UMass surveys students on dorms

UMass-Boston officials took another step closer to bringing dorms to Columbia Point, blasting out a survey to students to gauge interest in campus housing. Administered by the independent consulting firm Brailsford Dunlavey, the survey started on Friday and closes today.

“The University of Massachusetts Boston is evaluating the status of introducing new on-campus housing,” said Patrick Day, vice chancellor of student affairs in an e-mail pointing students and faculty to the survey. “One of the key components of this undertaking is to hear from faculty and staff about how housing options could be structured to better meet the needs of current and future students.”

The 97-question survey, which the university paid $10,500 for, questions students on how interested they are in housing; how easy it has been to find off-campus housing; whether they’ve visited Harbor Point and Peninsula Apartments, where some students already live; how much they would be willing to pay for rent; and the length of their current commute. Within the first three days, 1,300 people have responded, Day said.

“We needed all these to understand the needs of our students,” Day told the Reporter this week.

The results are expected next month and will likely be made public, UMass officials said. The results of a previous student survey taken years ago is out-of-date, they added.

The survey has a question involving a map of Columbia Point and Savin Hill, with three rings marking the first quarter mile from campus, a half a mile, and a mile – including one that reaches out to Savin Hill. The question asks how far from campus students would be willing to live from campus.

Day said the question was “not speaking to specify an area but a distance.” There are no plans to move the proposed site for dorms from where it is now, on the north side of the campus, near Mt. Vernon St.

Some in the Columbia-Savin Hill area have long opposed dormitories, saying they will change both the character of the neighborhood and the blue-collar campus. UMass officials have long maintained that the university will remain a commuter-based campus.

Officials also stress that dorms remain years away, while saying they do not have a specific time frame, aside from 2,000 beds by the end of the campus’s 25-year plan. The current focus, they say, is on academic buildings, including the Edward Kennedy Institute on the Study of the Senate, a science complex, and an academic center where the tennis courts used to be.

Day said the “door is always open to consideration” of entering into a deal with Peninsula II Apartments to turn one of the privately-owned apartment buildings into university-run dorms. But plans fell through as attention was turned to find academic space as enrollment ballooned past 15,000 students.