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An urgent appeal for Lyman to remain a graduate residence

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.

  • bittergradguy

    Remember the days when Mirrielees used to have 3 students a unit?

  • biograd

    Both of the solutions proposed here sound much better than getting rid of Lyman. It’s important to have grad housing close to the med and engineering schools. Grad students want to live on the west side of campus, undergrads don’t. The solutions out forward in this op-ed are better for both the grad and then undergrad students.

  • incoming grad student living

    If lyman students get displaced to oak creek, would they be able to stay in oak creek year round, or only during the school year (Sept – June)? And would they just be displaced, or have to re-enter the housing lottery?

  • Lyman Resident

    They would be able to stay year round. Housing has told us that as long as there is demand for it, Oak Creek will be a long-term option for graduate housing.

  • dontspreadyourmisery

    I disagree wholeheartedly with the solutions suggested by the authors. While having a close knitted community for graduate students is important, it is undeniably more important for undergraduates who take most of the introductory classes together. Both solutions suffer from a few flaws. Firstly, those undergraduates will be close to the community center which routinely serves me beers without checking my ID. Secondly, having undergraduates who parties every Friday night will be devastating for most of us who are studying for quals (if that is your concern for not moving the residence). Thirdly, some of us do like the idea of living alone in the same studio. So, having hundreds of students move over the new Comstock studio so that you don’t have to move is frankly selfish.

  • another lyman resident

    The suggestion was to convert EV Studio 2, which is an academic year residence. All residents have to move out at the end of spring quarter and are not guaranteed another year in that building. Undergrads move every year. Therefore, I don’t think asking students who have to move anyway to move to the Comstock studios is selfish at all.

    In terms of noise, all graduate housing near undergraduates has to deal with that (ex. the EV buildings by Mirrielees, Lyman by GovCo). Graduate housing can be very noisy as well, so if you’re concerned about studying for quals, you might want to consider doing that in the library.

  • disagree

    You say that you do not like the idea of living alone in a studio, which shows that having a close-knit community for grad students IS important.

    To address the other two flaws you pointed out:
    1) Ray’s legally needs to check IDs. Implementation of this is easy to achieve, and required anyway.
    2) Lyman is literally neighbors to undergraduates, and noise problems, when they arise, have always been dealt with promptly. If you are just worried about your quals studying, I would agree with the commenter above, and spend more time in the library in the month or two preceding your exam.

    Your comment about being selfish could be turned around like this: destroying the ONLY West Campus housing option (which is the only location that meets the needs of many disabled students), and making those residents permanently relocate elsewhere, so that you MIGHT be able to study for quals in your room for 1-2 months is selfish.

  • Lymanresident3

    I disagree with the two options. Moving Lyman to Oak Creek is the best decision. I am a graduate student currently staying in Lyman and having a sense of community is least of my concern.

  • dontspreadyourmisery

    Well, having undergraduates with disabilities to stay away from campus in Oak Creek apartments so that you can study for quals or have a sense of community is also selfish. See how your arguments are flawed and can go both ways.

    To counter your points:
    1) If you live in an ideal world, then yes. Make sure that you communicate with the people in Ray’s before you propose anything.
    2) If you have to study for quals with your friends anyway, why not move to OakCreek and study with your friends in the library

    I frankly think that those two solutions you proposed cannot solve the problems without causing troubles to other people who might not be onboard with you.

  • gradstudent

    Dontspreadyourmisery, if you read the article above, the residents’ arguments for keeping Lyman have nothing to do with studying for quals; I think that is your own personal concern.

    Lyman meets the needs of these residents work and social lifestyles, which I assume your residence meets your same needs. To address your disability point directly, the Office of Accessible Education places disabled students in Lyman because that is the ONLY residence that meets their needs, and there is no other reasonable substitute. I would assume that Housing does the same for undergraduate students.

    I think what the residents point out is that housing is scarce for graduate students too, as a substantial number were forced to live off-campus even though they were guaranteed otherwise. They also recognize the undergraduate housing problem. I think they are suggesting that instead of exacerbating the graduate student housing problem and disrupting that community in such a drastic way, other solutions need to be assessed as well.

    For instance, the temporary placement of undergraduates in Comstock for 1 year seems ideal to me. It is still being built, so no existing graduate community would be disrupted. What are your thoughts about that plan?

