Room for Improvement

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

Since its grand opening at the beginning of the year, the Village at Torrey Pines transfer housing has had a rough time selling itself.

Though Housing, Dining and Hospitality was banking on transfer-student selling points like on-campus convenience and granite countertops, the Village hasn’t filled nearly all its empty mattresses. Of the 1,060 beds available, approximately 200 are empty, according to A.S. Transfer Student Senator Adam Powers. Powers said the main reason transfer students aren’t fighting over Village apartments is that they simply can’t afford the rent: between $1,200 and $1,400 per month.

“I think the price barrier kept a lot of students from living there — all the transfer students I spoke to,” he said. “‘Why didn’t you live there?’ ‘Price.’ I didn’t hear anything other than price.”

As it turns out, cost was such a sizeable deterrent for transfer students this year that HDH has lowered prices for all units in the Village by nearly 9 percent for Fall Quarter.According to HDH Director Mark Cunningham, after working with the student advisory committee, the department decided it would lower rent at the Village by spreading the debt racked up during its construction across all undergraduate housing. In other words, prices for all UCSD undergrads went up slightly so that the cost of living at the Village could go down about 9 percent.

Lauren Klibingat, an Eleanor Roosevelt College first-year transfer currently living in Building 8, said she first moved to Village after spending some time as a commuter.

“I lived off-campus for two months, but once school started, I decided I wanted to live on campus — which was a really smart move,” Klibingat said. “I really recommend for transfer students to come here for one year and then move off campus.”

A few weeks before school started, Klibingat said she noticed that transfer students planning to live in the Village were getting to know each other through Facebook. Eager to join their community, she signed a lease to live in a double room.

But when HDH couldn’t find Klibingat a roommate to share the double, they offered her the room for a price slightly higher than that of a single. Klibingat said she would never have been able to afford the room without the help of her parents.

“The room that I have is a double converted into a single, so its $1,450 [a month] — and I think a regular single that’s meant for one person is about $1,300,” she said. “It’s not too much of a difference, but still. They said nothing else was available — that they were all full, and that was the only thing they had.”

Klibingat, like the majority of her neighbors, is moving off-campus next year with friends she met at the Village, where she said she’ll be paying $600 a month, plus utilities.

Klibingat’s apartment at the Village isn’t unique: Many other residents are currently living in creative housing arrangements — some with missing roommates, and an even larger swath alongside non-transfer students allowed to live at the Village to fill the extra beds.

HDH began accepting non-transfer students almost as soon as the Village opened its doors last Fall Quarter. According to Cunningham, it’s a common problem for new transfer-housing complexes: This coming academic year, the take-rate for the Village is 38% percent of eligible transfer students, which is higher than most other complexes within the UC system. But because of this, the Village will most likely need to fill itself with junior and senior undergraduates again next year — something that, according to Cunningham, was indeed anticipated during the Village’s planning process.

Despite generally luxurious accommodations, common complaints among Village students this year included the absence of a common lounge, window screens and parking spaces. Open windows brought in bugs and drafts, and without a common lounge, some students felt they had nowhere to congregate or plan large events. However — thanks, in part, to the student organization Villagers Initiating Progress, or VIP — Buildings Two through Eight were finally outfitted with screens last month. (As its windows weren’t designed for screens, Building One — the tower — will see them glued in this summer.) In addition, the unused bus stop in front of the Village marketplace was converted into a few 20-minute loading zones.

“In the beginning, we didn’t have such a programming focus,” VIP co-director and ERC first-year transfer Robin Kim said. “We also worked with administrators to try a get a common lounge like the other colleges do — still haven’t gotten that figured out yet.”

It was around Week Three that Kim said he first noticed a poster asking students interested in student government to come to a meeting being held by the Village Resident Dean Terra Bailey and Assistant Resident Deans Susan Berry and Andrea Melrose. Shortly thereafter, the Office of Residence Life asked the group of interested students to create a council of sorts to represent the Village population. Elections were held, and Kim was elected director of internal affairs.

