Residence at Concordia is a big issue, especially with regards to space availability. Changes are now being made to help overcome those problems. The current residence at the Hingston Hall Building will be reserved for first-year students and the Jesuit Residence, also on Loyola Campus, will possibly be turned into housing for graduate students only.
Although these changes are a first step towards improvement, it is not enough. Concordia’s Vice-Rector, Michael Di Grappa, said Concordia has the least residence space available out of all the universities in Montreal.
He said if the Jesuit Building were to accommodate graduate students in the fall, it would only have room for 54 additional students and with the current 144 beds available in residence that would still make less than 200 beds.
A lot of the attendance of students abroad at Concordia depends on their acceptance to residence. According to Giuliana Panetta, manager of Concordia residence life, the school receives about 700 applications a year for residence.
She claims since most schools guarantee first year residence, it is a good decision by Concordia to make first year out-of-towners a priority.
The attraction of international students is not only of concern to Concordia, but to the city of Montreal. Michael Di Grappa said Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay has a project called Cit Universitaire International.
Its goal is to create a series of buildings in a given area of Montreal servicing students from outside the country who are studying in the city. This means it will be for students of all the universities, not just Concordia. More details about the project are still in discussion.
Concordia has more long-term goals to deal with the issue of residence and these minor changes are only a beginning. If something happens with residence, Di Grappa says it will be to put in hundreds of beds as opposed to the mere 54 that will be available should the Jesuit Building be turned into graduate housing.
Di Grappa says the problem is that because of the economy, buying or building new complexes will be much too expensive. Because the government does not finance housing, the only way to pay for such renovations would be to charge higher rent.
Christina Xydous, co-ordinator of Concordia’s Housing and Job Bank, is concerned with the changes in housing. She says since students living in residence will only be first-year students, they won’t know what the previous year’s rent was and says she is “worried that Concordia will not follow their legal obligations toward the rent increase.”
Also, now that the current residence will be reserved for first-year students, what will happen to the students still living there and how do they feel about the changes?
According to Xydous, the school is not allowed to force them to leave as they have an inherent right to rent there as long as they are full-time students and are permanent residents.
When students in residence were interviewed, they said the confinement of the rooms, the excessive rules like no smoking and no cooking, as well as the noises from other students were all reasons they wanted to get out of there and move right into the city. They said keeping only first-year students is a smart decision by the university since from experience it helped them familiarize themselves with the school and the city, and making friends was a lot easier. But afterwards, the first-year students mentioned, it is time to go.
The university acquired the Jesuit Building four years ago from the ten remaining Jesuits currently living in the residence.
Steve Dubas, a Jesuit living in the residence since 1970, said they sold it because they could not maintain the building anymore and since then Concordia has given them the time to find alternative housing before they start with renovations.
Dubas informed me that they have now found alternative housing in two locations. One of them is a building situated right behind the Jesuit Building and the other is a private house on Coronation St. located nearby. Since some of the Jesuits still teach part-time at Concordia, they are happy to have found housing that remains close to the campus.