On-campus housing at Stanford has long remained a high-demand resource for both graduate and undergraduate students. Last year, over 900 graduate students were denied housing after the Lottery and 242 were assigned to subsidized off-campus housing, some as far away as Mountain View. Meanwhile, 220 undergraduate students lived off-campus at Oak Creek Apartments on Sand Hill Road, which is isolated from University life and lacks a central community space.
To remedy the undergraduate housing problem, the Graduate Housing Advisory Committee (GHAC) has proposed to convert the West Campus Lyman Graduate Residence into undergraduate housing by September 2014. Most of the displaced Lyman graduate students would be relocated to Oak Creek, further exacerbating the lack of on-campus graduate housing options.
Fifty graduate students (approximately a third of Lyman’s summer residential population) attended a town hall meeting on July 30, 2013 to unanimously oppose GHAC’s proposal. As Lyman residents, we believe eliminating the only West Campus graduate housing option comes at a great cost to graduate students. Here, we explain why Lyman should remain a graduate residence and suggest alternative solutions. We hope that administrators, ResEd, and students can hear the voice of the 224 Lyman residents who will be displaced.
The loss of Lyman as the only West Campus graduate housing option means that students cannot live in close proximity to the medical and engineering schools. This will be particularly problematic for students with disabilities, who the Office of Accessible Education has advised against placing in Oak Creek. GHAC proposed that they continue to live in the converted Lyman with undergraduates. We feel this is unacceptable as these students are integral to the graduate Lyman community and shouldn’t be left behind.
While it is a legitimate concern that undergraduates do not have sufficient community in Oak Creek, graduate students also depend on community. Graduate students often work 10-15 hours everyday under high pressure and may not have time to join student organizations or socialize often. Being able to discuss qualify exam stresses with next-door neighbors or gather in the Atrium for weekly event in such a tight-knit community provides essential social support.
To meet the needs of both graduate and undergraduate students, we propose two alternative solutions. First, undergraduates could be housed for one year in the 220 junior studio units in the new Comstock graduate residences scheduled for completion by Fall 2014. Undergraduates can then permanently move into new undergraduate dorms scheduled to open in Fall 2015, thereby freeing up Comstock for full graduate student occupancy.
In our second proposal, the large 350 square-foot studios in EV Studio 2, which is close to the undergraduate residence Mirrielees, could be converted to double occupancy rooms to house 250 undergraduates. Residents who would have applied to live in Studio 2 could move to the new Comstock studios nearby, maintaining the community in similar living arrangements.
These proposals meet many of GHAC’s criteria for undergraduate housing including sufficient number of beds, lack of balconies that students can fall from, community spaces, and proximity to the large East Campus undergraduate population.
Rather than demolish the only West Campus graduate residence, we should strengthen it. Oak Creek can house new graduate students who choose to live there, and Lyman could integrate Oak Creek residents into campus life by inviting them to Lyman social events. This will provide the invaluable community infrastructure for those housed in Oak Creek and also alleviate tensions with non-student tenants who have complained of noisy student community events.
Every effort should be made to preserve Lyman as a graduate residence. The alternatives proposed here and other options GHAC considered affect just a fraction of existing communities in East Campus, as compared to removing 100% of the only West Campus graduate community. Although there may not be any solution that meets all requirements for the undergraduate population, we are optimistic that GHAC and Stanford administrators will choose a solution that equally considers both undergraduate and graduate student needs.
The ideas put forth in this article are based on discussions held within the Lyman community at the town hall meeting and are supported by the Lyman CAs.
Steven Ingram is a third-year graduate student in electrical engineering.
Nandita Garud is a fifth-year graduate student in genetics.
Henry Cheng is a graduate student in bioengineering and public policy.