This semester, NYU Shanghai experienced a great number of study aways than ever before. Consequently, the Jin Qiao dorms could no longer house all of the students enrolled at NYU Shanghai and on November 21st, NYU Shanghai Residential Life sent an email to the student body detailing the new dorm they were going to open in Lao Xi Men.
BASE, is the first dorm the school has opened in Puxi, so many students found themselves excited with the prospect of being able to live on the other side of the river. However, the addition of this new dorm has come to face its own set of challenges.
The BASE building, as described by residential life in their initial email, is a co-living space that was adding serviced apartments to their new Lao Xi Men address. Located at 567 Xizang Nan road and directly on top of the Lao Xi Men subway station, the location proved ideal in terms of convenience and proximity to one of Shanghai’s cultural hubs, XinTianDi. The school decided to lease 52 of the co-living rooms, similar to a dorm style room, in BASE, providing an additional 99 beds to the Jin Qiao residence.
The co-living rooms would feature singles, standard doubles, large doubles, and doubles as singles. Each room would have its own private bathroom, and like Jin Qiao there would be a communal kitchen on every floor. The school was not offering a shuttle bus from the BASE residence to campus. Students could submit a room request form on OrgSync noting which rooms they would want to move to.
In early December, students received confirmation regarding their BASE placement and were required to move all of their belongings out of their Jin Qiao rooms before they left for winter break. The school provided storage for everyone’s belongings in Tower 2 of the Jin Qiao residence community.
However, on January 8th, only ten days before study away students were due in Shanghai, Associate Dean of Students David Pe sent out another email informing students that the co-living spaces the university had leased for the spring semester were still under construction and would not be ready for the quickly approaching move in date. The solution was to move all the students into BASE’s serviced apartments, which are all one or two bedroom, and convert the living spaces in double rooms. The converted doubles are separated from the kitchen by a partition.
There are currently around sixty students leaving in BASE, with only around eight to ten being NYU Shanghai portal students. Every single student is living in a converted apartment.
Pe and Dean of Students Charlene Visconti were integral faculty members in the selection of the new dorm. During the consideration process, the most important criteria came down to cost and size.
“We didn’t want to create this huge disparity between what we already offered and this new dorm. We didn’t want it to be this drastic difference,” Pe said.
The faculty decided to test out Puxi because they have heard from students every year that they wanted an option in Puxi. This limited the options for a few reasons; namely being close to a convenient subway station and making sure NYU Public Safety measures and crisis response could be carried out the way it is in Jin Qiao. Visconti also noted that the new dorm had to be close to a twenty four hour hospital that met the university’s standards.
With BASE being directly on top of the Lao Xi Men subway station and fifteen minutes away from Shanghai East hospital, the signs were all pointing in the right direction.
“BASE hit all those criteria. In terms of a being close to a subway line, you weren’t going to be able to get much better than literally walking out your door and having it be right there. It also couldn’t get much better as a cultural hub with being so close to XinTianDi,” Pe added.
In mid-December, the school begun to see the construction delays. Pe had gone back to the building for a check up, in which the vendor again promised the building would be ready in time. With the paperwork and inspections protocols in Shanghai constantly changing and getting delayed, come January, the building was not going to be ready in its original setup.
“By the time that we had realized there was nothing we could do to get our co-living spaces sped up, the original plan, they provided the alternative plan that they would temporarily house students and then move people once BASE co-living rooms were done,” Pe said.
However, he did not deem this a viable solution. No one wanted to force students to pick up and move again in the middle of a semester. The only thing they could do was provide the serviced apartments, but due to the fact that the cost of these units was much higher than the co-living arrangement, the university had to configure the living situation the way they did.
Many students have complained about the converted double room. Often they remark that there is no privacy and that living in a common space separated by nothing more than a flimsy bamboo partition is not anywhere close to what they were promised. However, this was not the school’s original plan.
“I mean, first off, I don’t think the situation was as dire or severe as everyone else made it,” said Stern sophomore Patrick Wu. “I get that it’s pretty upsetting to literally have to live in a living room with zero privacy, especially when we were promised much better circumstances. I’m not placing all of the blame on them, but they definitely could have done a better job.”
“We had wanted to convert the single bedroom into a double, but the problem with BASE is that the furniture is fixed. There was nothing we could do, they wouldn’t allow for us to remove the bed in the bedroom because it would damage the property since we are only there for a temporary semester. They said it would have undermined construction, so we had to come up with a solution that was movable,” Pe continued.
In terms of feedback, most students’ issues lay with the fact that the notification of the room changes came so late. Pe noted though that as unfortunate as it is, it’s part of Chinese construction.
“They can get something up literally in the next day or it will take them forever to get something up, you just don’t know,” Pe said.
Pe added that obviously people would have wanted more notification, and of course the school wanted more notification too, but it was out of their control.
He also wanted to add that this configuration with the beds in the living room isn’t anything new; a few of the dorms in the New York Campus are laid out very similarly. Pe noted the key difference was that these apartments were labeled as “studios,” in which the whole apartment is really one big open concept space.
“I think if I had labelled it as a studio, the perception would have been different. I think the whole converted double thing really confused students,” Pe said.
Visconti went on to add that when this happened, the school explained the situation, lowered the cost, and did whatever they could to make it better. She, Pe, and Residential Life Staff Eli Berk-Rauch met with any students that wanted to voice complaints. From her perspective, the biggest complaint was that students felt they didn’t get what they were promised.
She wants to remind students that the university didn’t get what it was promised either.
“There’s just no way to address that. This isn’t what we wanted, but we also don’t believe this is substandard housing either,” Visconti said.
This article was written by Isabel Adler. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Maya Williams