As first-year housing meets demand, Ritsumeikan returns to upper-year students for upcoming year

As first-year housing manages to accommodate all first-year residence applicants for the upcoming winter session, Ritsumeikan-UBC House is returning to upper-year students. But this might not be a permanent change.

According to Andrew Parr, managing director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS), Ritsumeikan was originally built for upper-year students. But when UBC started guaranteeing on-campus housing for first-year students, Ritsumeikan and other upper-year residences like Walter Gage were opened up in response to the increased demand.

With the recent openings of Orchard Commons and Totem Park’s c̓əsnaʔəm House that provide 1,050 and 354 new beds respectively, UBC’s traditional first-year residences — Place Vanier, Totem Park and Orchard Commons — now have enough capacity to accommodate all first-year residence applicants for the upcoming year.

As a result, Ritsumeikan is “back on the marketplace for upper-year students.”

“First-year students can still have that ‘live on campus’ experience in a traditional first-year environment, but opening up as much of our inventory to upper-year students as well is critical since we know upper-year students want housing that we often can’t accommodate because of our waitlists,” he said.

But “nothing is permanent” because SHHS has to review the number of applicants before deciding each year.

Beside the waitlist aspect, Parr also noted that Ritsumeikan is more fitting for upper-year students because of its “slightly more independent environment,” while first-year students would benefit more from a “community-oriented” residence.

“[Ritsumeikan] has suites with independent kitchens and private bedrooms and bathrooms for three or four students, so it’s really designed for upper-year students,” he said.

“We believe a first-year experience is best in an environment where it’s very community-oriented and there are lots of shared services, such as shared facilities, bathrooms, floor lounges where students can come together. The dining experience, we think, is an important first-year experience where you have a meal plan and you meet new friends in the dining room and socialize.”

But for some first-year residence applicants, Ritsumeikan’s independent environment was what drew them to make the house their top choice in the first place.

“Not everyone that goes in their first year is a social kind of person,” said Reddit user yameri_. “They’d probably do better stress-wise if they have their own privacy and they have their own food.”

Reddit user aborthon commented that if they had known Ritsumeikan was unavailable to first-years, they would have explored other living options off-campus.

While both are disappointed at not getting their first choice, their main point of contention is not being notified earlier. They also noted that they did not find any explicit or implicit reference to Ritsumeikan being for only upper-years on SHHS’s website.

“I just feel like it’s a little unfair that first-year students are forced to move into residences where they have to buy meal plans,” Reddit user aborthon said. “It’s not mainly that however, I’m just annoyed that I wasn’t notified beforehand — and I wouldn’t have even known if I hadn’t contacted [SHHS] back.”

Parr confirmed that first-year residence applicants who applied to Ritsumeikan would be notified when they received their actual room assignment, which would be “in the next month or so.”

But he added that SHHS’s websites “show a clear delineation” between traditional first-year residences and upper-year housing. On their pages, the main visible difference is that Totem Park, Place Vanier and Orchard Commons all say that they are for students “new to UBC,” while Ritsumeikan does not.

“Occasionally, we need to react to that first-year guarantee and put up Ritsumeikan and parts of Gage as first-year residence,” Parr said.

“But that’s more against the norm ... the norm would be that Ritsumeikan and Walter Gage would be used for upper-year students.”