UH Mānoa students were notified this week in an email from Student Housing Services that, due to the significant reduction in housing options to fulfill social distancing requirements, many of them have been waitlisted for and still remain unassigned to resident halls for the fall semester.
“Please know that these decisions have been made after much deliberation and we acknowledge the impact this may have on your plans for the upcoming semester. Thank you for your understanding of our need to respond in non-conventional ways to this unprecedented time,” SHS said.
In the email, SHS notified housing renewal applicants that a new priority system was being used to decide which students would receive housing or not. However, details on how these decisions would be made were not clarified.
Because of this, many students have expressed distress over the uncertainty of their living accommodations in the fall and some students said they may have to withdraw from the fall semester if they are not able to find off-campus housing.
Students explain their side of the housing crisis
Many have expressed frustration with SHS as no suggestions, guidance, or options were given to them regarding other housing options, especially since many of those affected are out-of-state students.
“It basically just said due to the pandemic, they can’t grant me housing. There is no information regarding what to expect next aside from them basically saying they aren’t going to give me housing,” graduate student Sheena Juliano said.
Coming from Kauaʻi, Sheena Juliano is pursuing a master’s in education. Although Juliano was able to find housing off campus, she said the situation is unfair for many who are from outer islands or out of state.
“Luckily I have a full time job readily available ahead to help me pay for an apartment off campus, but how about everyone else who is incoming from out of state or even relying on housing from inter island?” Juliano said.
Coby Shimabukuro-Sanchez, a sophomore Bachelor of Fine Arts student majoring in graphic design who is also from Kauai, has already made plans to find off campus housing in the case that he does not receive housing this year.
“Obviously, there are tough choices to be made and the people who lose out will obviously be frustrated… Me and a couple friends are already looking for off-campus housing just in case we're unable to dorm,” Shimabukuro-Sanchez said.
Rebecca Hancorne is an animal science major from California who transferred to UHM in the spring of 2019. She has lived in campus housing since transferring to UHM.
Hancorne expressed frustration with the housing crisis as an out-of-state student. She explained that because of the high lottery number she was assigned for housing, she does not feel hopeful about the prospects of being able to live on campus.
“I received an email this past week from housing saying that due to the restrictions and I’m assuming how high my lottery number was in the drawing that I was not approved for my three housing choices, but will find out this upcoming week if I am going to be given a spot in the apartments on campus,” Hancorne said.
Hancorne said she might have to sign a year-long lease and pay rent to secure a place that she will not be living in for 2 to 4 months of the year.
“The problem is I live completely on financial aid and my own personal savings from working when I’m not on campus to live. I now have to find an apartment or a room, lucky for me I have a friend who needed a roommate and needed to find a place herself, but I’ll be forced to sign into a year lease where at least 2-4 months I will be paying for a room I won’t be living in,” Hancorne said.
Along with financial burdens, Rancorne’s preference to live on campus is due to health issues and lack of transportation.
“I opted to do the housing lottery as I had the previous year looking to move back into Hale Laulima as it is close to the main portion of campus and I have some health difficulties that can make long walks from lower campus hard to make. I also do not have any form of transportation other than walking or the bus when I am in Hawaiʻi,” Hancorne said.
Desire for better communication
While students said they understand the importance of social distancing, they would have preferred earlier and more transparent communication from SHS about the decisions being made for housing assignments.
“I feel like communication from housing even saying, ‘Hey, this is what we are thinking (reducing beds for the safety of the students). Please bear in mind everyone will not get a bed,’ would have been helpful because those of us on the high end of the lottery could have started to plan for the fall sooner… I have also found it frustrating that this is the first time I have even heard from campus housing since they did the lottery draw which I think was in April,” Hancorne said.
Similarly, Juliano said that the delay and lack of communication raises questions for her regarding SHS.
“I think it’s ridiculous as well as very sketchy that there isn’t much to be explained about what the residence halls decision making looks like, nor is it fair that we were informed of it so late into the summer,” Juliano said.
“In regards to returning in the fall, I am absolutely concerned as to how this entire process will play out, how restrictions will be enforced in terms of social distancing, and how exactly things will change. If a student tests positive and they are on campus, how will things be affected? Will students be required to go into some type of lockdown? These are tough questions that need to be addressed and I'm currently looking forward to the next email we get from SHS,” Shimabukuro-Sanchez said.
While SHS did not give an immediate response, further information for renewal applicants is expected to be released this week.