Dormitories face overflow, criticism

New Maximo Martinez Commons on Channing Way to open during fall

UC Berkeley’s on-campus housing has undergone many changes over the last year, including dealing with overcrowding, the potential for rising housing costs and the construction of the new student complex.

Historically, more than 95 percent of freshman students choose to live in university housing, according Marty Takimoto, director of marketing communications for Residential and Student Services Programs.

For some students, including Residence Hall Assembly President Lucy Nguyen, the opportunity to live in an environment with other students away from home for the first time made the transition easier.

Nguyen, who has lived in the dorms since her freshman year, said her choice to live in the dorms gave her parents peace of mind.

“That is what lured me the first year,” Nguyen said. “What kept me here the last four years is the security monitors and swiping the card. It just feels safe.”

Nguyen also said staying in the halls can only help because in such a close-knit community, there are many opportunities to become involved in a variety of projects.

While many students choose to live in on-campus housing, this year there have been issues of overcrowding in many of the high-rise units.

When classes started in the fall, some students were placed in the lounge areas instead of in dorm rooms because there were not enough rooms to accommodate students.

The overflow was the result of the acceptance of 400 more students than the admissions department anticipated, according to Takimoto. Residential and Student Services Programs created the temporary spaces until all students were relocated to rooms.

Although the department does not anticipate a repeat of this situation, it is prepared to offer temporary housing to students should the need arise, said Takimoto in an email.

“RSSP does its best to make sure that every new student has a place to live if they decide to come to Berkeley,” Takimoto said.

This past year, UC Berkeley’s on-campus housing has faced criticism as one of the costliest on-campus housing options in the country. U.S. News & World Report released a list of the top 10 colleges with the most expensive housing in September 2011 and ranked Berkeley second.

Takimoto said that RSSP is concerned with rising college costs and has not raised room and board costs in two of the past three years in an effort to keep housing affordable.

“We were able to accomplish this by reducing expenses and making adjustments to long-term financial planning schedules,” Takimoto said.

This year continuing students will have the option of living in the new Maximino Martinez Commons, opening prior to the start of the 2012-2013 semester.

The complex, built for 416 students, will offer priority housing to continuing sophomores and upper-division students and will open on Channing Way. It will offer 98 double-occupancy residence hall rooms, as well as 52 multiple-room apartments.

“Our goal is to provide student housing that is as affordable as possible and providing programs and services that support a student’s ability to succeed at Cal,” Takimoto said.