Dec 19th, 2022, 09:00 AM

Fall Student Influx Leads to Capacity Issues

By Ava Castañeda
Image Credit: Ava Castañeda
How AUP dealt with its largest-ever incoming group of students

As the largest ever group of first-year students entered the first Fall semester after stringent COVID restrictions were in place, campus life erupted. Classrooms, library spaces, study rooms and the Amex have been full all semester, and in-person events have become more frequent. But some students feel as though AUP's facilities and infrastructure weren't prepared for the influx of students that came in AUP's largest ever incoming class, and others have raised the question if AUP was prepared for the return of its entire student body.

The Amex Cafe, one of the most popular gathering spots on campus for students, is mostly full throughout the day, and during certain hours there is a line out the door. “Facilities-wise the campus hasn't gotten any bigger. The bathrooms are always super crowded and same with the Amex," said AUP Senior Kiera Roddy. She said she used to be able to go between classes to grab a snack, but throughout the Fall semester it felt unlikely she'd have enough time to do so.

Common spaces on campus are somewhat rare. In the Quai building, for example, students can study alone in many of the library's quiet spaces on the basement, ground, first, and second floors. However students looking to eat food brought on campus are limited to either lobbies, or the third, fourth, and eighth floors, all of which have secondary purposes, and which students can sometimes be asked to leave because of events or other activities that take priority in those spaces. The Amex doesn't allow students to bring food in from outside. 

“We really need a second cafe or something like that, because it's just unreasonable right now to go to the Amex between classes and think you're going to get a decent meal,” said Roddy. 

Students more broadly have said they've noticed increased pressure on and off campus as a result of what feels like more students present day-to-day.

Image Credit: Ava Castañeda

First-year students have also faced major housing issues this semester. For the fall 2022 semester, the housing department struggled to find rooms for all of the students who needed them, and many new arrivals were met with poor living conditions, unsafe neighborhoods, long commutes, or were told at the last minute that they would need to find housing for themselves. The housing department has also faced some turnover through the past semester, and has previously cited being understaffed as a problem they've dealt with.

Some think that the housing issues have meant students spend more time on campus, which adds to the problem of space at AUP. “Even if the student lives so far away and has a gap between classes there isn't enough time for them to go home, rest, and come back,” said first-year student Ayah Shayeb.

"Housing has been an issue for AUP for a long time," said AUP's President Sonya Stephens in an exclusive series of interviews with the Peacock. "I think we're not meeting expectations right now." 

Stephens said that AUP has been in the process of leasing housing sites to be managed by the university to reduce the amount of students who are housed in locations managed by other companies. With the acquisition of a new housing site, she said AUP is hoping to have 64% of first years housed in AUP-managed sites. 

"We are, in many ways, trying to build the staff and grow the program and serve you all as well as quickly as we can," Stephens said. "We know that we're falling short of expectations for some students particularly, and we're working hard on identifying what those are... so that we can begin to identify where the problems are, what the hotspots are, how we think about solving it, and move from that."

Students have also mentioned feeling a lack of space in class registration. During the spring registration period, some students said that classes they need for their majors or minors filled up quickly, and had to simply hope that they would either be able to enroll in those classes during the drop/add period, or wait until the next semester those classes are offered.

“It's really difficult getting the classes that you want and sometimes even need for your degree," said Roddy. "I feel like a lot of the time, me and friends and other students at AUP are disappointed with the class choices." This was cited as a common frustration from first years to graduate students. 

But Tim Rogers, AUP's Vice President & Director of Enrollment Management, said this isn't an issue, saying that the university is adequately equipped with educators and courses. "We're obviously acutely aware that sometimes people aren't happy. Universities seek to look after students as best they can, but none of these issues are new," he said. "It might feel new because there's maybe a larger number of students, but none of them are new."

Image Credit: Ava Castañeda

President Stephens said she wasn't aware of these issues, but said that one of her projects as AUP's new president has been to work with the provost and institutional research to understand the distribution of students and faculty across departments and majors to better understand enrollment patterns.

Students generally said they believe the administration has done a decent job at supporting the student body, but said they want to see how it will adapt to these concerns and complaints. When asked about these concerns and issues that have come as a result of growth in the student body, Rogers denied that there was an overwhelming influx in students. 

"Perhaps you don't recognize that we have a leadership team that discusses these and anticipates these kinds of issues all the way along," said Rogers. "So there are always plans in place to anticipate these kinds of changes and these kinds of issues and demands."

Rogers also said that, though the incoming student body was the largest it's ever been, making up just over half of the 1,174 students currently enrolled at AUP, the fall of 2018 AUP had a larger student body overall. "It's a regular year, it's just a little bigger than our best years."

Still, this wave of students has brought on positive energy to the environment on campus. “I like the environment, the space allowed for you to be independent and for you to pick your path, whether that is deciding where to eat for lunch or where I want to be after these four years," said first year Arianna Williams. "If I need help there are four to five people I can call up to who can help me and if they can’t answer my question there is someone they can direct me to. It is something I appreciate because it's something not a lot of schools have.” 

As the presence on campus has increased, so has the increase in student-led activities and clubs. Roddy explained that at first the upperclassmen were skeptical of this growth of students, yet with time they saw the benefits. “I think now that we've gotten a little bit more used to it, we're kind of seeing that it's actually a good thing because the clubs that we're participating in and things like that have a lot more, like, student involvement, which is great to see.”