Aug

17

Dean Hinkson Breaks The Silence

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Update, 2:30 am: We read the email a few times, talked to some tipsters, and came to the following conclusions:

  • The policy for returning students was changed in February, before any of the stuff that Dean Hinkson mentions as unexpectedly causing the shortage. The deadline for study abroad, yield numbers (which show how many new freshmen there will be), and the housing lottery (which shows how many returning students there will be) all occur in March, April, or May, months which come after February.
  • Accepting fewer freshwomen is good, but doesn’t affect the amount of housing for upperclasswomen. Last year, Barnard admitted a record number of froshbears and they had to convert a bunch of study lounges into 4-person rooms just to house all of them. There are now sophomores who need upperclass housing, and who will become juniors, and so on. This is a problem that will continue to grow unless Barnard significantly changes their admission habits, or starts buying more real estate.
  • If Barnard was really concerned about the upperclass housing shortage, they could have accepted fewer transfers. By the time transfers were being admitted, Barnard should already have known about the record number of sophomores, high freshman yield, and lack of students studying abroad. So why admit 70 transfers they can’t house?

Barnard students just received the following email from Dean Hinkson, timestamped at 11:40 pm, addressing the housing crisis:

Dear Students,

I am writing to you with a detailed update about the on-campus housing situation. For those of you who have been directly impacted by the housing shortage, specifically readmitted students, new transfers, continuing students on the waitlist, and Plimpton residents whose rooms and suites were converted to house an additional resident, I want to personally express my appreciation for your understanding and flexibility while working with the Office of Residential Life and apologize for the inconvenience and anxiety that this has caused you and your families.

Since there has been some confusion about how the shortage came about and what the College did and is doing in response, I hope that I can offer some clarity. In previous years, we have been able to accommodate most if not all students on the waitlist but this year has simply been different and unprecedented. Beginning in the spring, we began to notice a sharp increase in the number of students requesting on-campus rooms, a trajectory that continued into the summer. The increase in demand appeared to be the result of a confluence of factors:

–Fewer housing cancellations. Drawing on data from the past five years, we had as many as 134 cancellations a year whereas this year, there were only 84.

–A drop in the number of students studying abroad. Over the past five years, we had as many as 73 students studying abroad during the fall semester whereas this year, there are only 46.

–High yield in admissions both in 2011 and 2012. The College intentionally admitted fewer students for this year’s incoming class but once again the number of applicants accepting Barnard’s offer of admission was a record high.

–More students opting to stay on campus instead of seeking off-campus housing, a trend shared by peer schools. This year, there are 53 more continuing students seeking housing than in 2010.

In response to the increase in demand, we tried several measures that we hoped would alleviate the shortfall prior to notifying waitlisted students of the problem. For example, we offered a reprieve on the housing cancellation fee, converted faculty housing to student housing, and sought rooms at schools and institutions throughout Manhattan. We thank the Provost’s office for generously providing us with several temporary apartments and Campus Services for joining in efforts to track down alternative options.

In late July, it became clear that these measures would not be enough. We then notified affected students of the shortage and encouraged them to start looking for alternative housing. As a result, several students found off-campus housing, which opened up spaces for others on campus. We thank these students for their efforts and acknowledge the frustration and anxiety that the uncertainty of the situation caused them.

As a final measure to address the shortfall, we had to make the difficult decision to convert corner rooms in Plimpton from singles to doubles. I assure you that this was not a solution that we implemented lightly, as we had either exhausted or ruled out all other feasible options. We are mindful of the inequity of the solution for the students who, for the most part, had good numbers in the housing lottery and took great care in arranging their suites. We are incredibly grateful to them and to their suitemates for their understanding and their willingness to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. This was simply a last resort, an unprecedented action and a solution we did not come to easily.

As recently as 3 weeks ago there were over 80 students on the housing waiting list, which included transferring, readmitted and continuing students. I’m pleased to report that as of today, we have either offered or secured on-campus housing for approximately 90% of them. For the 9 students still awaiting assignments, we continue to make every effort to find housing. To that end, the Residential Life staff has been working around the clock, with the hope of accommodating every student.

I have received some questions about how moving off-campus impacts financial aid. This is not a simple question to answer because each student receives a package based on individual circumstances. The Office of Financial Aid takes into account many factors including whether that student lives on campus or commutes. The difference is usually that commuters will not receive grant aid for the housing portion of their financial aid packages, but they are able to apply for loans to cover those costs. We encourage students affected by this situation to work with the Financial Aid Office who can help with financial decisions for the short and long term.

