Oct 16th, 2020, 11:06 PM

Backlash Over AUP Housing

By Oscar Padula
AUP freshmen outside Citadines La Défense. Image Credit: Oscar Padula
Some AUP freshmen are frustrated with this semester's hotel-based housing accommodations.

AUP has stirred up controversy among the freshman class by providing housing conditions described as lackluster, crowded and lacking basic essentials like food. Unpreparedness has left AUP scrambling to rework housing options for next semester, and freshmen are anxious for change.

Over the summer, AUP remodeled the Fall 2020 housing options for new incoming students, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The former partnership with Blue Stripe Living disbanded, a new contract with four hotels — Le Fiap, Mode Aparthotel, Hotel de la Motte Picquet and the Citadines in La Défense — was enacted as a last-minute replacement for an apartment complex still under construction, Levallois-Perret.

"I don't know where or when the communication did not go well or if it was intentional," Vice President and Dean of Student Services Marc Montheard explained in an interview. The Dean clarified that the move to the Citadines hotel was to avoid the risk of Levallois-Perret being incomplete for the Fall semester. He emphasized that the partnership with the hotels was to enact safety measures against COVID-19, by providing housing with cleaning services and flexibility. "We had serious doubts about having sometimes up to six students in an apartment with one or two bathrooms," the Dean stated in regards to the previous housing situation with Blue Stripe Living, a housing provider for students abroad. Montheard further described housing as "an impossible win-win situation," and acknowledged that students will always have complaints.

AUP freshmen outside Citadines La Défense. Image Credit: Oscar Padula

Freshmen residing at the Citadine, like Michelle Courtois, have been generally optimistic, even remarking that the hotel was "better than I expected, it's a nice area." But along with other freshman residences, Courtois has complained about the AUP First-Year Housing Policy's restrictions on moving furniture. She explained that upon her and her roommate's arrival in Paris, they discovered that they would be sharing a small bedroom with two twin beds pushed together to configure a queen size. Although they were uncomfortable sleeping right next to each other, they were obliged to sign an AUP policy that prohibited students from moving furniture at the risk of punishment by "university sanctions or, in serious cases, removal from AUP housing."

Kajois Oržekauskas, another freshman resident, faced the same problem with his roommate, recalling that "the student advisor told us it was a mistake on their part and we don't have to have our beds pushed together," because lots of people had complained. 

The Dean says that his "impression was that everybody was told that they could move their beds without penalty." Freshmen students recently received an email, four weeks into the semester, that officially clarified that students' beds could "absolutely be moved apart."

Student beds pushed together. Image Credit: Oscar Padula

Conflicts at Le Fiap are ongoing. Anna Post, a resident, says that the "Fiap doesn't allow food to be taken upstairs and you cannot bring food into the apartments during the week," including takeout food and even groceries. Montheard says that the hotel has this rule in place to avoid "pests" such as rats. Le Fiap instead provides a food service, which was limited to a pastry breakfast and a lunch option. The dinner option has only recently become available.

The Dean said that AUP was not initially "aware that the food service wouldn't be complete" and would not include a dinner option, because AUP negotiated the contract with Le Fiap while the hotel was still closed and had not made any changes to its catering service. As the issue is still happening, he clarified that Le Fiap "has made an effort," and now offers food in the lobby bar from 3 -10 p.m. Montheard himself has visited the hotel and said the dinner option was present and included a selection between a meat, fish and a vegetarian dish. He further questioned the staff on how many of the residences eat at the hotel, to which they told him about half. One notable concern in the whole debacle was that Le Fiap was one of the cheaper housing options and students who may not have the budget to eat out every night must now completely rely on the severely limited hotel services. The Dean openly admitted that Le Fiap is the least successful partner and is still continuing to work with the hotel to solve the issue.

AUP is scrambling to figure out plans for the Spring semester and work towards providing adequate long term housing. Students upset with their living situations will soon be able to access the AUP housing database and select an apartment of their choice. For now, both the school and students will have to continue to rework the conflict and make do with the current housing situation.