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Hotel Housing Opens for All Students

Incentive program designed to place first-years in dorms

Starting next fall, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge will be a housing option for all BU undergraduates.

Next fall, for the seventh year in a row, Boston University is expecting the number of students wanting on-campus housing to exceed the number of available units. But instead of placing some first-year students in hotels around campus, BU is trying something new.

On Monday, April 9, Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore sent a letter to all students planning to live on campus next year, asking them to consider living at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge for the fall 2007 semester. The effort is designed to ease the transition of first-year students into college by placing them with their peers in BU residence halls.

“While we’ve got this great problem of a lot of students who want to live on campus, unfortunately, we’re oversubscribed with what we have for capacity,” says Elmore. “We want our freshman and our first-year students to make a connection to the campus and to the people here on campus. And while the Hyatt may not appear to be very far, there’s that psychological barrier with the distance itself.”

Currently, freshmen placed in the Hyatt or the Holiday Inn in Brookline spend the fall semester in the hotels, then transfer to residence halls in January. The practice has been in place since 2000, says Marc Robillard, director of the Office of Housing, based on the consistent demand for on-campus housing. But freshmen who live off campus during their first semester feel particularly disenfranchised from the University, Elmore says, and can miss out on opportunities to develop friendships and connections.

“Being on campus during those first few weeks here, and not having to jump on a shuttle bus to where you live, you catch more of the vibrancy, you feel more welcome, you feel more of that excitement,” he says. “I think that’s important.”

To encourage upperclassmen to choose the Hyatt, the University has promised those who volunteer that they will be placed at the head of their class during the housing-selection process for the 2008–2009 school year. Additional incentives for students opting for the Hyatt are private bathrooms, air conditioning, use of the hotel’s health club and swimming pool, housekeeping service twice a week, and special discounts for select hotel services.

“I hope a returning student understands that if he or she goes and lives in the hotel, they are doing a lot to help some other student they don’t know yet,” Elmore says.

Robillard projects that BU’s on-campus housing will be unable to accommodate an estimated 478 students in the coming academic year. He expects 89 continuing students will stay in the Hyatt, along with 150 students through the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs and 14 resident assistants, leaving 225 students without campus housing.

Currently, approximately 11,190 BU undergraduates, comprising 76 percent of the student population, live in campus housing. The new Student Village apartments, or StuVi 2, would increase this percentage to 80. Ultimately, Robillard says, the University would like to be able to house 85 percent of its undergraduates, and both University President Robert A. Brown and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (Hon.’01) support this effort.

“We’re looking forward to the fall of 2009, when we open StuVi 2,” says Robillard. The 26-story structure behind Agganis Arena, when completed, will add 962 beds to the BU campus.

Nicole Laskowski can be reached at nicolel@bu.edu.