    At the Town Hall meeting, the Lyman residents were asked by GHAC to come up with alternative solutions. They went above and beyond, spending much of their time and effort to come up with these alternative proposals, and for speaking up on behalf of graduate student needs. The Provost is dedicated to increasing undergraduate numbers as cited in the other Daily article, and there is not enough housing for them. Your residence, or any other graduate residence, could be next. We should applaud the authors of this article for their efforts.

  • Lymanresident4

    I’m another Lyman resident, and the sense of community is really important to me. I don’t think I would have made it through grad school thus far otherwise! Can you please elaborate on why it is the best decision for you personally?

    I think Oak Creek would be an attractive option and good fit for some students, but not for all. I also agree with the point that if Oak Creek is to expand in grad student population, it makes sense to have that Lyman connection nearby.

  • Voice of an Undergrad

    1. As an undergrad, I honestly never really thought that community is important to grad students. I’ve never seen much of a grad community when inside of Munger, Lyman, or EV, but it’s really eye-opening to know that community is what’s driving this debate. (Apparently Lyman must be quite a social hub for grads, which is great to hear!)

    2. Flipping Oak Creek to ALL grad and Lyman to ALL undergrad makes a lot of sense from an undergrad prospective. I will definitely be the first to admit that Oak Creek is not set up to create community for anyone, especially because students can’t really congregate without getting noise complaints from other tenants. However, since Stanford has an explicit commitment to creating a thriving undergraduate community through guaranteed housing, why would you physically remove over 200 undergrads from the undergrad campus community year after year? I understand that the same can be said for grad students, but you have to admit that building a social graduate student community is a bit lower on Stanford’s list of priorities.

    3. While it is a valid point that grad students should be close to the engineering and med schools, a large portion of undergrads currently set to be housed in Oak Creek this coming year have classes in the Main Quad [or farther] and don’t have the luxury of having a car like many grad students do.

    4. The second proposal is actually pretty interesting. Converting Studio 2 to ALL undergrads would be a great way to basically build a second Mirrielees right across the street. Plus comments about East Campus being more favorable than West Campus to undergrads is generally true for most students (just look at the Draw). If I were a grad student, I’d focus on this proposal much more than the first as this could be a solution that would benefit both communities.

  • another lyman resident

    To further discuss the disability point, no one is asking undergraduates with disabilities to move to Oak Creek. Those students are currently not housed in Lyman, but in other buildings on campus. However, there is a much wider variety of housing options for undergrads on both West and East campus that can meet their needs. On the other hand, Lyman is the ONLY West campus option for GRADUATE students with disabilities. To completely take away that option or forcing them to live with undergraduates and isolating them from their peers is unacceptable. (You were concerned about living NEXT to undergrads, how would you feel if you had to live WITH undergrads?)

    I also want to point out that undergrads already live near Ray’s since Mirrielees is practically next door to the GCC.

  • incoming grad student

    Ok cool. Would those displaced students be able to renew their lease through housing, much like they could if Lyman grad housing didn’t disappear?

  • PostDoc

    Yawn. Stanford coddles it’s graduate students and you guys are lucky to have so much housing available at all. I went to school in a major urban university and grad students were left to fed for themselves – you know, like adults – and find housing where we could afford it. Grow up, move across Sandhill, and let the undergrads have the on campus collegiate experience you already had the chance to experience.

  • AnotherStanfordPostDoc

    Agreed. I came from a university where only first year grad students (and even undergraduates) have guaranteed housing. Considering that two of three writers have been staying on campus for more than three years, it is almost to move out and grow up.

  • grad student

    I see where you’re coming from, but given how expensive the area is, Stanford’s ability to provide more affordable and convenient housing for (potentially) years was a huge factor in my decision to attend. Had they not made an explicit and implicit committment to do so, I probably would have chosen a school to better fit my lifestyle preferences (affordable and close to work). I have no issue if a school in an expensive area doesn’t want to help grad students with housing, but if you advertise affordable housing, I think it’s reasonable to expect follow through.

    My undergraduate school only has housing for freshman, so later everyone finds apartments or houses in the city. I’m well acquainted with “growing up” and living on my own, dealing with landlords, etc. But it’s much more reasonable to expect that when your rent doesn’t take up 90% of your monthly income and/ or compromise for an hour commute.

  • bittergradguy

    Well, if we went to Berkeley, maybe we would have affordable alternative options.

    Maybe I should have gone to Berkeley…