College Offers Off-Campus Housing For Seniors
Issue   |   Wed, 02/27/2013 - 00:30

In order to help alleviate housing pressures created by the ongoing construction of the new science center and give students more flexible housing options, the College is offering up to 60 members of the Class of 2014 in good academic and disciplinary standing off-campus housing at the Alpine Commons apartment complex on Belchertown Road.

Despite the complex’s off-campus location, students will still receive many of the benefits of living on-campus, including access to an on-site Area Coordinator and College-provided basic furniture in the apartments, and students will be required to remain on the meal plan. Students who wish to exercise will have access to a pool and gym facilities at a neighboring apartment complex affiliated with Alpine Commons, although they can still use the College’s facilities. Additionally, campus police will perform regular patrols of the complex to provide security and ensure that students are adhering to all College policies, according to Dean Torin Moore, Director of Residential Life.

Students who choose to take advantage of this option will be offered a special 14-meal plan at a $1,000 discount from the regular price, but otherwise their room and board costs will remain the same, even though the apartments will cost the College more than housing students on campus. However, this plan saves students money compared to the cost of living off-campus independently, according to Interim Treasurer Shannon Gurek.

“Alpine Commons, as well as all other rental companies in the area, require a 12-month lease. Therefore it actually costs the College more to lease the apartments than it would to house a student on campus for an academic year. In addition there will be other costs associated with this set up that are not being passed along to the students living at Alpine Commons — they include the cost of having an Area Coordinator on site, additional campus police runs to Alpine Commons to patrol the area, and other shuttles that might be necessary. In addition, the College will be furnishing these apartments with furniture that will have shipping and set-up costs as well as some housekeeping and maintenance as the apartments turn over,” Gurek said.

Students who live at the complex will be offered four-bedroom, two-bathroom units, as well as on-site parking and frequent public transportation to the five colleges, according to the email sent to the Class of 2014. According to the floor plans on the Alpine Commons website, the units will be 1,000 square feet and include a living room and a kitchen with appliances, as well as a washer/dryer unit in the living room. Each bedroom is approximately 125 square feet, making them slightly smaller than singles in dormitories like Wieland or Hitchcock, which mainly house seniors. Additionally, since the apartments will be considered on-campus housing, all College policies will apply to students living in the apartments, including prohibitions on drinking games, pets and candles — despite the fact that the apartments are listed on the Alpine Commons website as ‘pet-friendly,’ Dean Moore said. Although campus police will make occasional trips to the complex to help enforce College policies, students will have to deal with the town police if they receive a noise complaint at the apartments.

On Monday, Feb. 25, Dean Moore, Gurek, Interim Dean of Students Charri Boykin-East, Dean of Student Conduct Susie Mitton Shannon and a representative from Alpine Commons met with students in Stirn Auditorium to discuss the housing option in a meeting organized by Association of Amherst Students Vice President George Tepe ’14. Tepe said that he organized the meeting in collaboration with Dean Moore to help answer questions students had about the housing option.
“I emailed Dean Moore and said that I thought we should organize an open meeting to get more information for students who are interested in taking advantage of the Alpine Commons option. I thought there was confusion and people had questions, so I thought that having an open meeting for people to ask the questions would be a good thing,” Tepe said.

At the meeting, administrators answered questions about parking and transportation, raising the possibility of providing reserved parking spaces for students and highlighting the complex’s proximity to PVTA bus stops. According to the PVTA website, Alpine Commons is .2 miles away from the Colonial Village bus stop on the North Amherst/Belchertown Road route (Route 30), which also stops near campus across the street from the Amherst Town Hall and the Emily Dickenson Museum. The bus runs every 15 minutes from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays and every half hour until 1:00 a.m. On weekends, the bus runs every hour from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. on Sundays. However, Safe Ride will provide transportation to students when necessary.

Also discussed at the meeting was the possibility of expanding the off-campus option to non-seniors if not all 60 spaces were filled, since the College has already paid for all the leases. Students suggested that allowing seniors to use juniors to help them make a group of four would make more students interested in the option and help the College fill all 60 spaces.
Tepe also emphasized the need to make the costs and benefits of the off-campus alternative more clear to students who are considering taking advantage of the option.

“Students need to be able to make a fully informed decision. Res Life needs to do a better job of illustrating what the benefits are and showing that barriers aren’t as high as a lot of students think they are. On the other hand, I think we need to make sure students understand what the noise is going to be like living next to construction in the Socials so that students can adequately balance the costs and benefits of living in Alpine Commons versus living in the socials,” Tepe said.