I hope this information provides some clarity but recognize that it does not, in any way, diminish what we know many of you have experienced. We have heard your concerns and we are doing everything we can to address them. Moreover, we will continue to review our policies and practices, as well as housing options, to strive to avoid anything like this happening in the future. As always, I welcome your input as we move forward.

Respectfully,

Dean Hinkson

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47 Comments

  1. student

    This still does not address the concern of many returning and transfer students. Will they be allowed to enter the housing lottery for the future years?

  2. Anonymous

    Very evasive statement.

    "We are incredibly grateful to them and to their suitemates for their understanding and their willingness"- uh... like they had a choice...

  3. Anonymous

    absolutely nothing was answered here

  4. Anonymous

    Sounds like Barnard needs to buy/build a new dorm.

    • Anonymous

      Or Barnard needs to start reserving some nearby hotel rooms.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, sounds like it. Here's what I don't understand: Barnard was told by the middle states accreditation board a few years back (not the most recent time) that they needed to build a dorm, so they built Cathedral Gardens. Now, only 90 students live there and the rest are apartments for faculty. That building has a 10 story tower, and the student units are only on floors 1-6. So, yeah maybe Cathedral Gardens is "far away" but I think that Barnard should really think hard about converting some faculty apartments into student housing. It would suck to kick faculty out, too, but it seems like they have this beautiful apartment building that is not being used for what it should be.

      • Anonymous

        Rule #1 of college administration: don't severely piss off the faculty.

        Taking away their apartments would violate rule #1.

        Also, Cathedral Gardens was purposely built as a mix of student, faculty, and *private* housing. Floors 1-6 are student and faculty. Floors 7-15 are condominiums. There's no more room to add students.

        • Anonymous

          Correction/Clarification: Floors 1-10 of the South Tower and Floors 3-6 of the North Tower is student and faculty. Floors 7-15 of the North Tower are private.

          There are 18 student suites and 27 faculty apartments.

          • Anonymous

            Can I just ask, are you an RA? Or an administrator? Or just somebody who likes to make brash statements for fun? My comment was a call for Barnard to examine their use of space. I absolutely know that CG was built for a mix of student, faculty, and private space. But as we can see, the college evolves over time. And maybe it's time that Barnard look at where they can create more housing units for students. And by the way, I am pretty sure that it's only on floors 2-6 of the "north tower" where there are student suites.

          • Anonymous

            I took issue with "it seems like they have this beautiful apartment building that is not being used for what it should be." The student-faculty-private ratio hasn't changed since it was built. How should it be used then? How much of the faculty can you kick out without undermining the original goals of the building?

          • Anonymous

            I believe that I answered your question. In a housing crisis like this, I think that there should be more units made available for students because CG is owned by Barnard, and it would be great if those students who still don't have rooms could live on Barnard property, rather than the 92Y or the Brandon residence. I'm not going to blindly pick numbers and say x number of faculty or private residents should leave, because I don't know the specifics. And I know that it wouldn't be feasible to make this happen for this academic year, but for future academic years maybe they should readjust the occupancy of the building. But you still didn't answer my question - are you an RA? Administrator? How do you know all of these specifics about CG?

          • Anonymous

            Go to the NYC ACRIS website.

            Under "Find Address and Parcels", search for Block 1845, Lot 9.

            Read the "Condo Declaration".

            Lot 9 is the overall building. Lots 1401-1402 are the ground floor commercial spaces. Lots 1403-1405 are student and faculty housing owned by Barnard. Lots 1406-1430 are the 25 private apartments *not* owned by Barnard.

          • Anonymous

            Correction/Clarification: ACRIS Main Page -> "Search Property Records" -> "Parcel Identifier"

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, change a contractual breach with 9 students into a contractual breach with union backed faculty with children, and ram it trough the NYC eviction process that takes months even if it is not contested....

      • Alum

        Barnard also has a severe shortage of faculty housing. It has already converted some of its existing faculty housing for use by students, thereby exacerbating one serious problem in order to lessen another. A balance had to be struck between these two priorities. Arguing that faculty needs should automatically yield to the needs of students is not realistic.

