I am writing in response to the recent editorial, “Student Concerns re: Residence Hall;” the related article in the New York Post; and subsequent reactions on social media and among the larger Juilliard community. I hope to provide some useful background and contextual information regarding the decision to close the residence hall over the winter break, which was made a year ago. First of all, since this is the first time I am addressing readers of The Citizen-Penguin, I assume some may not know me, and those who do may not be aware that I have recently taken on a new role within the school. As Associate Dean for Student Development, I broadly oversee the offices of Residence Life, Student Affairs, International Advisement, and the Marks Center (where I was stationed most recently as director).
My Student Development colleagues and I are encouraged by the empathy that the author and undersigned citizens have shown for their fellow students, and by the active willingness to speak out in support. I recognize that the decision is unpopular, and I will not be able to allay every concern with this response. However, I would like to attempt to clarify a few of the more critical implications that seem to have caused confusion.
The decision to close the residence hall was made last winter, and the Residence Life staff began reaching out to students who had stayed in the hall over the previous winter break on March 21. Subsequent notifications were sent to all students informing them of the closure prior to reapplication and room selection. New students were also informed that the residence hall would not be open during the break prior to their enrollment. This was not a surprise announcement made just a few weeks before the break.
It is true that last winter about 15 students requested late departures or early arrivals, and a smaller subset of that group requested housing for the entire break. Historically, the majority of residents who have remained in the city over the break have opted to stay with friends, family, or fellow students. Services and amenities during this time are few. The dining hall, health and counseling services, and the fitness center have always been closed over the break, and the school building is also closed for the holidays.
While a number of students, alumni, and friends have rallied online to offer housing assistance to impacted students in the wake of these publications, the residence life staff has received an extremely small number of requests for housing extensions since this decision was rendered and, in every case, those students were able to find reasonable housing accommodations. While this may remain a point of contention or inconvenience, I feel it is important to note that an overwhelming need for winter housing from our residents has certainly not been expressed to us directly.
We know that living in NYC is expensive and complicated, and maintaining a high rise on the Upper West Side is no exception. The residence hall has been open year-round for many years. In addition to the academic year, we provide housing for a number of summer programs for Juilliard as well as external organizations in an effort to generate revenue and minimize increases to cost for Juilliard students. This means we rarely have the opportunity to do building-wide assessments of infrastructure or even take a comprehensive inventory of aesthetic needs. We want to improve the residence hall, and closing the building while school is not in session gives us the opportunity to make strategic plans and substantive changes.
The decision to close was not made lightly, and we were aware that some students might be adversely impacted. We tried to get the word out about this change early and repeatedly, and we have done our best to assist any students who have come to us with their concerns.
The Student Development staff will be hosting community forums, distributing surveys, and asking for your feedback in the coming months about a host of issues. We strongly encourage you to work with us to help make our school a better place. While not all concerns can be addressed 100 percent of the time, we can guarantee that your voices will always be heard. Not every decision that we make as an institution will be popular, but we assure you that we value our students’ perspective and input. My door is open and my inbox is ready. Please never hesitate to speak to me or any of my colleagues if you have a concern. We will do our best to provide you with accurate information, listen, and lend support.