Student concerns regarding options for on-campus housing remain prevalent as the selection process approaches. Photo by Eli Kohn.
LEAH OLLIE | CULTURE CO-EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Temperatures are rising, students are free to frolic on the Mall, and a week-long break is in sight — spring is in the air at Butler University. However, this time of rebirth and change may yield stressful feelings for students preparing to embark on a different journey: applying for on-campus housing.
The housing and selection process typically begins in late February or early March, and entails several steps before housing is confirmed for most students. On the morning of Feb. 27, the housing application for the 2023-24 academic year opened for returning students — specifically, current sophomores and juniors. On the same day, applications for Greek housing and Non-Residential Requests — including those for commuter students — opened for submissions. The housing application portal was shut down due to unprecedented site traffic for an hour after opening, then resumed submissions.
Residential returning student housing applications are due March 22, after which students will be randomly assigned one time slot within the days between March 30 and April 6; during this window, they will be allowed to enter the Residence Life Portal and select their preferred housing options individually or as a part of a group.
Senior year struggles
One wrinkle in these methodical proceedings is the insufficiency of housing options for rising senior students. The Returning Student Housing page on Butler’s website provides limited information regarding returning housing for rising seniors in the fall 2023 semester, stating that “junior level students participate in the Housing Selection process … If the application is complete by [the due date], students will receive another email from Residence Life Staff on detailing the time slot you are designated to select your housing assignment with any students in your housing selection group.”
However, in a recent email to returning students regarding the housing application process, the office shared that “rising seniors will not be guaranteed a housing assignment by completing the housing application before the due date … they will not be eligible to participate in the housing selection process or be given a housing assignment until after all other returning students have a housing assignment.”
Director of Residence Life, Shannon Mulqueen, confirmed in an email to The Butler Collegian that seniors will not be prioritized in the housing application process.
“Rising seniors are not guaranteed on-campus housing,” Mulqueen said. “Senior students who would like to live on campus can complete the application but will not be able to select housing until after all junior and sophomore students have housing assignments. Since on-campus housing is required through the junior year, we need to prioritize housing for students who are required to stay on campus before we can offer it to students who choose to be on campus.”
With rising rent and cost of living in Indiana, as well as the unfeasible conditions required to attain living wages in Marion County considered, some students may be hesitant or unable to pursue off campus “senior houses” for rent.
Alena Finnell, a junior English major and transfer student currently living in Apartment Village, said that she awaits the process of applying for on-campus housing for her senior year.
“As a rising senior, even if you complete the housing application, housing is not guaranteed because I think it’s assumed by the university that [seniors] are [getting] senior houses or other off-campus housing,” Finnell said. “[As a] transfer student, I [wasn’t] aware of how early people get [senior] houses … along with rising housing costs [off campus]. I have a feeling that maybe they’ll have leftover spots for rising seniors that want to stay on campus [since it’s] all dependent on class sizes, so there’s a sort of a risk.”
Observing the only options
Amid student concerns regarding affordability and availability of senior housing, some worry about the condition of university apartments. The Butler Collegian reported in 2020 on maintenance issues at University Terrace, as well as cockroach infestations and safety concerns in 2019. As recently as March 2022, student worries regarding elevator safety and window cleanliness arose.
University Terrace has been removed from Butler’s University Apartments website as an option for eligible university apartments for upperclassmen as of Feb. 2023, yet still remains listed on the main menu page for Housing and Dining, the Butler University Residency Policy — as of its most current Feb. 24 iteration — and as an eligible option for transfer student housing. This change leaves students to wonder what the building’s future status and function will entail, as well as how this absence will impact housing availability.
Mulqueen confirmed that University Terrace will not be in use for the upcoming academic year.
Finnell said that her first impression of some university apartments deterred her from applying to live there, so she turned to student sources to learn more.
“[While applying for housing,] I absolutely did not want [to live in Butler Terrace or University Terrace] at all,” Finnell said. “There’s not a lot of information when you search up [those buildings] in terms of trying to find the layout or what the insides look like. When I was looking up University Terrace, [the first thing] that came up was the article from the Collegian about the cockroaches … I [only knew] what Apartment Village looked on the inside because students uploaded YouTube videos about it, as opposed to the university supplying [that information.]”
