Future uncertain for off campus housing

By Gus Bode

Housing Policy may close rental businesses

Each step echoes in silence. Passing the closed doors of vacant rooms, one can catch the faint whisper of laughter and joy that not too long ago, filled the air.

You can no longer feel the liveliness that once existed in this vast, empty space.


Stevenson Arms, University Hall and other off-campus dwellings are far from this haunting existence. They are full of life and people. They are nothing like this – not yet.

At the beginning of the summer, University Housing passed a new policy requiring all freshmen to live on campus and freed sophomores from prior restrictions, thus eliminating the market for which many of the businesses thrive.

University Hall, a dormitory-style building, typical of those built in the 1960s, has the capacity to house 450 students. Since most of the rooms are rented as singles, it currently houses more than 200 SIUC students, at least half of which are freshmen.

“I don’t know how any business could survive losing 50 percent of their customers,” said Jeff Woodruff, owner and manager of University Hall.

Stevenson Arms, the other freshman-accepted living center, also has an unknown fate. Freshmen make up 90 percent of its residence, according the manager Stan Lieber, who also owns Garden Park Aces, which is sophomore-approved.

Edward Jones, director of University Housing, said the businesses were taken into account while discussing the policy change, but it was decided restricting freshman to campus life would be the best possible solution to a number of problems.

Jones had also said the new housing policy would rid the University of an “uncomfortable situation.” Buildings are licensed as approved off-campus housing. Since they carry this label, students and parents assume SIUC has jurisdiction over these establishments. While many do follow Jones’ recommendations, they are not obligated.


At times, University Housing has its hands tied in such situations, only able to bear the brunt end of parents’ anger.

“People assume that because they carry the name ‘approved housing,’ that we inspect them and have some form of control over them; that is not the case,” Jones said.

While Woodruff says he knows of no case where the University has intervened on behalf of the student, and he believes that if problems persist, the University should deal with the individual owner, rather than, in essence, punishing everyone.

However, Jones stands by his belief that restricting freshmen to campus is best for the students and the University.

Woodruff also said he believes owners were not given the proper time to prepare for the switch. With the new policy slated to go into effect next fall, approved housing has little more than a year to brace itself for impact.

Lieber said the decision was made in mid-June, before the summer semester even began. Notification was also sent out mid-July. Undergraduate Student Government senators weren’t able to discuss the implications.

“There was no warning,” Woodruff said. “We didn’t even have the chance to talk [with University officials] about the change.

Woodruff, who has a long-standing history with SIUC as both a student and booster, considers this basically a slap in the face.

The former president of the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce, Woodruff formed what is now the Saluki Pride Committee, which raises thousands of dollars for the University.

He has also served on the SIU President’s Council Board, a fund-raising group and has made numerous contributions to Saluki track and football.

By enacting this policy, the University is essentially shutting him down.

University Housing officials said the new policy would boost retention and promote academic excellence.

Jamie Wenzel, a senior in business and third-year resident of University Hall, questioned why the University feels on-campus living is better.

“Wendler and Jones have never even come to U-Hall,” he said. “How do they know University Housing is better, if they’ve never looked at the competition?”

Kristina Dawson, a resident adviser for University Hall, said with the exception of a few, students at University Hall do well in their classes.

Woodruff said that if it is not good enough, the University should tell them and provide them an opportunity to remedy the situation, rather than close them down.

Though not all approved-housing will go out of business, the road ahead looks bumpy.

Bonnie Owen of Bonnie Owen Management, which owns two sophomore-approved off-campus dwellings, said she has not had the time to calculate the damage the new policy will have on her business, but it will definitely have an impact.

“I will have to change my marketing strategy,” she said. “Creekside and Grand Place are apartment-style buildings, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to fill them.”

Reporter Katie A. Davis can be reached at [email protected]