University housing plan restructured due to budget cuts, many options still available

posted in: March 2015, Opinion | 0
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By Jake Baum, For the Mitzpeh, @JakeAtUMD

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Over winter break, this university began the process of restructuring its housing plan for the years to come. State-imposed budget cuts totaling about $15.6 million stunted the university’s ability to expand many of its assets, including, most importantly, the housing program.

Originally, the university’s plan was to continue its expansion into North Campus, replacing empty land with new dorms, a new diner and a whole new community. However, state budget cuts have raised tuition, stunted the university’s growth, and transformed the university’s plan on housing from expansion to contraction.

Along with these budget cuts came notices for rising juniors and seniors that they would, in fact, find it more difficult to partake in housing in residence halls come next semester.

The bad news? These upperclassmen have nowhere to go. The good news? As an English proverb once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and with this necessity of alternative housing options comes new apartment buildings to take their places.

First up: South Campus Commons. Ever since its establishment, Commons has been a haven for Jewish students as an apartment complex where keeping such Jewish ideals as Shabbat, kashrut and a general Jewish community have been as easy as ever. With your own kitchen, free Shabbat keys and a generally accepting religious atmosphere, what’s not to like?

However, there are some drawbacks. For example, sophomore biology major Ezra Schoen said that the rent, which is $820 a month and rising, the lack of included parking, and the 12-month lease period (as opposed to only the 10-month academic year) were some of his concerns, to name a few.

Next up: Domain. This relative newcomer (opened for fall 2013 semester) has quickly become a new Jewish institution, given its proximity to Hillel and the luxurious atmosphere it provides. The website itself claims simply that “from the world-class fitness center and resort-style pool, to the outdoor grilling area, cushy lounge, concierge service, and tech-savvy business center, you’re covered.”

But do all of these amenities live up to the hype? Sophomore psychology and criminology and criminal justice major Sara Wolf claims that for Jews, it hasn’t been a problem at all. She explained that without Shabbat keys and with motion sensor lighting, Shabbat is a “bit inconvenient but totally manageable.” Domain is catching up to Commons, and with its competitive pricing and more elegant presentation, the Jewish presence there will only continue to grow. Plus, it’s animal friendly!

Finally, the ultimate newbie: Landmark. This new establishment on the intersection of College Avenue and Baltimore Avenue promises on its website that, as “[the] perfect step from dorm life to independent living, Landmark gives students the freedom of their own apartment while still maintaining the communal spirit of UMD residence halls.” Because it is located on Route 1, it is a bit farther of a walk to Hillel than the others, but supposedly will match the Domain in amenities and price bargain.

Upperclassmen, after being essentially exempted from university housing options for next semester, still have quite a bit to look forward to. Where will you live come fall 2015?

Jake is a freshman international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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