Op-ed: Northeastern must address the overcrowding problem


Marta Hill

Students crowded near Curry Student Center learning about campus clubs and organizations. There were more than 350 organizations represented at Fall Fest.

Rachel Umansky-Castro, contributor

Northeastern students have noticed the overwhelming number of students on campus this past year. Classes are getting more crowded, dining halls are busier, residence mail takes longer and housing is more cramped than ever before.

Though others may feel that having new faces on campus is socially beneficial, for the community as a whole, there is a lot more to consider. 

Last semester, Northeastern struggled to find enough space to house all the incoming students. The on-campus housing was not nearly enough for the first-year class, including N.U.in Boston students as well. Northeastern had to invest in sending students to local hotels: the Sheraton Boston Hotel, the Midtown Hotel and the Westin Copley Place.  In doing so, Northeastern is ignoring the first-year experience and proving there is not enough capacity for the entire student population.   

Housing is required for first and second-year students, yet there is no true guarantee of on-campus housing for even first-year students anymore if they’re living in hotels away from the primary student population. It’s one thing for a program like N.U.in Boston to house an increased amount of students in hotels as a temporary solution to the pandemic. However it is inconvenient and unacceptable to have students that have enrolled in a university that markets having on-campus housing for first-year students living in hotels, especially ones such a large distance from classes. The housing is not new, however the pandemic has exacerbated it significantly. Northeastern is recognized for having a campus within the city, which draws the attention of many high school students. In fact, this is one of the features of our school that the admissions department actively markets. This aspect of Northeastern should therefore be prioritized and honored, which is currently not possible due to this prominent overcrowding. 

Admissions is a major contributor to this issue. A primary reason for this increased number of applicants may be the very easy application process. Northeastern University requires no supplements and is test-optional; therefore more high school students feel that they have a better chance of being accepted. It is certainly less stressful than other top universities since only submitting the Common Application essay is required. 

The Scope reported last fall that, “Northeastern received 75,233 applications for Fall 2021, a 17% jump from the 64,428 applications seen the previous year.”

With all of these applicants, Northeastern is shifting from a small to midsize university to a larger population. 

This is a noticeable change. It can take 10 minutes to find a table at the dining hall during dinner, retrieving mail is an arduous process and despite COVID-19 transmission still being an issue for students, there is no wellness housing.

There is still a need for those infected to quarantine, regardless of how an individual feels about the threat of COVID-19. Northeastern, however, is no longer providing this support. According to an article Kayla Shiao wrote for The News, “Instead of the wellness housing used in the past, students who test positive for COVID-19 in the spring will isolate in their dorms or off-campus housing.” This coincides with the return of students abroad for the N.U.in program, creating an even more critical situation.

While contracting COVID-19 can obviously be very dangerous for immunocompromised students, missing class can also be a serious consequence if you become sick from a roommate. With limited space, the administration made the call to use every bit of housing available, but this is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

In addition, as of Feb. 9 Northeastern lifted their no-non-northeastern-guest policy in residence halls. Though many students are thrilled that their friends can now sleepover in their dorms, this only contributes to the overcrowding challenges Northeastern faces. Students already stressed their concerns that the residential halls are filled to capacity, and are now interacting with people from outside the Northeastern community as well.

In addition, the mask mandate was lifted on the Boston campus Saturday, March 5, allowing students, faculty, staff, visitors and contract employee to have the option to not wear masks indoors.

Perhaps Northeastern University should take note of the current overcrowding on campus. Hundreds of first-year students are having their experience seriously impacted, as well as upperclassmen who have reduced access to resources because of the growing number of other students on campus. Even though it may seem exciting to have a large campus with a bustling student population, Northeastern will be much safer and be able to offer a more well-rounded, marketable experience to their students if there is a more strategic application process in order to select fewer students. 

Rachel Umansky-Castro is a first-year combined major in criminal justice and journalism. She can be reached at [email protected].