Months later, still no on-campus grad housing available

by Alex Rivlin | 3/1/18 2:25am

Since the College elected last fall to reclassify the North Park apartments as undergraduate rather than graduate housing, graduate students at Dartmouth have worked to form a united front and increase communication with the administration.

Last spring, the admissions yield of approximately 1,279 students for the Class of 2021, which dean of the School of Graduate and Advanced Studies F. Jon Kull ’88 called “unprecedented” at the time, prompted the College to search for more housing accommodations. This past fall, beds in the North Park apartments, formerly dedicated to graduate student on-campus housing, were reassigned for undergraduate use. Before this year, the North Park apartments primarily housed first-year graduate students, but with this change, the College eliminated on-campus graduate housing opportunities.

Kull wrote in an email statement that he is particularly concerned with the ability for international students to have a smooth transition to campus, as many do not have driver’s licenses, U.S. bank accounts or knowledge about home rentals in the U.S.

Graduate Student Council vice president Patrick Bedard said the administration failed to fully consult the community before making the decision to make the North Park apartments for undergraduates, suggesting that the College places a stronger focus on undergraduates.

“We weren’t consulted at all in the decision-making process, or even in the accommodation process once the decision had been made, so it felt very after the fact,” Bedard said.

Without the North Park apartments, graduate students are limited to off-campus spaces near campus. College-owned options include Sachem Village in Lebanon and houses and apartments listed by the College’s Real Estate Office.

Since the change, graduate students have formed a committee to address this issue, with the goal of always having students available to take up similar issues with the administration.

“We should have a united front; we should have a group of people who are responsible for taking the voice of the students and making sure that they are heard,” said Graduate Housing Ad-Hoc Committee chair Parth Sabharwal, a Ph.D. student in the physics and astronomy department.

These steps have been important in increasing communication between graduate students and the administration, he added.

Bedard echoed Sabharwal’s sentiments.

“We’ve had very productive conversations with the executive vice president Rick Mills,” Bedard said.

However, despite these improvements, Bedard said that when decisions are actually made, the Graduate Student Council is only informed after the fact.

Bedard said he felt that there is not enough being done to improve other graduate housing opportunities to replace North Park.

Kull confirmed in his email statement that the College is considering expanding Sachem Village housing.

While graduate students were initially told that they could take part in the expansion proposal process and make suggestions, they later found out that the proposal had already been finalized, and the timeline for Sachem Village’s potential expansion shifted from 18 months to over two years, according to Bedard.

With no immediate options within reach for on-campus graduate student housing, Bedard said that he sees only a slim chance of graduates returning to North Park, even as the College investigates the possibility of building new undergraduate housing.

In his email statement, Kull wrote that “realistically not until more undergraduate housing is built [will we] get North Park back for graduate and professional student use.”

Bedard said he believes the loss of graduate housing not only hurts the graduate community, but Dartmouth as a whole.

“I think that one of the things that makes Dartmouth unique is the potential for a really strong connection between graduate students and undergraduate students,” he said.