Transitional housing affects students in positive and negative ways

Transitional housing affects students in positive and negative ways

After seeing the confined spaces of the dorm rooms at orientation, MSU freshman Mara Lowe was incredibly anxious when she learned that an additional student would be joining her and her roommate in the fall.

Transitional housing presents first-year students with many challenges to overcome and adjustments to be made. However, Lowe said despite the initial concerns and worry, being in transitional housing has impacted her in a positive way.

“As crazy as it was, I did enjoy being in transitional housing,” said Lowe.

Lowe said although living with two roommates until Halloween was very stressful, but it was definitely a great learning experience in the end.

Transitional housing has been a problem at many different points throughout MSU’s history, although this past fall has been one of the most impactful, said Assistant Director for Residence Education and Housing Services?Charlie Thompson-Orsua.

Thompson-Orusa said a high rate of students returning to campus and large classes of incoming freshmen are the two main factors that contribute to the necessity for transitional housing.

Laura Cole, assistant manager of Michigan State’s Housing Assignments Office, said the number of students living in transitional housing rose from 798 in the fall of 2012, to 1,131 in the fall semester of 2013.

These figures represent all three individuals who make up each transitionally housed dorm room on campus, said Cole via email.

The university had a total of 262 rooms that were considered a temporary living situation in 2012, while 365 rooms were transitionally housed by the beginning of 2013, she said.

Thompson-Orsua said REHS communicates with the Office of Admissions every year to estimate how many incoming freshmen are expected.

“About 99 percent of first-year students live on campus,” he said. “The number of students they [the Office of Admissions] bring in is pretty much the number of students we bring into the halls.”

There was 8,034 incoming freshmen this past fall, compared to the 8,074 freshmen that arrived on campus in fall of 2012, Cole said.

Despite this slight decrease of incoming freshmen from 2012 , Cole said the fall semester of 2013 saw an increase of transitional housing cases due to the ongoing renovations of Butterfield and Landon residence halls that have made 700 rooms unavailable for use.

She said the increase in 2013 was predictable because there has been a steady growth of transitional housing cases over the past three years due to similar hall renovations on campus.

“Certainly there is some forecasting that can be done, but the numbers are always fluctuating,” said Thompson-Orsua. “We try to do the best we can to be aware of it.”

Taylor White, a student impacted by this temporary living situation, said this unexpected experience made her first month of school very challenging.

“It definitely lasted longer than I thought it would,” said White.

White said she never expected to be in transitional housing such a position for more than a month and the situation presented her with some challenges.

“You just want to settle in because everything is brand new, but you can’t completely do that,” said White.

Thompson-Orsua said all students are generally moved out of transitional housing by the middle or end of the first semester, although many residents voluntarily stay in their living situations because they have established strong friendships with their roommates or because they want to take advantage of the financial discount that is provided.

According to Brody Community Director Mina Utt, the dorm rooms are prorated, which means there is not one specific discount that all students receive.

She said students are reimbursed based on how much their room costs per night and how long they spent in transitional housing.

This past fall, 215 students were offered a new space to live, but they chose to remain in their original housing assignments, Cole said.

MSU student Garrett Patterson is one of the many residents who decided to continue living with his current roommates in transitional housing.

“I think it [transitional housing] impacted my overall experience in a really positive manner,” said Patterson.

He said having an additional roommate really helped his transition into college because it provided him with another person to rely on during the first few weeks of the semester.

“All three of us worked together at the beginning of the year, because we didn’t really know what to expect,” Patterson said.

He said that he enjoys his living situation, although one challenge is not having enough space when visitors arrive.

“We’ve never had an altercation about anything,” Patterson said. “Sometimes you just have to make sacrifices.”

Lauren Friebe, another MSU student who chose to remain in transitional housing, said this decision is something she would have never considered in the beginning of the year.

Friebe said she was extremely angry to find out that she was going to be sharing her room with another student, especially because she had already coordinated everything with her requested roommate.

She said although closet space still continues to be an issue, she gets along really well with her roommates and it has turned out to be a great experience.

“I’ve learned that you can become really good friends with people that are completely opposite of you,” Friebe said.

