Council and Committee Briefs

New Graduate Housing Task Force Meets

Last spring, in response to the unilateral and controversial changes made to family housing, Vice Chancellor Jean Kim promised to form a Joint Housing Task Force to address the ongoing issues and questions surrounding the North Village and Lincoln Apartments. This September the task force was indeed formed and will meet once a month for AY ‘12-13.

Jean Kim sent this introduction announcing the role and purpose of the committee: “As you know we are initiating the Graduate Housing Task Force this fall to study/assess graduate housing needs at UMA and develop recommendations. It’s my understanding that the campus has not previously fully examined the housing needs of graduate students and families, and given our strategic objective of increasing graduate students, this is an important issue for the campus to address this coming year.”

Minutes from the first meeting held on September 18th state that “The goal of this Task Force is to develop recommendations by the end of the year to inform short and long-range planning for graduate student housing.”

Dawn Bond, Director of Student Services for UMass Housing, presented an overview of the present policies and procedures for Lincoln and North Village apartments, in terms of how leases are managed, available beds, vacancy rates, and the pressing issues of deferred maintenance.

Discussion centered on the significant differences in housing needs between single graduates, graduates with families, and undergraduate students. Looking ahead, North Village and Lincoln apartments are reaching the end of their building lives, yet the challenges of planning for and financing new graduate and family housing are profound. Private-public partnerships, the avenue by which a graduate housing complex might be financed elsewhere, are currently prohibited under MA law. The minutes state that a variance to this law might be possible through the legislature, but a more comprehensive plan of all residential life’s building needs is required first.

Finally, the minutes state that the Task Force’s work moving forward must respond to the following concerns: “The University will soon need to make potentially challenging decisions about 1) building more graduate housing, 2) defining eligibility for housing, and 3) the types of housing to be provided. The Task Force has been asked to provide recommendations on these points. The key issues are cost, affordability, and quality. Some subset items within these issues include: assessing existing housing quality and affordability; determining demand for housing and the types of housing required; identifying the specific needs of international and domestic students; and examining financing options. Graduate Education will be promulgating a survey to assess the needs of graduate students. John McCarthy will work with Martha Stassen to determine if the survey can be promulgated in February to allow for the Task Force to review the data.”

A committee brief from the October Grad Housing Task Force meeting will be posted next week.

If you have thoughts on graduate and family housing you would like to share with this Task Force, please contact Garth Schwellenbach at: gss-vice@grad.umass.edu. We are here to represent your voice to the administration!

Brief submitted by Matthew Ferrari, a graduate representative on the Graduate Housing Task Force. October 10, 2012.

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