Most housing problems at Cal State Northridge--including $2 million in rent defaults, low occupancy rates and student safety concerns--can be attributed to a dramatic increase in dorm units on campus, the university's new director of housing said.
"The organization of housing services did not grow as fast as the buildings . . . it just happened," said S. Roger Frichette, who left a similar post at Cal State Los Angeles to work at Northridge.
He said he hopes to draw on his 19 years of experience in managing student housing at universities to solve CSUN's problems.
Frichette said things were in "good shape" at Cal State Los Angeles, where he had worked since 1984, and that he was "looking for a new challenge" when he accepted the CSUN job. Previously, he was a campus housing official at Oregon State University for 14 years.
At CSUN, student housing increased from 700 to 3,000 beds between 1987 and 1991, he said. Now, the university can house about 10% of its more than 30,000 students on campus. However, the dorm vacancy rate is 35% this semester.
Frichette said he has started a task force that includes resident advisers to examine all aspects of dorm safety. The task force will recommend solutions to problems such as how to avoid incidents like a recent shooting in a dormitory parking lot where students had congregated after a dance was closed down, he said.
No one was injured in the shooting, which occurred after a fight between two students.
As for rent defaults, CSUN now has an employee who works full time collecting past-due payments, Frichette said.
In addition, if a person hasn't paid within eight days of the due date, a past-due notice is sent, he said. "If they don't respond within five days of the notice, a final notice is sent."
If the occupant still does not respond, eviction proceedings begin, and a hold is put on all the student's records. Any state tax refunds to which the student is entitled are sent to CSUN housing services until the debt is paid.
Frichette said low occupancy rates are a nationwide problem on college campuses. He said he will attempt to retain current residents because they "are the best potential occupants for next year. . . . We are striving for at least a 50% retention rate."