In addition to this lesson, Friebe said she learned to understand and accept that transitional housing is sometimes inevitable on campus, although she questions why MSU appears to welcome more students than the campus can comfortably fit into housing.

Ashley Chaney, REHS Director of Communications, said this notion that MSU admits an overabundance of students so that they can benefit financially is a misunderstanding.

She said MSU admits students based on an equation that takes into account the average number of students who either drop out or change their minds after starting classes, which is referred to as “the melt.”

Chaney said that although there is transitional housing almost every year, “the melt” generally takes care of the problem and students are returned to normal living conditions in a timely manner.

“We’re quick and efficient about breaking down these transitional rooms and getting people moved,” she said.

Chaney said it is also important to note that although transitional housing isn’t exactly favorable, it is necessary in order to provide MSU students with equal resources and opportunities.

“We have so much data that shows the impact of students who live on campus, and how that positively impacts their experience,” she said. “Our goal, first and foremost, is to make sure that students have that foundation, especially freshmen.”

Chaney said although transitional housing could be avoided by making some students live off campus until rooms become available, MSU absolutely guarantees housing for all freshman because of such statistics that show the correlation between on-campus housing and academic success.

Cole said in her email that MSU does not expect to have any transitional housing cases next year due to the completion of both Butterfield and Landon residence halls.

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CATA bus overcrowding is a seasonal, economic issue

CATA bus overcrowding is a seasonal, economic issue

While standing outside in the blustering wind, snow, and frigid temperatures, the sight of a CATA bus approaching in the distance brings a sense of relief and joy.

For many individuals however, this sentiment is overshadowed by the uncertainty of whether they will be able to board the bus, or be forced to endure unpleasant weather conditions.

The overcrowding on CATA buses has become a main topic of discussion among MSU students since the beginning of second semester. MSU student Neha Rao is unsatisfied with CATA’s timeliness and ability to provide enough space on their vehicles.

“The buses have to run on time because we depend on them,” Rao said.


Photo via Flickr.

Rao said she wishes CATA would fix the problem by putting more buses on the particular routes that are known to be most crowded, specifically Routes 31 and 26.

According to an email from CATA’s in-house experts, ridership on Route 31 has significantly increased this semester by 18,854 trips, while ridership on Route 26 has actually decreased by 40,887 trips.

Despite this decrease, Route 26, to Abbot/Chandler, is still among the three on campus that frequently operates with “standing room only,” according to Assistant Executive Director Debbie Alexander.

The other two campus routes that share this problem are Routes 20 and 23, Alexander said.

In response to a number of recent complaints that suggest similar solutions to the overcrowding, CATA Director of Marketing Laurie Robison said this is not an issue where buses can simply be added.

“Public transportation isn’t free,” Robison said.

She said extra fees needed to accommodate such an increase in demand for buses would directly impact the taxpayers who fund public transportation.

“Based on the dollars we have to work with, we try to provide affordability and convenience,” she said.

According to in-house experts, CATA’s budget for 2014 has increased by almost four percent and currently stands at $42.6 million.

In addition to limits set by the funding of their budget, Robison said CATA only has so many vehicles they can allocate to MSU, which prevents them from making any changes to campus routes.

CATA experts said in an email that 22 buses are allocated to the system’s 30-plus routes during peak hours. Out of these 30-plus routes, 20 of them provide transportation to MSU students.

MSU freshman Whitney Tompkins shares a negative sentiment for CATA’s services during the winter months.

In addition to tuition costs, Tompkins said it is unfair that students must purchase a $50 bus pass for a service that is not always dependable.

Robison said students must take into account that public transportation is a very complex system because of the way it is funded.

Property tax revenue, state-operating assistance, and fares are among the many sources that contribute to CATA’s revenue, said CATA in-house experts.

Kenneth Boyer, MSU economics professor and expert in public transportation funding, said if transportation systems were “money-making enterprises,” students who are frustrated with having to pay for a bus pass have a valid point.

“Public transportation is funded by the community as a whole,” Boyer said. “They [the students] can’t really complain because they don’t pay the cost.”

