The Barnard housing crisis just got worse: we now know that Barnard students who went on leave signed contracts guaranteeing housing—only to return and find those guarantees gone.

Bwog has obtained evidence indicating that Barnard violated returning students’ housing contracts earlier this year by changing the terms, and revoking their promised guaranteed housing. Our tipster, who took a leave of absence for Spring 2012, sent us a copy of the contract she signed last November. Here’s the key passage:

Cancelling my academic year housing due to a withdrawal from the College means that I will be guaranteed housing upon readmission as long as I follow all housing application deadlines

Yesterday, we examined Dean Avis Hinkson’s crafty language—though she implied that students returning from leave had never been guaranteed housing, a 2009 contract we found proved otherwise. Soon after we posted, she admitted that “[t]he policy was changed last February.”

Our tipster’s contract, which she signed last November, promised her guaranteed housing upon return. Three months after she signed the contract, Barnard changed the rules. Instead of getting guaranteed housing, returning students would be placed on a Non-Guaranteed Waitlist. As far as we can tell, Barnard never even announced the change; the returning students still believed they would be guaranteed housing when they returned, as their contracts stated.

Instead, the emails that Barnard Housing sent to returning students gave the impression that housing had never been guaranteed. They also encouraged students to look for off-campus housing. An email from July:

As you know, housing is not guaranteed for students returning to the College through the Readmission process…We’d like to encourage you to investigate other housing options.

Another one from last week:

Students without a housing assignment are still encouraged to look for off-campus housing.

Our tipster did eventually receive an offer of housing—earlier this morning—but by then it was too late. She had already taken Barnard Housing’s advice and found an off-campus apartment.

That same tipster called Barnard Housing and spoke with a top Barnard administrator. Here is the important part of their conversation:

Administrator: So, after you signed this in November, the policy was changed at the beginning of February. It was changed on our website, and when we sent you two emails earlier this summer, we referenced the fact that readmitted students were no longer guaranteed housing.

Student: Okay, but as of the time I signed the contract and agreed to that, you understand that that’s not what I agreed to. You can’t…I mean…that’s breach of contract.

Administrator: Well, that’s for someone else to determine, not for me to determine.

We have, of course, contacted Barnard. As ever:

Update, 9:10 pm: We contacted a lawyer who said that, while the linked document probably doesn’t function as a contract, in this situation, a student like our tipster was detrimentally reliant on Barnard, which might therefore be vulnerable to legal action. Basically, her decision to temporarily withdraw from the College was contingent on the information she was presented with by Barnard in the document. By retroactively changing that document, Barnard undermined the value of the document.

Update, 8/17 4:30 pm: Another tipster reports that according to Barnard Housing, “there are 38 transfer student[s] who we have not been able to provide housing to.” The transfers, like returning students, were told there were unlikely to be any spots on campus so they’d better find off-campus housing. A few were eventually offered on-campus housing, but by then, many had already signed leases for off-campus apartments.

If you know more, or just want to chat (anonymously) about your experiences with Barnard Housing, get in touch: