NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) – Wednesday was the first day of classes for the fall semester at Tennessee State University, but for some students the first day and the days before were stressful with housing issues.
The students expressed frustration at another semester in which the university accepted more students than it could accommodate. Complaints from students and parents ranged from insufficient student space to student safety.
“I was very disappointed because TSU was my best school. And I was really excited; I was really excited to see Kelsey, excited to see people in the group chats. Being here just made me want to leave,” said Lyberti Chandler, a freshman at the university who drove 6 hours from Ohio on move-in day
Moving-in day is usually exciting for students, especially freshmen. However, for freshmen Lyberti Chandler and Kelsey Watkins, that excitement was short-lived when they received an email from the university last week asking if they would elect to add a third roommate in their dorm , which can only accommodate two people .
“That creates a fire hazard and also not enough space for the third person to put away like our clothes, she doesn’t have a desk, she doesn’t have a closet, no space for a fridge or microwave so there are a lot of problems with that.” , said Chandler. “It was just really frustrating. I literally cried. I literally told Kelsey I was like how do we go about it with a third person in here,” she added.
“As she said, it would be a security risk. And we are in the middle of a pandemic. We still have Covid; We still have monkeypox. So my concern was both my health and my mental health because I have very high levels of anxiety,” said Kelsey Watkins, a freshman from Memphis. “This is a big transition into college and I’m literally having the hardest time right now. I couldn’t do it with a third person,” she added.
Both students told WSMV 4 that they don’t understand why the university continues to take students without places. Watkins said there is no room for a third person in her dorm, but a few dormitories on campus might have room.
“I personally feel like we’re probably in one of the smallest dorms on campus. So for the rooms like Hell Hall, their rooms are big. The new dormitories are equipped with bunk beds. So I’m pretty sure there’s room elsewhere. So why would we force ourselves to be in such a compact space,” Watkins said.
“I’m a biology major. One of the greatest things was that I was studying in the library or being in the room. Me and you have a quiet place; We built a relationship to know that some of us; If we need space, we can give it to them. And with a third person, my education is compromised,” Chandler said.
Aside from the lack of space on campus, some students have raised safety concerns about the off-campus housing the university has at its disposal.
TSU officials said there are five hotels that the university uses for overflow housing. And students sent pictures of student cars being broken into at one of the off-campus residences.
“It’s a lot for me. Leaving my kid somewhere and making them uncomfortable,” said John Gibbs, who spoke to WSMV of St. Louis. “Classes started today and she still seems unhappy and dissatisfied with her circumstances. For the first two years she lived in a dormitory. Had people there, security, and it was a much more comfortable environment to walk away and say goodbye to a child than leaving them in a hotel that didn’t feel safe,” Gibbs added.
Gibbs said he and his daughter, a junior at the university, drove from St. Louis to check her into the hotel before the semester started.
“For me it was just a debacle. They had no wear; the little carts you had to carry your luggage because you knew your students had plenty. And I was walking through the hotel and they were building at the same time,” Gibbs said.
He said his daughter told him about the car break-ins and that it added to the pre-existing safety concerns he had about his daughter.
“The environment I saw there was more than just students in the hotels checked and I don’t know what kind of hotel it was. From what I’ve seen, it wasn’t too flavorful,” Gibbs said. “It just doesn’t seem conducive for a student to be able to learn and pay attention to what they’re doing. The next day she told me that 7 students’ cars were broken into. What an environment this is for someone who wants to learn,” he added.
Amid all the concerns, both students and parents said they could not ask anyone at the university for help.
“My father called six times. They separated the phone liens. So he left voicemails. He left three voicemails. My grandmother also left three voicemails and called three times, my dad also sent two emails and no one answered him,” Chandler said.
“It’s almost impossible to get in touch with anyone about the issues we’re having with housing,” Watkins said.
“I’ve called the number she gave me and left messages a few times and I still haven’t heard from anyone,” Gibbs said.
The freshmen said the faculty was friendly and the people were warm and welcoming when they came to the university.
“You were brought into an atmosphere like this that will definitely be home to me, and when you get here it’s not the same,” Watkins said.
The university president spent the night in one of the hotel’s overflow lodgings to address security concerns.
Tosin Fakile of WSMV 4 requested an interview with the university administration on Wednesday, but was told that the administration was busy because it was the first day of classes.
In a statement, the university said it is facing unprecedented demand for on-campus housing due to the large number of incoming first graders and the high cost of housing in Nashville.
Here is a copy of that full statement:
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