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Students Trade Hotels for Campus Housing

New program offered perks for those choosing hotels


A housing crunch requires some students to live in nearby hotels every fall. Upperclassmen who opted to live in Cambridge’s Hyatt Regency last fall will have priority when choosing their accommodations for fall 2008. Photo by Vernon Doucette

This month, 282 Boston University students traded housekeeping services and private bathrooms for smaller space and communal showers. The students who lived in Cambridge’s Hyatt Regency Hotel or Brookline’s Holiday Inn fall semester have all moved out of the hotels, and most are now living on campus.

The mid-year move is now routine for the University’s Office of Housing, but for the 2007–2008 school year officials took an experimental approach to hotel assignments. In previous years, students living in hotels were mostly first-years, transfers, and those assigned to dorms that were being renovated. Last year, in an effort to keep all freshmen on campus, the Office of Housing promised any upperclassmen who opted to live in a hotel fall semester priority when choosing their housing for the 2008–2009 school year.

“The experiment was very successful,” says Marc Robillard, director of housing. “Come January, many hotel residents did not even need to be reassigned because many went abroad or graduated. It makes it a lot easier, for both the students and the Office of Housing.” Only 64 percent of the hotel residents needed campus housing, and the number of students returning to campus dropped as well, from 544 last year to 282.

Each fall, high freshmen enrollment and ongoing renovations in the residence halls lead to a housing overflow. Since 1994, Boston University has used nearby hotels for students who couldn’t be accommodated on campus. They live in the hotels for the fall semester only. “The student population is always smaller spring semester,” Robillard explains. “Students go abroad, graduate, and withdraw, which creates space for students from the hotels."

The previous situation made adjustment to college harder for the freshmen assigned to the hotels. “A common complaint among freshmen living in the hotels was that they felt disconnected from the campus. They didn’t know the campus as well, and they didn’t feel like they were getting the huge freshman social experience that comes with living in a big residence hall,” Robillard says.

The experiment of housing upperclassmen in the hotels will likely be continued next year. “It makes better sense,” Robillard says. “Freshmen want that really intense social experience where they meet lots of people, and a place like Warren Towers definitely provides that experience. Sophomores tend to want to live with their friends in a quieter setting.”

Living in the hotels does have some advantages: students get to choose their roommates, and twice-weekly cleaning service, private bathrooms, and air conditioning are also among the perks, Robillard says. Students form their own residence hall associations and hold regular social events, just as their peers in campus housing do.

A often-heard complaint is that students are farther away from campus. Although a shuttle bus travels between the Hyatt and Comm. Ave., Robillard says, it is not always reliable.

By 2009, BU may no longer have to rely on the hotels for housing. Student Village II, scheduled to open in fall 2009, will add 960 beds and enable 85 percent of undergraduates to live on campus. Current on-campus capacity is 10,616, with 77 percent of undergraduates living in campus housing.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Students Trade Hotels for Campus Housing

  • Barbara Uva on 01.23.2008 at 10:14 am

    My daughter was a freshman housed at the Hyatt and I must admit that the stress that accompanies the first college experience was compounded for all of us by having her across the river from BU. By the time we learned where she would be housed it was too late to accept another university. We were extremely disappointed with BU for putting us in that situation. The university is obligated to use all means necessary to keep freshmen on campus in the future. Anything else is simply unacceptable.

  • Rachel on 01.23.2008 at 5:08 pm

    Former Holiday Inn Student

    I lived in the Holiday Inn in Brookline the first semester of my freshman year. I was really disappointed by the experience- the social life in the hotel was almost non-existent: we were expected to be very quiet as the hotel was fully functional and guests did not want to be disturbed by college freshmen. All the RAs that I was aware of were graduating that semester, which was why they were chosen to RA in fall-semester only housing. As a consequence of this, they seemed to me to not be interested in their jobs or their residents. Overall I really hated the HI. Things got better for me when I moved onto campus, but I know a lot of the kids from the hotel transferred out of BU all together. It’s a ridiculous housing concept.

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