Tufts Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) announced that approximately 100 first-year students will live at the Hyatt Place in Medford Square this year instead of typical first-year dorm-style housing.
The students, who were selected at random from a pool of first-year students arriving on Sept. 1, will be housed on several floors of the Hyatt Place. According to Josh Hartman, senior director of residential life and learning, the hotel is less than a mile away from campus and within biking and walking distance. The university will also provide a shuttle from the Hyatt Place to the center of Tufts campus and the Davis Square T stop.
“[One] bus will begin at the Hyatt at 7 AM while a second bus begins at the Davis Sq stop,” John Savino, assistant director of transportation and contract services, wrote in an email to the Daily. “Then at 9 AM, a third bus is brought on beginning at the Hyatt.”
This schedule is made to ensure that the buses consistently remain on a 15–20 minute loop, according to Savino.
According to Hartman, the Hyatt Place offers superior accommodations compared to standard housing. These include luxury bedding, free laundry services and complimentary room cleaning by hotel staff. Hartman noted that these students will receive preferential treatment in next year’s housing lottery to make up for the inconvenience caused by the extra transportation time to and from the Hyatt Place.
However, Hyatt Place residents Elizabeth Powers and Christian Kokoros believe that the accommodations at the Hyatt Place do not sufficiently imitate the community environment promoted by on-campus dorm-style housing.
“The rooms at the Hyatt can never replicate something as personal and homey as a dorm,” Powers and Kokoros, both first-years, wrote in an email to the Daily. “There is no sense of community [due to] the lack of common spaces such as bathrooms and kitchens.”
Moreover, Powers and Kokoros argued that the extra transportation necessary to travel to and from the Hyatt Place inhibits students’ access to and engagement in on-campus activities.
“The shuttle is very unreliable, and it is hard to make it to campus to do simple things like eat food,” Powers and Kokoros said. “Most days we cannot get breakfast on campus because by the time we wake up, get ready and get to campus [dining halls] are switching over to lunch.”
According to Hartman, students living in the Hyatt Place are provided a free light breakfast at the hotel. However, residents must travel to campus if they choose to eat at one of the on-campus dining centers.
Hyatt Place resident Santiago Castillo Juarez echoed Powers’ and Kokoros’ sentiments of there being a social disconnect between students living in on-campus dorms and those living at the Hyatt Place.
“I am worried about the disconnect; not being on campus has meant we haven’t had enough time to meet new people and just organically socialize,” Juarez, a first-year, wrote in an email to the Daily.
Powers and Kokoros said that living in the Hyatt Place makes them feel more like commuter students than on-campus residents. The hotel environment also limits their ability to meet new people.
“We try to come to campus as much as possible and build connections, but with nowhere to go on campus, we sit in the dining halls,” Powers and Kokoros said.
Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar explained that the reason behind the housing issue is that the desire to attend Tufts is the highest it has ever been. According to Lizarríbar, universities usually admit more students than they anticipate enrolling based on historical models that predict student commitment rates.
“In a normal year, a small number of students elect to attend college elsewhere, apply for a personal or medical leave, or request a gap year,” Lizarríbar wrote in an email to the Daily. “That did not happen this summer as much as anticipated.”
Hartman noted that ORLL’s decision to accommodate first-year students in an off-campus hotel does not denote any form of housing crisis.
“While this happens infrequently at Tufts – the last time was in 1978 – it happens with some frequency at other schools, and the use of hotel space is a common solution in these situations,” Hartman wrote in an email to the Daily.
In order to remedy the housing issue, Hartman ensured that increasing on-campus housing is a top priority for Tufts. This year, ORLL is adding 80 beds by converting Blakeley Hall to undergraduate housing. Moreover, there are also projects underway to add beds to 114 Professors Row and 123 Packard Avenue.
Despite this, according to ORLL, the demand for campus housing consistently exceeds Tufts’ capacity. Therefore, as ORLL acknowledged in an email to the students who had been selected to live in the Hyatt Place, it is unlikely that the housing measures instituted this year, including placing some first-years in the Hyatt Place, will sufficiently accommodate Tufts’ growing student body in the future.
“The university plans to expand its campus housing capacity through the construction of a new residence hall that will enable us to accommodate more of our students in the future and potentially alleviate pressure on the apartment rental market in our host communities,” Hartman said.