Story by Katie McGuire and Payton Randle
Overflow is not a new concept for first-year students at the University of South Dakota, as many are finding themselves packed like sardines within their residence halls.
Phil Covington, the associate dean of Student Life, said it became clear early on that the incoming first-year class was going to see a noticeable hike than in previous years.
“First-year-specific spaces are at the highest occupancy right now,” Covington said.
These specified areas include the North Complex and the west wing of Coyote Village, but the entire USD campus is feeling the crunch from too many bodies and too little space, as campus housing capacity is at 99.7 percent.
Covington said fall housing plans began in the spring of 2012, but at that time, they did not anticipate such an increase in the student body.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to have to implement the overflow strategy in the spring, but it became clear over this summer that we needed to,” he said.
In preparation for the massive influx of students moving into the residence halls, Covington said housing purchased additional desks and large wardrobes.
“We wanted to make sure we were providing the basic amenitites for everybody,” Covington said.
Students are living in the lounges in multiple halls, sharing a double room with community advisers on certain floors and are attempting to fit three students into the extra-large rooms. They are paying a reduced rate for their on-campus abodes.
The lounges have the basic amenities such as bunk beds, wardrobes and desks. They also still have the couch and TV that were originally in the lounge.
First-year Mercedes Bordeaux is living in the Beede lounge with three other girls. Bordeaux transferred to USD the Friday before classes started.
Bordeaux came from the University of Minnesota where there was also an overflow that would have required her to commute to campus.
Students are treating her room like it is still the lounge, she said, “coming in randomly to hang out.”
As of now, there is no exact date as to when they will officially be in an assigned room for the rest of the semester, so Bordeaux is crashing with a friend until then.
Dean of Students Kimberly Grieve said when she came into her new position, she knew there was a possibility of having to adapt the living space.
“We looked into what needed to happen in order to make students comfortable and successful,” Grieve said.
Grieve said an overflow of students is overall a good problem to have.
“The participation is up, and it has produced a great energy,” Grieve said. “It has gotten students more engaged in the community.”
The community advisers normally have a double room to themselves, but in order to accommodate a roommate, housing added another bed.
First-year Josh Hayes is living in Olson with a community adviser. He did not know his roommate was a community adviser until he contacted him on Facebook.
“It didn’t really hit me until I got here that I was living with a staff member,” Hayes said.
Hayes has kept his stuff packed, because it is unclear exactly how long he will be living in the room.
“The transition wasn’t that hard, but it might be hard getting used to a second roommate,” Hayes said.
The occupied lounges have caused a loss to community building on the floors, Covington said.
Another aspect USD housing would like to get back to normal is the community advisers’ rooms.
Covington said some students have already started moving out of the temporary spaces due to the handful of students that either left already or just didn’t show up.
“It will be a matter of working them into normal room spaces,” Covington said. “The greater priority is getting them out of the lounges. We’ve been able to move a few but it’s just not going very fast.”
Students will be placed into regular rooms based on the date of their housing contract.
“As we work to fill regular rooms, and get out of the temporary rooms, those with the oldest contracts will go first,” Covington said.
First-year Kelsey Mitteness is also living in one of the Beede Hall lounges.
Mitteness received an email in June, like the rest of the student body, letting her know that she would be living in the lounge area.
“I’m on the top of the list to get a room and (I was told) that I’d probably have a room come move-in day, but that didn’t happen,” Mitteness said.
Mitteness is in contact with the housing office, who keep apologizing for the inconvenience.
“They are very vague about when we are going to move out,” Mitteness said. “It’s not that I’m living in a lounge, it’s that I can’t unpack my stuff.”
Grieve said the situation is temporary but satisfactory.
“We are continually evaluating the number of students we are bringing in, and we will do what we need to make sure living experience is a good one,” Grieve said.