Students housed on Commonwealth Ave. troubled by lack of communication and security


Elisa Figueras

Northeastern’s housing at 1110 Commonwealth Ave. is located two miles off campus.

Avery Bleichfeld, news staff

Maddie Campbell, a second-year mechanical engineering major, wanted to live with her friend so much that she agreed to move two miles off campus to Northeastern’s housing at 1110 Commonwealth Ave. By the summer, however, she was having second thoughts.

“We called housing numerous times, both of us on the phone with the people, and we were like, ‘We really don’t think this is a good idea,’” Campbell said. “We just came back from the year before and we really want to be on campus.’”

The housing office replied that if they wanted to live together, that was their only option. For Campbell, it was the beginning of a semester of lacking support from the housing office and issues that went beyond just the building’s distance from campus.

Campbell and her roommate Taraneh Azar, a second-year journalism and political science double major, said they were let down by poor communication about the size and cost of the apartment. The apartment was smaller than Azar and Campbell anticipated, and while the distant apartment was advertised as a way to save money, it was only slightly cheaper than other on-campus housing options, Azar said.

“A lot of things [about the residence at Commonwealth Avenue] were exaggerated or not made as clear as I think my roommate and I wished they would have been made,” Azar said.

One of the biggest issues for Azar was that the building is not owned by Northeastern, but by an outside housing management company called Alpha Management. This kept the university out of the loop when issues arose and made the chain of command “really hard to follow.” She said she worried that the school would dismiss an issue if she brought it to them.

The school maintains that students should speak to the Housing and Residential Life staff and facilities in order to fix maintenance issues, despite the outside ownership.

The situation left Azar and Campbell feeling powerless. Once, in the middle of the day, they received an email notification that someone was coming to check on their plumbing and was going to enter their room whether they were there or not.

Worried about their valuables and the idea of having strangers in their apartment, Campbell left in the middle of her class to make the half-hour commute back to the apartment.

“It ruined my entire day because I was so concerned about what was going on in my housing life that I didn’t have the opportunity to continue the rest of the day with my classes,” Campbell said.

Campbell was also disappointed by the residence’s general security, which she said was “not even present.” Azar said that the proctors there didn’t follow the same precautions as the ones in other residence halls.

“I would have friends who show up right in the lobby, right before the door that you need a key to enter the actual building, and they’d text me, ‘Hey, can you come down and key me in’ and then a minute later I’d get a text, ‘Oh, nevermind, they let me in. I’m on your floor,’” Azar said.

When they tried to address their concerns, Azar, Campbell and other students found few avenues to pursue the problems.

Campbell said that when a friend’s package went missing they went to the residence director to see if they could access the security camera footage to see what happened. The RD told them that the only way for Northeastern personnel to access the footage was if the Northeastern University Police Department opened a case. Campbell said the response was “extremely unsettling.”

Azar said she felt the cameras were part of a larger security system that seemed like it was more for appearances than anything else.

“There were a lot of precautions in place that seemed like they would keep students safe that in reality were just more show than anything,” Azar said. “Those cameras put a lot of other students’ minds at ease until we were told that the footage really was held by nobody that we could get in contact with.”

When Campbell reached out to her RA and RD about security concerns, she was told, “Well, there’s nothing we can do.”

Students at 1110 Commonwealth Ave. aren’t the only ones facing challenges with housing. In January, the ceiling of an apartment at 110 St. Stephen St. collapsed and a burst pipe in International Village caused flooding. For transfer students like Holly Christensen, a third-year computer science and design major, on-campus housing wasn’t even an option.

Christensen said that when she first applied, the housing office initially said that it was unlikely she would get on-campus housing. The school later notified her that she, and all the other transfer students, wouldn’t be offered housing at all, which Christensen said was frustrating.

Jessamyn Ingram, a second-year environmental engineering major and transfer student, said the school told her from the start that she would not be offered housing. It left her feeling unsure about her situation.

“I guess [I felt] a little bit disappointed, … but I knew that I wanted to go here and so I was like, ‘I’m going to figure it out,’” Ingram said.

Though Northeastern did not offer on-campus housing, Ingram said the school did provide support in helping her find another place to live. There is a website to help transfer students find roommates and offers potential apartment listings, though Ingram said most were out of date.

Ingram was also given an opportunity to attend workshops and seminars on finding off-campus housing, and the Off-campus Housing Service read students’ leases to make sure they weren’t getting cheated by landlords or signing a bad lease.

Campbell also found some measure of support. When Azar left for a co-op in New York, Campbell got the chance to move to a residence on St. Stephen Street.

“I was able to go to the housing office and talk to somebody about it face-to-face and for once they actually made the process fairly simple,” Campbell said. “But it seems like the housing process at this school is not simple at all.”