ODU students frustrated with housing wait

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Hundreds of freshmen at Old Dominion University want answers about the status of their on-campus housing for the fall. Four of them spoke with 10 On Your Side about their frustration, and in some cases, fear.

On Thursday, finals we will be over at Old Dominion University and the pressure will be off for most students, but not Freshman Noelle Lentz. She doesn’t know where, or even if she has a place to live on campus next year. Off-campus housing is out of her price range, and at this late date, transferring is not an option.

“As far as what I’ve heard from the university, they’ve just said, ‘well, we don’t know, we’ll get back to you,’” she said.

In a statement, the university said 350 students are on a priority waiting list, and that “last year, approximately 600 returning students were assigned housing from this date forward.” A spokesman said this is a typical process every year and that the university is on track.

That’s typical for ODU, perhaps, but 10 On Your Side called around to comparably-sized schools. At George Mason University, freshmen know by April 4 whether they’ll have housing the following year. At Virginia Tech, it’s February 1. Earliest of all is the University of Virginia, where students know by Christmas.

But at ODU, it can be as late as July 15.

“We’re kind of at a loss because if we don’t get housing, then some of us are forced to go home or some of us have to take a semester off and unfortunately end up paying our college loans, so either way it’s just a bigger issue than housing,” said ODU Freshman Kapri Moore.

And even if beds for the students are guaranteed, as the university says, students say where you live — even if it is on campus – is an important issue.

“The Powhatan Apartments, which are on the opposite end of campus … My mom already told me ‘you’re not living there,’ because it’s another dorm that has on-campus housing with apartments, but it has a reputation for a lot of robberies that occur,” Lentz said.

10 On Your Side requested numbers from the university on that claim: eight burglaries happened at The Powhatan Apartments in calendar year 2013 — that’s up from zero the year before. There were no robberies, sexual or aggravated assaults or stolen vehicles. In 2012, campus police report just one robbery and one stolen vehicle.

ODU says it recently added state-of-the art cameras, burglar-resistant window screens and security patrols to make that area safer. But with its city campus, ODU students know what’s been happening nearby, and so do Norfolk Police.

Since February, the area has had a shootout on 42nd and Colley Avenue, the robbery of three students on West 39th, a sexual assault in a complex known as The District, and a deadly fight less than a block from campus.

“The guy died from the injuries, and I live right here, so it’s not that far,” Lentz said.

Freshman Matthew Zugay said his plan B is a house off campus on Killam Avenue — a place he’s seen on ODU crime alerts.

“The RAs tell us just don’t walk on that street at night and you should be good,” Zugay said.

So for now, ODU freshmen wait for their final grades, and the final word on housing for next year.

“Finals week is stressful enough and then you add the fact that I really don’t know where I’m going to be living next year, so that’s just another burden that I’ve got to worry about,” said ODU Freshman Jake Ayers.

10 On Your Side asked ODU for an on-camera interview almost three weeks ago. At first they declined, but now say they are willing to do an interview. Tune in to WAVY News 10 at 6 p.m. Thursday for that follow-up talk with the ODU vice president in charge of housing.

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