UC Berkeley student housing leaves students cramped

Simone Anne Lang/File

When freshman Myles Blackwell arrived at Davidson Hall in Unit 2 on move-in day this semester, he did not expect his housing to be a large study lounge converted into a cramped bedroom for four students.

“When we got here, the lounge was set up as a room with four desks, four dresser drawers, four beds and three standing closets,” Blackwell said.

The inconvenient experience of living in converted lounges in Units 1, 2 and 3 has affected students who were given temporary housing this semester in the improvised quadruple rooms. The campus Residential and Student Service Programs, which guarantees housing to entering students, initiated overflow housing because approximately 400 more students accepted admission than the campus anticipated this fall.

The programs started the year with 64 students in overflow housing — with four students per converted lounge — but 14 have already been moved to permanent housing, according to Michelle Kniffin, associate director of Cal Housing Assignments.

According to Marty Takimoto, director of marketing communications for the programs, the remainder of the students will likely be moved when the spring semester begins.

Blackwell said he pays a similar rate as that of a triple dorm room and was offered incentives to stay in the dorms until he finds permanent housing.

“We (each) got $250 in credit on our Cal debit card, for books, laundry and food,” he said.

The cost of triple and quad rooms is approximately $11,707 for the 2011-2012 school year — the cheapest type of housing offered in the residence halls — according to UC Berkeley’s housing website. However, students who move from a quad into a double or single room pay an adjusted rate.

“Every year the number of beds changes,” said Kniffin. “There’s a lot of students who will cancel and transition to their rooms, but they will all be in permanent rooms by move-in day on Jan. 11.”

In contrast, Erik Lei, a freshman living in Freeborn Hall, said he sent an email to the campus complaining about tuition over the summer and was given the option to live in a study lounge to save money.

“I prefer living there as opposed to a triple because we get a balcony and it’s pretty big — the only problem … is that your floor is irritated at you because they don’t have a (lounge),” Lei said.

Lei will be moving to a double room two floors down during Thanksgiving break, along with his roommate, after a room was made available because of a graduating student.

Kniffin said student attitude regarding quad living has shifted since they have arrived and spent most of the semester in the converted study lounges.

“Prior to arriving here students were taken aback a little bit — they were not thrilled about moving into lounge space,” Kniffin said. “It’s been the opposite since students have gotten here. Now we can’t get them to move out.”

Blackwell, who will move out in the near future now that he has found a room at his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, said the one thing that bothers him is he had already built a community in his former dorm that he is going to lose now that he has to move out.

“We had to find and readjust our roommates all over again — so that’s one of the reasons I applied for frat housing,” Blackwell said. “But we’d already made our groups of friends … and now we don’t have that anymore.”


Anjuli Sastry covers housing.