UW-Madison is experiencing an unprecedented influx of students seeking on-campus housing — sparking thoughts and concerns among the incoming class.
“One week they’re telling us that it’ll be early, the next it’ll be in the coming months,” said first-year student Alex Patterson, referencing housing assignments. “I know it’s really hard for them due to the number of students, but I’d like a bit more communication.”
An accidental release of assignments last week resulted in further confusion among some students.
“Whether it is a lack of preparation or just a glitch in the system, it definitely is quite discouraging,” said Tomer Ronen, an incoming student who received an unofficial housing assignment on July 8.
According to Director of Marketing and Communications for University Housing, Brendon Dybdahl, one of UW Housing’s “processes accidentally showed preliminary testing assignment information to some students” but was swiftly corrected and, as of Monday, students can now log into the MyUW Housing portal to access their assignment and additional housing information.
This year, both UW-Madison and UW Housing have experienced increased interest from students, said university spokesperson Meredith McGlone and Dybdahl.
“We knew that interest in living on campus would be high with students eager to get back to a more typical in-person Wisconsin Experience and a robust incoming freshman class as well,” Dybdahl said.
The university expects approximately 8,509 student housing residents this fall, a serious increase from the 7,956 students living in residence halls during the fall of 2019.
Although official enrollment numbers will not be available until the fall, the university remains prepared to welcome “another record-setting” class this fall, said McGlone, noting that it is important to highlight that enrollment will continue to change due to factors such as the pandemic.
As for now, UW Housing has taken several steps to add 680 beds to address the heightened demand for on-campus housing according to a university release.
“For this fall, we increased our capacity by adapting the Lowell Center into undergraduate housing, converting more of our larger residence hall rooms into triples and quads, and offering space in our Eagle Heights apartments to new transfer students,” said Dybdahl.
As of June 1, UW Housing communicated to students and families that they would be utilizing converted lounge and den spaces in the Lakeshore neighborhood as dorm rooms, that most students assigned to Ogg, Smith and Dejope residence halls would be residing in triple rooms and that, more broadly, students would not be guaranteed an assignment in their dorm’s of choice and that an increased amount of students than previous years would be placed in triple and quad rooms, respectively, Dybdahl said.
Given that residence halls will be fully occupied, some students and families have expressed concerns about the risks of COVID-19.
Around 92.5% of residents plan to be fully-vaccinated upon move-in and 3.2% of residents intend to get vaccinated once on campus according to a university survey completed by 89% of incoming housing residents.
“This high rate of vaccination is a very encouraging sign for health and safety — a high rate of vaccination protects those who are vaccinated and also those who are unable to be vaccinated,” said Dybdahl. “The best way for students to protect themselves and have normal campus experience is to get vaccinated.”
UW Housing’s yearly goal is to house as many interested students as possible but encourages those they are unable to accommodate to utilize the university’s Campus Area Housing office.
Despite some worries and disappointments associated with the on-campus housing process, many students remain understanding of the circumstances in which UW Housing continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19 as well as the size of the incoming class.
“I appreciate all the work that Housing has done to accommodate for the unexpected,” said first-year student Issac Yang. “Though the process has been a little difficult and confusing to follow, they’ve still done well considering the circumstances.”
Conversely, incoming student Dominic Zappia thought that the process had been clear, especially given the hurdles UW Housing has had to face this year.
“I’ve appreciated [UW Housing’s] consistent communication,” said Zappia. “Especially on the housing capacity problems.”
Amanda Curbelo and Josie Maahs have also had relatively positive experiences with UW Housing and felt that they are doing the best they can.
“Everyone that works for housing is also kind and willing to help,” Curbelo said.
“Obviously there are going to be some bumps in the road,” Maahs underscored. “Nobody is perfect.”