He said both property owners in East Lansing and the university pay for the majority of public transportation costs, and students only contribute a small part of this funding through bus passes.

“It’s a wonder that students have any public transportation at all,” Boyer said.

Rao said overcrowding is still as prominent as it was when she was a freshman three years ago.

“You kind of have to reroute yourself,” Rao said. “You have to spend a whole hour getting to class when it’s only a few minutes away.”

Robison said although it is not always possible to provide students with quick service during certain “peak hours,” CATA utilizes all of their resources in an attempt to help with the increased demand.

“CATA has, at its own cost, put more buses on the roads at peak hours to accommodate the demand,” Robison said.

Despite such efforts, Robison said more vehicles on the road have the potential to cause further delays by contributing to additional traffic and back-ups.

In an email, CATA experts said the transportation system has vehicles they refer to as “hold” buses, which are utilized when capacity or service issues occur. In addition, the buses exist as a result of CATA’s revenue, but they are not used very frequently.

Robison said CATA also allocates their longest vehicles to campus because of the volume of students who depend on their services.

CATA experts said its longest vehicles are the 60-foot buses, which can hold about 100 people when passengers are both seated and standing.

In addition to her frustrations about paying for a bus pass, Tompkins said CATA should not claim that the buses run every five to 10 minutes when they are not really arriving at those intervals.

Robison said delays are inevitable because CATA has to deal with traffic and other accidents caused by bad weather throughout East Lansing.

“This trend of overcrowding is typical every year, specifically at the start of every new semester on campus,” Robison said.

Robison said she understands that people get frustrated, but it is ultimately up to the students to give themselves extra time to get from class to class.

“Public transportation is not designed to be perfect,” Robison said. “Students should try to accommodate their movements to the best of their abilities.”

Boyer said although individuals assume buying a bus pass will give them access to the service whenever they need it, this is not always the case.

He said all public transportation systems face difficulties because they have a fixed number of buses that vary in size, and these resources do not always accommodate the fluctuations in demand that occur during the winter.

“I have sympathies on both sides,” Boyer said. “It’s not clear cut either way.”

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Michigan State winning nationwide contest for “Catching Fire” advance screening

Michigan State winning nationwide contest for “Catching Fire” advance screening

Students at Michigan State might be celebrating another big victory in East Lansing this weekend. This time, however, the excitement is not the result of a winning score from the football or basketball teams.

catching fire

MSU is ahead in the nationwide contest for the Catching Fire advance screening, which will be available for students to view on Thursday, November 21st. MSU is ahead of the University of Michigan in the polls by 4,105 votes.

The advance screening comes as a result of an online campaign. Spartans fans the Hunger Games trilogy eagerly shared the link on Facebook and voted for several weeks straight in order to receive the advance screening.

MSU has accounted for 24% of the total votes.

Eleven other well-known universities were included on the voting ballot, including University of Pennsylvania, Ohio State University, and San Diego State University.

At first, many students were skeptical about the contest and whether or not the “grand prize” of seeing the movie early would be awarded to them. However, once the competition proved to be legitimate, MSU students did not hesitate to vote.

Freshman Ahjanai Hudson shared this familiar sentiment of excitement and dedication to win, which was reflected in her contributions to the contest.

“I voted, like, four times a day. Through my phone, my tablet and my computer—I did it all!” said Hudson.

Freshman Hannah Wolfe took it a step further to ensure that the university would stay ahead in the race by persuading her friends that attend other universities to vote for MSU.

“Being the college picked for an advance showing is incredible. What makes it even better is that we’re beating U of M,” Hannah said.

Generally, marketing firms around the nation contact the universities and see if there’s interest in viewing a film before it’s shown in theaters. The studios use this as a marketing tactic in order to gain exposure and promote their film.

Due to the trilogy’s incredible popularity, it seems that Lionsgate, the company that made the film, will have no problem filling theaters once Catching Fire premieres.

It’s no coincidence that this contest is between colleges—college students make up a large percentage of Catching Fire’s faithful audience.

“I think they are just trying to promote a little friendly competition and reward the school that shows the most enthusiasm and interest in the new movie,” said Austin Spaldin, director of the film committee of Michigan State University’s University Activities Board.

