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  1. The Education Gradebook

University of Tampa changes policy on campus housing, upsetting some students

Published Oct. 2, 2015

TAMPA — More than 1,000 students at the University of Tampa have signed a petition protesting a new policy that gives freshmen and transfer students priority in campus housing over upperclassmen.

The protesting students say there isn't enough campus housing to meet the needs of the juniors and seniors, so giving priority to new students will force many to rent in unsafe areas near the campus.

"I honestly think they should just stop accepting so many students if they don't have the housing for it right now," said Tori Wright, a sophomore from Sykesville, Md.

Jennifer Scaia, UT's associate dean of students, said giving priority to new students is a common practice among universities because it's been shown that they adjust better to college life by living on campus.

"They are in most need of support that (an on-campus) residential opportunity can provide," Scaia said.

The University of South Florida, for example, gives housing priority to first-time students and those who are already living in campus housing, according to a Adam Freeman, a university spokesman.

Scaia said the majority of UT juniors and seniors who want to live in campus housing will be able to. The university, with a student population of 8,000, has 4,000 beds on campus and an additional 500 at the Barrymore Hotel off-campus, she said. The downtown hotel, traditionally used to house new students, will be occupied mainly by upperclassmen. Prices range from $1,911 to $3,976 per semester, depending on the residence hall and number of roommates.

The university has an off-campus living coordinator who can help students find housing in the community, she added.

Patrick Roman, 20, a junior from Columbus, Ohio, said he understands what the university is trying to do, but he's disappointed that the policy changed just as he and his classmates have earned enough credits to have a wider choice of student housing.

"We feel like we paid our dues," Roman said.

He has heard that on average, living off campus is less expensive.

"It's just not as convenient," Roman said. "Some of the areas aren't very safe at all. I've had two friends that have already gotten mugged this year."

Students and parents expressed their outrage in comments accompanying the online petition.

Tom Barton of Crystal Lake wrote about his daughter's plight. "My daughter played by the rules. She lived in less desirable housing as a freshman and sophomore and earned the right to select the housing of her choice her junior year. … Only in academia could someone put forth such (a) poorly thought out idea that punishes loyal customers. Such persons would be unemployable in an intelligent world."

Student Rachael Kurlander wrote: "I'm a freshman now, but it's not right to kick out the seniors and give the newbies the nice places."

Payton Lemoine wrote: "I came to UT for the small school atmosphere and convenience. Getting kicked off campus and having no parking spaces is not a part of that 'small school experience' that I was looking for."

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On Wednesday, about 50 students attended a meeting on the issue that was organized by the university, said UT spokesman Eric Cardenas. Two more meetings are planned next week.

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