COUNTERPOINT: University Village housing assignments fell short

By now, we have all heard about how the registry for the University Village’s residences, which will house about 2,600 students, is full. Accompanying this news was widespread disappointment and frustration — the University Village had been marketed as a USC icon, the crown jewel of President C. L. Max Nikias’ tenure so far. It seemed as if those 2,600 coveted spots would never cease to be available — but they have. Rising sophomores have been given preference for housing at the University Village, and it can easily be assumed that the reason for doing so is to provide young students who do not yet know how to navigate independent life with an easy way to figure out where they will live in their second year of college. However, if the University is concerned about making sure that younger members of the Trojan Family can reliably find housing, a class-based approach to distributing housing spots may miss the mark.

Throughout this University Village escapade, there has been one constant talking point: Rising sophomores get preference for housing. It is undoubtedly true that students new to college probably do not have the best understanding of where to go for housing — and that is likely why most freshmen choose to live in USC’s on-campus dorms. However, as a student who will be graduating before he will ever be able to grace the brick-and-mortar halls of the University Village while a student, I am a little disappointed that students from all classes did not have an equal shot at enjoying such a unique living environment.

Housing for freshmen is one thing, but giving preference to sophomores — who are considered upperclassmen by the University — over other upperclassmen is quite another. Sophomores have been on-campus for a year, have come to understand how to live and work in the university environment and are rapidly becoming more mature and independent. In short, the difference between a sophomore and a junior is not always significant or apparent at first glance. Why USC would choose to distinguish between sophomores and presumably older upperclassmen is therefore unclear.

I write “presumably older” because I would also like to draw attention to the fact that not all upperclassmen are older than other members of the USC community. I, for example, am 20 years old — about the average age of a sophomore — but I am categorized as a senior by the University. It is conceivable that in another life, I could easily be enjoying preferential selection for a spot at the University Village right now.

Younger-than-normal students like myself are not the only ones who may be affected by the University’s system of prioritization in housing assignments. Increasingly and across the nation, colleges are enrolling older students as well. The Atlantic reported in 2011 that a quarter of all American undergraduate students were over the age of 30. Imagine, say, a 26-year-old sophomore getting preference over a 19-year-old junior for a spot at the University Village. Such a circumstance would be absurd — and admittedly unlikely — but exactly what USC’s system could currently allow.

UCLA, on the other hand, has a system of housing assignment in place that would prevent the above scenario from happening. UCLA differentiates in its housing allocation system between non-traditional students, students with families and traditional students. This allows those who most likely need assistance finding housing and navigating responsibility — younger students — to actually receive the support they may need while also being aware of the needs of other, non-traditional members of the UCLA community.

Perhaps USC should consider moving away from class-based considerations when doling out housing assignments and instead evaluate a student’s fit for University-sponsored housing based on their individual circumstances. At the least, it would put us on even footing with our crosstown rivals.

Trevor Kehrer is a senior majoring in political science. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Wednesdays.