This year, MSU has already been able to show five other advance screenings which all turned out to be incredibly successful.

“Don Jon,” “Fifth Estate,” “Bad Grandpa,” “Ride Along,” and “Lone Survivor” were all shown in Wells Hall, where students filled the room to maximum capacity.

During the screening of Bad Grandpa, film committee volunteers had to turn away about 100 students because the room was at capacity.

Lionsgate’s policy states that the university must hand out more tickets than what allows for seating, which means that not everyone is ensured a spot in the auditorium.

Students can arrive to Wells Hall hours early in order to save their spot in line and guarantee that they will be able to enjoy a free movie with their friends.

“It’s like a premiere times ten,” Spalding said.

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Imported From China

Imported From China

Transitioning to college with 48,000 new faces can be intimidating for anyone. But, just imagine moving among a brand new culture that you are unfamiliar with, while feeling the pressure to achieve good grades, become involved, and make new friends.

Imported panel

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

“Imported From China,” a new documentary directed by Michigan State University Journalism Associate Professor Geri Zeldes portrays challenges that international students face on campus.

According to Zeldes, as enrollment of international students is on the rise, the dynamics of the student body on campus is going to change. For this reason, Zeldes said it is important that everyone understands the impact this will have on his or her everyday interaction.

The documentary began after a filmmaker approached MSU a couple of years ago and wanted to create a film that analyzed the relationships between international and domestic students in a Chinese setting. For Zeldes, this sparked an idea for a new creative project that would capture the interaction between these distinguished groups of students right here on campus.

Zeldes said that with her Filipino-American background, she could identify with the many issues that Chinese students face, such as pressure from their parents and communication barriers.

The documentary follows two Chinese students through their daily lives as they share their thoughts and feelings about different challenges they face. The main problem that these students continued to encounter was becoming accustomed to the American culture and establishing long-lasting friendships with domestic students.

“What we had in mind was to show how this abrupt change in the demographics of MSU is having an impact on so many layers—person-to-person, in group communications, and even in classroom discussions,” Zeldes said.

The documentary was debuted on Sept. 16 in the Communication Arts and Sciences building. It was followed by a question and answer session where many domestic and international students voiced their opinions on the issue itself, as well as their ideas to help break down cultural barriers that exist among students.

Journalism freshmen Kelly Cullen said watching this film was an incredibly eye-opening experience.

Imported audience

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

“It made me realize how hard it is for international students to reach out to American students because they often feel intimidated,” Cullen said. “I think that everyone could gain a lot from getting to know someone outside of their culture and it would be great if more opportunities were available for this to happen.”

Peter Briggs, director of the International Students and Scholars office at Michigan State, said he shared a similar sentiment as Cullen.

“We need to have some kind of facilitated outreach to structure the relationships and the connectedness for these students,” said Peter Briggs, director of the International Students and Scholars Office.

A large part of Briggs’ job is pointing these international students in the right direction so that they can create friendships and become involved.

“We really need to figure out how to internationalize the campus so that Americans are welcoming to these new students,” Briggs said. “I want to build empathy; that’s what I want to see.”

But Briggs said this new sense of community couldn’t be successful unless everyone is committed to accepting and embracing the diverse student population. In order to make progress, the community needs to continue having this kind of conversation and discussing ways to break down these walls that divide the two groups of students.

“If intercultural relationships were easy, we would have a lot more of them,” Briggs said.

Imported Zeldes

Photo credit: Stacy Landry

But “Imported from China” has already created awareness, sparked conversation, and inspire students to go out of their comfort zones and try establishing friendships with people they normally wouldn’t associate themselves with.

Zeldes said the feedback has been tremendous.

Ever since the debut of the film, Zeldes said she has been busy answering inquiries from numerous professors on campus, as well as a dozen other universities who want a copy of the film to show their students. WILX TV also contacted her and is interested in showcasing parts of the film.

“We are trying to find the smartest way to get it out there,” Zeldes added.

As this film is further exposed and the message is spread to larger audiences, the transition to this new intercultural communication can begin, and relationships between international and domestic students will begin to thrive with effort and commitment on both ends.

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