This year, CMC’s transfer students and some returning students who took time off didn’t have the option to live on campus. Instead, the school offered them rooms at the Brighton Park Apartments, an apartment complex on the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Campus Avenue. Eighteen students started the year at the apartment complex. Each apartment came furnished with a full kitchen and two bedrooms—one single room and one double room.
During the Sophomore Leadership Experience, students seemed indignant about the fact that their transfer peers didn’t have the opportunity to live with them on campus. Students who transferred in previous years were also adamantly opposed to the change.
“The move to put the transfers off campus put [them] in a terrible position,” said Daniel Enzminger ’18, a student who transferred to CMC last year. “As a transfer myself, I found it hard to acclimate to CMC life, and I can imagine that such a living arrangement would only perpetuate the struggles faced by all transfers.” He went on to describe the social difficulties, stating, “I’m a fairly social guy, but I believe that if I was put in the same situation last year, I wouldn’t have made the same number of quality relationships on the campus-centralized social culture that CMC is proudly known for.”
The transfer students living at Brighton didn’t know about their living accommodations until early August, when the freshmen were also informed about them. On the other hand, some transfers did not mind their accommodations.
“As a transfer, this was kind of the least of my worries,” Evan Murphy ’18 said. “I was pretty much so nervous about going to a new school that where I was living seemed pretty small in the scheme of things.” That was the sentiment for many of the transfers before arriving at school. However, many were unaware of how much the social life is contingent upon actually being on campus. Alex Brussel ’19 listed isolation from social events, distance from campus, and struggle of becoming an active member of the CMC community as negative aspects of living off campus.
Sharon Basso, CMC Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, explained that when she started this July, there were more students interested in on-campus housing than the school had beds for. This lack of housing wasn’t because the first-year class was over-enrolled; the number of students in the first-year class actually perfectly matched the projected enrollment. Instead, lack of available housing was due to upperclassmen who took time off and decided to come back. These students informed the school relatively late in the summer that they wanted to return and had to quickly find housing. Upon realizing the shortage of rooms, the administration created more triples and converted some study rooms in Stark Hall to dorms, but there still wasn’t enough space.
“Plan B was having students live off campus,” Basso said. “College Park Apartments were filled and they had no leases available. So, we could say to our transfer students that we can’t provide housing, since many schools don’t provide housing to their transfer students. But, we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to say, ‘What can we do to help with transfer housing and returning students?’ … We went looking all over the place and came upon Brighton Park, which is as close as College Park but in the other direction. So I went and toured those to make sure they were okay; they had just redone all the apartments. They were really good accommodations, so we got seven Brighton Park apartments within a day.”
Basso walked to Brighton Park from different locations around the five colleges to make sure the walk was manageable. As accurately predicted by Basso and confirmed by Dylan Paoli ’18, the 20-minute walk to and from campus is one of the biggest drawbacks of living at Brighton Park, especially in the heat. Basso also clarified that the school wanted to offer housing so that the transfers didn’t have to find housing in an unknown location on such short notice.
Basso concedes that the separation from campus does have the tendency to hinder social interaction. In an attempt to keep the transfers on campus, Dean of Students first asked some of the upperclassmen First-Year Guides if they wanted to live in Brighton Park, but they all declined. Enzminger mentioned that he was offered to be one of the upperclassmen leaders at Brighton Park but decided against it because he, too, wanted to be on campus.
“The problem with sending out a mass email blast offering some students to live at Brighton Park is that the rooms were already set on campus,” Basso said. “So, we would have to split up some already existing rooms for the people who wanted to move, and we were just weeks away from the students arriving for orientation.” Dean of Students also offered some concessions for the students living at Brighton Park, such as five free meals a week, lockers in the basement of Bauer Center, and the option of owning a bike for the semester.
When asked about the possibilities of getting the transfers on campus next semester, Basso said that Dean of Students has yet to calculate the housing for those leaving to study abroad and coming back. However, they estimate that on-campus housing will still be saturated. They plan on keeping the transfers at Brighton Park next semester, but are strongly considering giving them preferential room draw positions for the next academic year. Despite some drawbacks, there are still many positive aspects about living at Brighton Park. Brussel and Paoli both say they enjoy living with the other transfers and equally relish the ability to build a community with their peers. Murphy adds that it’s nice to have a quiet place to get away from campus, and that it’s not bad having two pools and a hot tub.
While many of the transfers didn’t have the opportunity to live on campus this year, this just tests the desire of CMC students to make every classmate feel welcome and cared about.