The view on The Vistas


“On campus living at USD only gets better the second time around[…] It’s no wonder why so many Toreros choose to stay on campus after their first-year living experience,” could be the most ironic statement featured on USD Residential Life’s website. Considering that just below this paragraph is a note stating that any unmarried, noncommuting, first or second year student under the age of 20 is required to fulfill the two-year residency requirement.

This is the first year that USD has instituted the second year live-on requirement through the Second Year Torero Experiential Program (STEP) which is a subset of the Second Year Experience (SYE) program. According to the SYE website, STEP consists of several programs and opportunities designed specifically for second-year students.

As the spring semester and my time living in the Alcala Vistas comes to a close, it’s time to think about how the second year live-on requirement affects residents and what my experience has been like.

The SYE website advertises the opportunity to, “Spend your sophomore year living with your classmates in The Vistas or the San Buenaventura Apartments,” but some students were not able to live in these areas. Many second year students who received later registration times and dates were unable to choose rooms in The Vistas or San Buenaventura due to the large class size. Currently, sophomores also live in Manchester Village, the University Terrace Apartments, and San Antonio de Padua Missions Apartments. There are about 1,000 second year students, but according to the Residential Life website, only about 600 live in The Vistas, while the rest are in San Buen and other housing areas. Housing registration can be just as terrifying as class registration for those who must live on campus, especially because the lottery for registration is so unpredictable.

According to Residential Life’s website, second-year students living in the UTAs have easy access to all STEP events and activities, but the proximity of the UTAs, located below the Carmel Apartments, makes this connection difficult.

Sophomore Janek Benigno had a positive experience living in the UTAs, but did not know about the STEP program until April.

“When registering for housing I wasn’t even aware that the UTAs were an option,” Benigno said. “We were at Missions Crossroads at the time of registration, and a Residential Life employee made us aware of the UTAs when we found none of our preferred options were available. It is a long walk to other housing areas, the gym, and university sporting events. Parking is very limited.”

Aside from the STEP programs presence in second year on campus housing, there is also the issue of noncontinuous living. Residents of The Vistas and San Buenaventura must vacate their apartments during all holidays or pay to remain in their rooms. On the other hand, Manchester Village, San Antonio de Padua, and the University Terrace Apartments are continuous, meaning that these residents may remain in their rooms during Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, Intersession, and Spring Break at no additional cost for those with a full academic year agreement.

While select residents may remain in their rooms at no additional cost, the price to stay in the Vistas or San Buenaventura is high, especially considering that some students may not be able to afford to return home during these breaks. Not only are students in these areas charged $32 a night for multiple occupancy, $40 a night for single occupancy, or $100 for the whole week. Based off of an email sent out before this year’s Spring Break, if the student does not submit a request before the deadline to register, they will be charged a $65 late fee to ensure their housing spot.

As of now, it does not appear that any services or programming are offered during Spring Break aside from a lackluster Easter Brunch. The Palomar RA Desk in The Vistas is not open, and students must report to Missions Crossroads if they require assistance.

Sophomore Emily Pitsch had to stay in her Vistas apartment over part of Spring Break when her vacation plans changed last minute.

“During breaks we are basically evicted from our homes and forced to pay extra to live in our own rooms,” Pitsch said. “A lot of people don’t have the luxury of being able to drive or fly home and it really makes little sense spending money to ‘vacation’ in our own dorms.”

Interestingly, the 2015-2016 Campus Housing and Dining Services Agreement, asks that any special requests for housing during vacation periods must be submitted in writing and approved by the Department of Residential Life. If the University does not make the appropriate space, it may require the students to move to different resident halls. In this event, additional charges will be added to the cost.

What do these fees fund? Why are they so high? Why can some second year students remain in their homes while others must vacate or pay to stay? The answers to these questions are unfortunately not in the Campus Housing and Dining Services Agreement.

This month the undergraduate population elected a new Associated Students President, TJ Hodges. His platform focused on addressing the high price of living on campus in terms of the second year requirement, noncompetitive pricing, and rigid meal plans.

TJ’s cost comparison drew attention from undergraduate voters who supported his analysis.

“Manchester costs $4435 per semester, $8870 overall for the academic year,” Hodges said. “I was given this information when I was on a tour of Manchester early this semester. Carmel is renting out rooms at various prices but for a two-bed with no special placement they offered $2560/month, with utilities, etc. considered that comes to about $680 per person per month if you are living with four people. That’s $8160 for 12 months.”

Considering the high turnout that AS elections saw this year, students expressed confidence in Associated Students’ ability and potential to work with Residential Life towards a mutually beneficial outcome. Residential Life policies are important to understand since so many students are now required to remain on campus for another year.

If USD continues to benefit from the requirement of second-year students having to live on campus, it should be implemented in a way where students benefit as well. While the SYE may be based on good intentions, the execution of the program should be questioned in terms of fairness, cost, and creation of a truly cohesive community. As this is the first year of the newly enforced rule, a few bumps in the road are to be expected, but it is time for these rough patches to be smoothed out for future residents.