For many students living away from home during the college year, on-campus accommodation is the first port of call as the race to find a home-away-from-home begins. This is particularly applicable to first year students, many of whom travel long distances with little or no knowledge of Dublin. This all adds to anticipation, and in many cases, fear and anxiety about “flying the nest”. The idea of living on campus should help subdue fears.
For those lucky enough to book a room in the newly established third phase at Roebuck Halls, they were met with confusion upon arrival on a bleak and rainy Monday. Firstly, after trekking through the city after hours of travel, and thinking they were finally about to escape the pouring rain, these students were informed that they needed to trek further. They had go to the other side of campus, armed with their luggage, to collect their student cards in order to reach their rooms.
After the trek, and the inevitable queues that followed for student card collection, some students were informed that until their fees were paid, they couldn’t receive their student cards, and therefore couldn’t enter their rooms. For a first-year student moving away from home, this may have been the first instance of homesickness they are to experience as the realisation set in that they may be destined to homelessness for the time being.
For those lucky enough to receive their student cards, the final straw was being told that their room was not fit to live in and would not be ready for another four weeks. This must have led to tears and hopelessness for these already anxious and homesick students. UCD Residences surely warrant criticism for their handling of the situation, as they barely provided help in finding temporary accommodation for these students.
Experiences such as those witnessed on the first day of Orientation Week may well have damaging effects on incoming students. Living away from home can be an unnerving experience and to discover that you are not going to be able to settle into your new home until well into the college term halts the settling process which is so vital in those first few weeks. Living in a B&B some distance away from the university is hardly the kind of experience that is going to enable a lonely, anxious young person settle into their new life.
Students who protested against the situation were told that an email had been circulated informing them that their room would not be available until the third week of term – a direct contradiction of the legally-binding Licence to Reside which had been attached with the email, which set the move-in date as Monday, 6th September.
That aside, first year students can hardly be expected to be keeping watch on their UCD Connect accounts when the majority haven’t even set foot on the campus.
UCDSU Welfare Vice-President Scott Ahearn echoes this, citing funding as a reason why the students were not directly contacted by telephone about the situation.
It was an extreme situation that could have serious implications, and thus more measures should have been taken to communicate the situation to those affected, and also more help should have been provided in seeking temporary accommodation. Being handed a list of local B&Bs when you have no means of being transported there and when you probably have no means of paying for it can hardly be classed as adequate assistance.
Additionally, the recently acquired accommodation at Muckross, which is a converted former convent is insufficient for two reasons. The first is that the bedrooms are reported to be extremely small. It is impossible to settle into an inadequate room miles away from home and be expected to settle in.
The second reason is the fact that the accommodation is situated a few miles away from campus and thus there will be transport issues to and from the university to consider. The same applies to the accommodation provided at the UCD Smurfit School of Business in Blackrock. A number of students there are applying to switch to rooms in campus-situated accommodation, but for this they must join the already long waiting list.
As regards the change in the allocation scheme, while the former scheme of allotting rooms based on your home’s distance from the university was flawed, it seemed better than what is in place now. First year students under this scheme were given priority. This year’s first-come, first-served system has denied many first year students the chance to live on campus, as well as many international students. This can be attributed to the mistake made by Residences of allowing students to book rooms from the middle of June onwards.
Those first experiences of UCD can be detrimental to a student’s experience at this university, and the failure of Residences to provide adequate assistance is something that needs to be addressed and rectified, so that no more students are affected by the chaos that erupted at the start of this academic year at their hands.