Kim himself happens to be quite the Village cheerleader: “It’s been pretty darn awesome,” he said. He and the other nine consistent VIP members currently put most of their efforts toward planning events like the welcome-back dance and movie nights. However, when it first began, then-co-director and ERC first-year transfer Daniel Yuan said the council was more focused on improving problems within the complex.

“It’s not a bad organization, but I don’t think it’s realized its full potential,” Yuan said. “It needs guidance from someone who knows about the bureaucracy.”

Although he had only just transferred to UCSD, Yuan said he said he quickly noticed the obstacles preventing the Village from improving. Other colleges, he said, don’t want the Village to serve as housing for a seventh college, which is why it doesn’t have a legitimate college council or representation on the A.S. Council (although there is an A.S. transfer senator). Yuan said he would recommend a split between those interested in putting on events and those focused on transfer-student and residential advocacy.

Yuan added that the sterile Village atmosphere detracts from the area’s sense of community. Because students are not allowed to put up posters or fliers along railings or inside windows — as undergraduates often do in their dorms — Yuan said he believes Village administrators are priding vanity over practicality. It’s a problem that A.S. Transfer Senator Powers encountered as well, when he first tried to reach out to his constituents living at the Village.

“You can’t flyer all over there like you can at any other colleges,” Powers said. “They’re really proud of their new buildings, as they should be. So it took some time to figure out the right channels to go through.”

The Village was recently equipped with a community board on which to put up fliers. However, according to Yuan, superficial restrictions like these are just the tip of the iceberg. Having worked with Village administrators during Fall and Winter Quarters, Yuan said he recognized that HDH has been working hard to fulfill student requests — but, he said, the department still has a long way to go.

“I realize that things such as parking can be a long process, but that’s why you should finish phase one before you start on phase two,” Yuan said, referring to the upcoming opening of the Village’s second half.

The other half — a 10-story tower and four low-rise complexes, under construction across the street, and currently ahead of schedule — is set to open Fall Quarter 2011. The complex will include 800 more beds, along with a dining facility and common lounge.

Revelle College first-year transfer Tim Richardson said he hasn’t been too pleased with the resounding noise of construction across the street.

“I had four roommates, and within the second day, two of them moved out because of construction — because we’re right here in the tower facing the construction,” Richardson said. “So as soon as the sun comes up, they’re out there.”

Other residents have also struggled to adjust to the strict presence of security officers in the Village. Because many Villagers are over 21, and many others lived off-campus while attending community colleges before transferring to UCSD, mandatory quiet hours and Residential Security Officers (RSOs) seem a suffocating price to pay for their on-campus locale.

“If you’ve lived off-campus before, you’d know it wasn’t like this,” said Sixth College first-year transfer James Pillow, who lives with Richardson on the 14th floor of Building One. “You know how it is having a place, and you know what’s offensive to the people around you. You know your neighbors, and you know which ones complain — and here, really, it’s not the neighbors who complain, but the RSOs doing their rounds.”

According to Building One Community Coordinator and Revelle College third-year Marisa Llamas — an undergraduate non-transfer living in the Village — because transfer residents are used to complete independence, they can find the crackdown on partying infringing. However, compared to her experience as a freshman in the Revelle dorms, Llamas said she finds Village regulations to be a breath of fresh air.

“I feel like there’s a little bit more of a sense of freedom over here,” Llamas said. “When I was at Revelle, RSOs would walk though our suites — and here, they only walk through the hallways. Obviously parties still get broken up, but its still a more mature situation.”

All residents interviewed said they planned to live off campus next year, mostly due to the high cost of rent. And yet, despite their criticisms, they all said they were glad they made the decision to live on campus.

“I think that, here at UCSD, we don’t have that many new things — so it’s kind of odd for us to see something so new,” Powers said. “Everything that’s been here has been here for 40 years, so considering all that, it’s done incredibly well.”

Readers can contact Edwin Gonzalez at [email protected].

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