if I wasn’t sure I was returning to campus, and decided to forgo housing until I was ready? What if I, like several others, had a financial hold on my account that resulted in me being unable to register? In those scenarios, would I be less deserving of a place to live at Wellesley? Regardless of whether or not they did everything right, every single student attending Wellesley College should have guaranteed housing.
Other students received emails alerting them of the housing crisis — but I did not. On Thursday, August 29, two days before I was supposed to move in, I logged into the StarRez portal to check my room number. My portal screen was empty and I could not find a room assignment anywhere. I messaged the Wellesley Res Life & Housing official Facebook page, and an unnamed representative chose a single room for me in Bates. The representative messaged: “Single! You’re done! Booked!”
I was not booked — and was definitely far from done navigating the housing process. Soon after, I called the Office of Residential Life only to find out that there was no room assignment for me; I was then instructed to email screenshots of my previous Facebook correspondence to Housing Assistant Director Meghan Todd. I arrived on campus the next day, to get some extra work hours and speak with the clearly disorganized housing staff in person. Within the first five minutes of my shift, Todd walked through the front door.
She informed me that my call was one of the first to alert them of students being unhoused. This, to me, was a huge red flag. The Office of Residential Life and Housing did not know that several students, reportedly 20, did not have rooms — until receiving students’ phone calls. Errors with new technology are to be expected and out of human control. What is in human control, however, is establishing a backup plan.
While my call was received positively, other unhoused students who called to check on their status were told they “surprised housing,” and were effectively blamed for the department’s lack of foresight. If your job is to make sure students are housed, you should be held accountable for not double- and triple-checking that they are. Students should not be made to feel at fault for being unhoused.
As soon as the Office of Residential Life was made aware of unhoused students, they should have cross-referenced enrollment records to confirm that others were not also negatively affected. Even before, though, a concrete alternative plan should have been in place to prevent last minute chaos.
Housing did make an effort to be transparent and encourage open lines of communication with students, but in many ways missed the mark.
The open housing forum on Sept. 2 mentioned in the article was solely advertised to the Class of 2020 Facebook group, excluding many unhoused students. Not every person affected by the housing crisis is a senior, and not all members of the class of 2020 are on or are active on the Facebook group. This forum should have been properly advertised, through email for example, rather than only through one Facebook group. Housing knew which students did not have rooms and should have sent out direct invitations to each of those affected inviting them to the meeting.
When asked why they did not cross check enrollment record, Director of Residential Life Helen Wang claimed it was because they were unable to obtain these records from the registrar. However, if they were unable to access the next semester’s records, they could have used the previous or current year’s as a place to start. There are many solutions that can be speculated, but the lack of preventative effort remains clear.
When asked about how they would be finding rooms if, according to them, there were no open rooms on campus, housing representatives claimed they were “waiting for the dust to settle.” They explained that they were waiting for current Wellesley students to either not show up, or go on leave.
The lack of care with which they spoke to this vulnerable group of students is disgusting. Meghan Todd continued to speak with a lack of empathy when she recounted a time where approximately 50 students were unhoused in 2009 or 2010. Wellesley had to rent out part of a residential building at Regis College to house upperclassmen. She then proceeded to laugh and told us, a group of students that were unhoused and vulnerable, to “trust her” as “things are much better now.” When a student shared they’d been sleeping in sweatshirts to avoid unpacking bedsheets, Todd also laughed.
This ordeal must seem comical, as Todd has not been the only person that I have interacted with who made light of the situation. In my first conversation after being introduced to a Wellesley News representative, I was told that the housing crisis was the ‘best thing’ that could have happened to the representative. These interactions have since become anomalies. The Wellesley community has come together to offer support and even went as far as students opening up their rooms and alumnae their homes.
My mental health started deteriorating while living in the college club, where I stayed for over two weeks. I was unable to focus on anything other than not having a room. I would cry during class and have to leave, or else be so consumed in my own fears and worries that I could not pay attention to my professors. Each day got worse, and there was no end in sight. We never knew exactly when we would be moved to permanent spaces, just that the Office of Res Life was doing everything they could.
I have received a room since the original article was published and am now officially housed. After 18 days of not knowing what was happening, feeling alone, unsafe and unwelcome — like I was not a member of the Wellesley College community — I have been housed. I was able to be placed in a single room, only after a student went on medical leave. The dust finally settled, but the dust was my friend.