May 28, 2020

Petition pushes administration to rethink Commons

A student-generated petition has led to changes in the Capital Commons’ pricing for the upcoming school year.

Junior creative writing major Kathryn Poe created a petition online titled “Better Housing Facilities on Campus” Thursday, March 24 to address students’ concerns.

The petition asked administration to lower the cost of the Commons apartments and for an explanation of why housing prices rose, among other demands. Administration responded recently by changing the prices of the Commons for the 2019-2020 school year.

According to the university’s website, a single in the Commons will cost $8,426 and a double in the Commons will cost $6,885, with both being over $1,000 less than the original pricing for the 2019-2020 school year.

Poe said that she started the petition after seeing a need for it online.

“There’s always been housing concerns as long as I’ve been a student,” Poe said. “It’s just something that people have known about. With the price hike, it just wasn’t communicated effectively to students. When paired with living conditions that a lot of people don’t like, it just seemed like something needed to be presented in more of a formal, organized way than just rage on Twitter.”

Tronston Williams, a junior electronic media and film major, said that he supports the petition and is not a fan of the increased housing costs.

“Speaking for myself and people who come from low-income families, it’s really difficult to judge living arrangements when everything keeps going up,” Williams said. “It’s like I have to either decide ‘Do I have better living conditions and pay more?’ Or settle for the lowest of the low and pay less. And even that is supposedly increasing.”

Natalie Samenuk, a junior integrated social studies major also signed Poe’s petition.

“I’m stressed about paying for it. Me and my parents joint pay for school, and I’m just trying to find as much money as I can. It’s not really viable for me to get a second job, so I’m just going to be completely strapped for cash. Which is really stressful, because what am I going to do when I graduate?” Samenuk said.

Pictured is the Commons, the cause of tension over housing.

“I agree with them increasing [the pricing of] the Commons a little bit,” William Futrell, a junior integrated social studies major, said. “Just as long as they renovate them. If they aren’t going to renovate them then there’s no point. But I don’t understand why they’re increasing the prices on dorms like Lohman, when half the time Lohman looks like a crap-hole.”

Sarah Tilton, a sophomore business management major with junior standing who signed the petition, said she is most likely going to take out another loan to aid in paying for the increased costs.

“The petition was well-written, I think it covered a lot of things some students would want to hear like why it’s increasing, where the money is going, why it has to increase as much as it does, especially per year,” Tilton said. “And that’s why I signed it, because I had also wanted to see where it would go.”

The petition received 1,150 signatures over the course of five days. According to Dr. Jody Fournier, the provost and vice president of learning, there are approximately 2,600 undergraduates attending Capital.

Poe said that her goal for the petition was recognition, and what she wanted was a response.

“I feel like right now, we just don’t get that from housing,” she said. “We don’t. I don’t think that housing has ever said we acknowledge your problems, and this is what we’re going to do. I think that’s all anyone is asking for, an acknowledgement that there are issues.”

Poe said that she is currently planning to meet with Jon Geyer, the director of the Office of Residential and Commuter Life.

Geyer was contacted via email for comment on his office’s response to the petition, but did not respond by press time.

Poe met with President Beth Paul Monday, March 25 to discuss the petition and her suggestions for the situation.

“I think that the next step needs to be the formation of a housing committee, a lot like the mascot committee, and have a public housing forum so that students can say these are our issues, [and can] actually voice them. The other thing will just be encouraging transparency. This would not have happened if they would have told people six months before,” Poe said.

Tuesday, March 26, Fournier invited Poe to talk to him about her petition and to restate her suggestions.

“He said that he was really impressed with the petition,” said Poe. “He seemed to really agree with a lot of it. He definitely seemed excited that someone had brought it to his attention and knew a lot of the problems. He was very willing to work with me. He was very understanding of what students and why students were doing it, what we wanted.”

Fournier said that it was unlikely for changes to be considered regarding housing costs because of the timing of the issue.

“We can talk about changes for how we communicate those in the future,” Fournier said. “We can talk about ways of addressing some of the concerns of conditions and the offices you can work with to get those changed, we can have conversations about some of the affordability aspects that were brought up … those are things we can talk about making some movement on now.”

Fournier said he would bring up the petition’s concerns at the next meeting of the President’s Cabinet, which will occur within the next couple of weeks.

“Before that time, I’m happy to take the lead on fielding questions, concerns, feedback, suggestions,” Fournier said. “I’m happy to run point on that.”

Fournier was able to address concerns raised by the petition late last week at a scheduled meeting of the university officers.

After discussing matters throughout the weekend, the decision was made Monday to phase in the price increase of the Capital Commons over the course of the next two years instead of instituting the price point originally released for the upcoming fall semester.

“Because of the timing of the announcements and the difficulty that that created, we’ve decided to make a change on the price increase for the Capital Commons Apartments,” Fournier said. “Instead of going with what was posted as the increase earlier, we will phase in the price increase over two years so that by the fall of 2020, the price of the Capital Commons will be consistent with that level of Capital University housing.”

The university’s website clarifies that by the fall of 2020, pricing for a Commons single will raise to $10,060 and the pricing of a Commons double will raise to $8,600.

Fournier said this is being done so as to make the cost of the Commons similar to that of apartments, townhouses, and houses that have kitchens.

According to Fournier, renovations to the Commons will still be taking place over the summer.

“The Commons renovations came in response to the last few years [of] hearing students wanting more options on par with CU Apartments,” Fournier said. “So, we’re still going to move forward with the renovations because we know that there are students that want those.”

Fournier said that one of the most significant pieces of feedback from the petition had to do with the timing of the announcements of the pricing increases.

“Students, by receiving the information of the price increase at the time that they did, likely did not have enough time in the housing selection process to make a truly informed choice. Many students who were choosing the Commons based on affordability likely wouldn’t have chosen that because of the new price point as a potential residence,” Fournier said.

He said that price points for the other housing options provided by Capital for the 2019-2020 school year will remain the same. Fournier also said that in the future, housing prices will be announced earlier during the academic year.

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