        • CC '13

          Agreed. Though Barnard (and Columbia) is an attractive place to study and work, the fact that it's in the city can put it at a disadvantage in recruiting faculty. Rent (and living expenses) are more ridiculous in the city vs. teaching elsewhere and so the University has to offer these types of benefits to attract and maintain faculty.

          There very much has to be a balance between housing students and faculty in order to maintain the caliber of the school.

  5. anon

    While I am glad to see the administration publicly apologize, I think that there should still be repercussions. I don't care if it's 9 students, if they were all guaranteed housing in their contracts, unless they eventually receive it, an apology just doesn't cut it. When you breach your contract and put students in the position of having to find a place to live in NYC in just a few weeks notice, you shouldn't just thank them with a "shout out," in your update letter, you should be praying that they don't band together and sue.

    Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I do believe this kind of massive, massive fvck up won't happen again. With all the non-answers and half-truths the administrators have been spewing, and the swift refutations put together by Bwog commencers, it's put Reslife and the college itself in a really bad light, and made them look super shady.

    My best to the rest of the students involved in this.

    • Don't hold your breath

      Shifting from a culture of half-truths to transparency should've started back in 2009, after the administration was browbeaten into admitting the mandatory meal plan scheme was motivated by securing a guaranteed income stream.

  6. Anonymous

    I have trouble understanding why the financial aid aspect of this "is not a simple question to answer." There has to be a distinction between someone who chooses to commute and someone who is 'notified of the shortage and encouraged to start looking for alternative housing.' To me, the latter is basically a 'forced commute.' If a such a 'forced commuter' originally had housing covered in his/her financial aid package and they're still not living on campus this year because Barnard didn't 't have its act together, the money should still be there to go towards their off-campus rent. Period.

  7. The last sentence of the last paragraph...

    "I hope this information provides some clarity but recognize that it does not..."

    anyone else think the sentence should have just ended right there?

  8. Anonymous

    Dean Hinkson should lose her job over this.

    On another note, it is clear that Barnard is doing whatever is necessary to make more money. The impact these moves have on students is not important to the Barnard administration. Barnard is increasing the number of students to increase their revenue.

    camped toostW

    • Anonymous

      No, no Dean Hinkson should not lose her job over this. The ResLife administrators should (if anyone has to at all). While I am extremely dissatisfied with this response as well, Dean Hinkson was the only person that my suitemates and I contacted that made us feel like we were cared about. She actually personally called one of my suitemates. She is the one person on the administrative side that is at least respecting us.

      • Anonymous

        i know this will be hard to hear, but dean hinkson was also the one who enforced the plan that hurt you and your suitemates, publicly fudged the truth about related issues, and very possibly co-created this situation in the first place. She is complicit in questionable and likely illegal activity.

        Maybe she is nice with you on the phone when apologizing for instituting a change that's already been made, irrevocably, at your expense, but she shows far less "respect" in person. Try broaching the subjects of the seniors she made graduate early ("but we'll be replacing them with first-years paying full tuition!")* or transparency ("what would have NOT been transparent was only telling students they couldn't go part-time when they asked us to sign off on it!")* and tell me how respectful she is then.

        *quotes ripped from in-person conversations with Dean Hinkson

  9. Anonymous

    I call for
    1) Dean Hinkson's resignation, and
    2) Barnard to cover the difference in the school year's off-campus housing (rent, utilities, fee if applicable) and campus housing for anyone who was forced out before this week's offers despite a housing guarantee. This should include but not be limited to anyone who moved to the Brandon Residence or 92Y, which are absurd options and a minimum of two miles from campus.

    Is there a way to formalize a charge against a school administrator ( 1))?

    • Anonymous

      If you are serious about demanding Dean Hinkson's resignation -- which is not an unreasonable response given the number of things she has implemented, or mishandled, that have made students very unhappy -- then collect student signatures in support of your proposal and bring it to an SGA meeting in the fall. I suspect there are other constituencies at Barnard who are similarly dissatisfied.

    • Anonymous

      I've been living at the Y this summer, and it takes absolutely forever to get to school, especially when it's not rush hour. It's absurd that people have to deal with that for a whole semester.

      • really

        Consider the fact that most people-- certainly a good fraction of the people working in New York--commute to work five days each week, and with considerably longer commuting times than the "forever" that it takes you to get from the upper east side to the upper west.

