As the second week of classes begins to wind down here in Lexington, University of Kentucky residents may find themselves finally starting to feel comfortable in their new home. Many have had their housing assignment since early in the year, giving them plenty of time to plan out most aspects of their dorm life here at UK. For some, however, the question of whether they would have a bed to sleep in this year has been an unfortunate reality.
UK overbooked their on-campus housing by approximately 400 students for the 2019-2020 academic year, forcing some students to live in temporary housing and others to share a room with their resident advisers (RAs). This isn’t a new issue; the same thing happened most recently in 2014-15 and 2015-16, with the latter instance eliciting a smattering of protests and petitions to hold the institution accountable. One Change.org petition directed to UK President Dr. Eli Capilouto was organized to voice the complaints of RAs, a group that has historically been guaranteed their own private living space on campus. Dated July 23, 2015, the petition garnered 469 signatures before reaching its deadline. The author of the censure, Michael Carlton, wrote: “Housing is not like an airplane. You simply cannot overbook by X amount and expect people to deal with it.”
In the years since Carlton’s petition, UK has added approximately 6,850 beds across 14 residence halls. Certain spaces in these buildings were designed to serve as overflow housing if need be, yet we still have this overbooking issue. One may question: why is there still a housing crisis after so many legitimate living spaces have been added to the campus? In part, the issue stems from the fact that in these past five years the university has broken its record for the largest incoming class of freshmen not once, but twice.
The most recent housing conundrum sparked a new wave of petitions and outrage among the residents and their advisers across campus, in many ways stronger than the last. The largest of the internet petitions to make the rounds this year was again from a RA on Change.org. The author, who chose to use the moniker “Concerned RA,” wrote a strong and detailed explanation of their frustration with President Capilouto and university housing. This new petition has accumulated 4,672 signatures; this is almost 10 times as many as Michael Carlton’s 2015 attempt at change, yet it still echoes the same sentiments as he did years ago.
It is clear that many new students view this issue as not only a major inconvenience but also a breach of their trust and misuse of their money. In addition, when a student signs on to be a resident adviser they are expecting to be given the perks that come with that job as well as the resources needed to do their job effectively. Our university’s RAs, of all people, should be granted privacy and personal space – if not because of the mental toll the job can take then because it enables them to do said job effectively.
UK is expected to begin moving these displaced students into dorms of their own in the coming weeks as more housing becomes available, which will potentially free up the RAs across campus as well. While this may fix the problem for the present moment, it is important for the students of the university to maintain their vigilance in the coming years if they wish to prevent this from happening again.