Since its initial opening in 2014 intended for sophomore and junior students, Butler Terrace has now become another choice for juniors and seniors seeking a university apartment, yet the residence does not offer common space furniture as other university apartments do.
Mulqueen said that this discrepancy can be attributed to student requests in 2019.
“Butler Terrace residents receive all bedroom furniture typical of a University assignment including a twin XL bed, dresser, desk and desk chair,” Mulqueen said. “The kitchen has a stovetop, oven and refrigerator. This is different from other spaces to provide an option for students who want to provide their own furniture or are preparing to move to a senior house. When common space furniture was added to the university apartments in 2019, students wanted at least one location where they could still bring and provide their own furniture, which is why BT is ‘Design Your Own Space.’”
South Campus Apartments offer units with capacity for three, four and six students respectively, with bedroom and common space furniture provided. An errant comment on the University Apartments website listed five-person units as an option for South Campus residents, but Mulqueen confirmed that there are no five-person units in South Campus apartments. Apartment Village is the largest facility of the three current university apartment options, with exclusively four-person units and furnished common and bedroom spaces.
The absence of accessibility
Compounded with doubts regarding affordability and equally enticing options for university apartments, students with disabilities face additional challenges to securing accessible housing. Neither Butler Terrace, Apartment Village nor South Campus Apartments offer elevators, and only Apartment Village offers ramps to some buildings, raising apprehension regarding building access for wheelchair users and other community members with mobility issues.
When asked regarding current or future plans to improve accessibility in on-campus housing, Mulqueen referred The Butler Collegian to John Lacheta, manager of Facilities Operations, who could not be reached for comment prior to publication.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires new construction at private universities to remain compliant with 2010 ADA standards for accessible design, and provides examples of methods of making existing structures more accessible, such as curb cuts, ramps and handrails. Student organizations such as Bulldogs for Universal Design have advocated for accessible design on Butler’s campus to make all housing equitable for all students — standards which existing university apartments fall short of.
“Expectations versus reality”
Butler’s official website currently offers no images, blueprints or videos of university apartment facilities, save for one picture of Apartment Village on the Housing and Dining page; this lapse contrasts the university’s extensive documentation of recently renovated or built housing for underclassmen such as Irvington House and Fairview House.
Mulqueen said that post-pandemic university apartment tours are in the works, as well as current efforts to document and advertise housing options for upperclassmen.
“Open houses have not been provided since before COVID, and we are working on coordinating open house/tour periods for a room in each complex in March,” Mulqueen said. “We are currently working with [the university’s marketing department] to provide more interior images of university apartments — footage has been filmed and will be updated on the website at some point in the future.”
Collegian Opinion Columnist Megan Drake wrote in August of the “expectations versus reality” that many Butler students reckon with as they arrive on campus and navigate the process of applying for housing. Students noted that a lack of information and images on Butler’s website regarding housing options other than those traditionally allocated to underclassmen left more to be desired.
Addyson Stallman, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major who currently lives in Apartment Village due to Fairview House overflow, said the housing application process for those seeking to reside in university apartments would be clarified by easily accessible and updated information from Butler to illuminate students’ choices.
“I feel like [Butler] really advertises the [first-year] housing because they’re advertising it to prospective students,” Stallman said. “Once you’re on campus, you don’t really know what the housing options are for upperclassmen, which [makes it] difficult to make decisions [regarding housing].”
As students seek clarity and communication regarding options for on-campus housing, they can prepare by reviewing the terms of their housing application and procuring housing groups with their preferred roommates through the Residence Life portal, as well as referencing the Residence Life page on Butler’s website for updates.
Post publication at 6:04am on March 1, Lacheta reached out to state that “Butler University facilities complies with the iterations of the International Building Code, Local/State Building Codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act … any future Butler facilities will comply with the 2010 version of the ADA – which is legally required of new facilities or renovations over a certain scope. This includes … curb cuts, ramps (in certain areas) and handrails. However, knowing this only goes so far … the University also incorporates as many universal design standards as possible when building and renovating spaces. In a specific example, the Residential College renovation over this next summer will include new exterior doors with automatic door operators, and the removal of all stepped entrances into the building leaving only properly sloped inclines up to the building.”