        • Anonymous

          The fundamental difference is most of us chose to go to Barnard because it's not a commuter school (among other reasons). I really liked the fact that 99% of people lived on campus for all four years of college.
          Also, I'm living at the Y because I'm working in the city... I understand what commuting to your job is like, no need to be an asshole about it.
          -OP

  10. Idea

    Put RAs into doubles with each other instead of singles for themselves and use the remaining rooms as doubles for waiting student.

    OR

    Turn one of the Sulz tower lounges into a double/triple w/e

    OR

    Turn 620 singles that are doubles on other floors into doubles

    OR

    just set up sleeping bags in some suites' kitchens.

    • Anonymous

      While your idea is a great "temporary" solution, Barnard is probably going to make it a permanent one and it won't be fair. Barnard should really look into more real estate and stop trying to beat around the bush. Chances are they're going to continue over accepting students and the housing issue is going to continue rising until they build new dorms.

    • former RA

      RA's have to deal with enough ludicrous shit (students knocking on your door at crazy times, tons of meetings, program quotas) that making them live in doubles is just mean.

  11. bc14

    Barnard needs to hold a town hall after the semester starts so students can voice their concerns and feelings about this whole mess. We should be having these conversations with the administration face to face, and if a large number of us showed up, I think it'd send a powerful message.

    • bc 2014 too

      "voice their concerns and feelings." Give me a break. Barnard women just love to 'voice concerns and feelings,' don't we? I think it's fairly obvious from this letter that we've voiced our concerns and feelings and administration obv dgaf. Don't get your hopes up, girl.

    • Barnard 2016

      I haven't been to Barnard yet, but I've found that, when administrators of any academic institution holds a town hall meeting, the administrators only pretend to listen in order to make students and community members feel good when, in actuality, they aren't going to do jack shit for the students/community members.

      • involved student

        The meal plan town hall led directly to the student committee that got rid of the worst parts of the plan and added choices back in. The issues raised at the town hall were among those we discussed at the committee meetings with the students and admins. Barnard is usually pretty good at listening to students once we let it know that it's messed up, it just needs to work on not doing that in the first place.

        • that's not true

          I was at the meal plan town hall and was aware of the original plan. Nothing meaningful has changed except maybe adjusting it by dorm and allowing points-only. They promised
          -it was temporary
          - the food would be of reasonable quality (later that year Hewitt got 20 violation points on the health rating)
          - possibility of exemptions--not accommodations, exemptions-- for allergy students who talked to DSpar
          - most egregiously, we'd be able to spend points at a "convenience store in the Quad" if we didn't want to spend it on food. (note: liz's place started selling minimal convenience products 1-2 years later)
          Maybe are you talking about FAB, but please tell me what FAB has done that has helped students. It legislates/attempts to legislate (pretty sure the sensitivities bill from last year still has not passed) on student food/ health issues that students have no place dealing with and works with Aramark. Not outside it.

          //Barnard is "good at listening to students"? They did not do a single thing about part-time, the biggest issue in several years, except for the people who tried to sue them.

  12. bc13

    "In response to the increase in demand, we tried several measures that we hoped would alleviate the shortfall prior to notifying waitlisted students of the problem. For example, we offered a reprieve on the housing cancellation fee"

    I don't know if anyone else was offered a reprieve for the housing cancellation fee? But I certainly wasn't.

  13. In the words of Voldemort

    Spoken like a true politician

  14. Alum

    "If Barnard was really concerned about the upperclass housing shortage, they could have accepted fewer transfers."

    If the number of transfer admits was based solely on the amount of available housing, perhaps this is what they would have done. But it isn't. Barnard also needs a certain amount of tuition to balance its budget. Reducing enrollment would either have created a deficit or required cuts elsewhere. Other factors also go into this decision.

    Remember that the transfers were not guaranteed housing when they were admitted. It makes little sense to say they should not have been admitted at all due to the limited amount of housing available. A more sensible answer is that Barnard should not have imposed on its continuing students in order to give housing to transfers who weren't entitled to it.

  15. Anonymous

    Pena-Mora can take over the job to create more rooms

  16. Anonymous

    I'd sign it in a heartbeat.

  17. A long term solution

    Administrators should be paid less and the money should be used for student housing. DSpar makes $600k per year just from Barnard. She also works at Goldman Sachs. Barnard could buy a suite a year, essentially, by skimming her share down to $100k.

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