NSU students react to staying in hotels not on-campus

NORFOLK, Va. – So far this school year, NSU sophomore Gabriel Ingram, 19, says he’s been living in the Quality Suites hotel even though he’s paying to live in the dorms.

“I feel like it’s unfair because we’re paying to be on campus and we’re not on campus,” Ingram said. “This year, I would have been moved into the upperclassmen dorms. I wanted to be on campus for my sophomore experience.”

Ingram isn’t alone.

University leaders told News 3 that about 300 of their students are staying in nearby hotels.

Some students say this is not the college life they were expecting or wanting.

Twins and juniors Kashaun and Kapri Gaines have been living in the Quality Suites and Sleep Inn for the last two weeks.

“We get free breakfast so that’s cool but it’s kind of crammed,” said Kashaun Gaines. “We had to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff because there’s no closet space. The bathroom is pretty tiny.”

NSU sends an email to students just weeks before the start of classes. It said they’re relocating the roughly 300 upperclassmen to nearby hotels after a high demand for on-campus housing.

They said the major shake-up, however, is because one of its freshmen dorms, Babbette Hall’s north tower, is closed for renovations.

Dr. Leonard Brown Jr. is the VP for Student Affairs at NSU. I said the project has been planned for the last year.

Dr. Brown added that some students could be at hotels until December or until the end of the school year in May.

News 3 reporter Antoinette DelBel asked, “What do you say to those students who say they’re paying for tuition, and should be able to stay on campus?”

Dr. Brown said, “We understand there might be some inconvenience and frustration by students, but as we do with all students, we want to work with students to make sure their experience is the best we can manage given the situation.”

For safety reasons, NSU could not disclose what hotels the upperclassmen are staying at.

But at the Quality Suites and Sleep Inn in Norfolk, some students say the experience has not been great.

“The hotel they put us in, they haven’t been cleaned or upkept,” Ingram said. “People are seeing roaches, holes in the wall.”

Dr. Brown said they’re addressing concerns.

“We have staff at the hotels and we have been responding to specific concerns that have been raised,” he said.

Others don’t mind staying in a hotel, including sophomore Lahmia Shields.

“I actually don’t like being around everyone especially with me trying to focus this year,” said Shields. “Being in a hotel is good for me because I study on campus and go back to my hotel and chill.”

For those without a car, a shuttle is bringing them to class. However, even Shields and others admit, being six and a half miles away from campus is inconvenient.

“And don’t have a car. Taking the shuttle, sometimes it would be off schedule, so you might be late to your class sometimes, or have to wake up earlier than you’re used to,” said NSU Junior Kapri Gaines.

Gaines’ twin brother says he has a car but would rather be on campus to save money.

“Gas is high,” said Kashaun Gaines. “I have a car I’m driving but gas is high and the traffic.”

NSU leaders say they’ll bring students back as space opens up.

Many of them are hoping that happens soon.

“I really hope everyone gets to have that campus experience because right now it’s kind of hectic,” said Shields.

NSU sent a statement that read:

“The Fall semester enrollment at Norfolk State University is nearing a four-year high. This is a testament that the value of a Norfolk State University education is on the rise. While we are excited about our enrollment, it has intersected with a strategic decision to improve the air quality systems in two of our major residential facilities on campus. While this renovation was being structured, our plans always included provisions to have students in local hotels which we have partnered with in the past to house students. We have made the appropriate arrangements at the hotels to include professional staff, security, and shuttles back and forth from campus. As spaces become available on campus, we are working to transition students back to campus, but we did anticipate having approximately 300 students at the hotels this year. As always, we are committed to continuously work with students to meet their needs as they arise, and we look forward to completing the renovations this academic year and being at full capacity on campus next Fall. Our students will experience a better quality of student life as a result of these renovations.

“For safety reasons, we will not share the name or location of the hotels we are using.”

This isn’t the first time NSU has had students stay in hotels. In 2017, the university did not have enough on-campus housing and had to book dozens of rooms.

“There are some years where we do have a high demand for housing,” Brown said. “Some students – because we have a high demand – begin the year out at the hotels, but then we find space for them on campus. This is a very different situation. We have an opportunity to improve our residential facilities.”

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