College Housing Northwest(CHNW) was the subject of much debate at Wednesday’s student senate meeting. The meeting held quorum from start to finish, and all agenda items were covered, much to the delight of senate President Emily Garrick.
Senator Dimitris Desyllas introduced the topic of student housing, and a 20-minute discussion followed which included members of the overflowing crowd.
The concerns addressed by Desyllas have already received attention from the Vanguard, and include overcharging and shady management practices.
Desyllas and others feel that the student-run, no-profit organization is lining its pockets at the expense of PSU students. He pointed at the $155,000 annual salary of the president to emphasize his case.
“The president of College Housing Northwest makes more (money) than the president of PSU,” he said.
Desyllas also maintains that students have been gouged for damage expenses that were pre-existing, and that students lack the resources to defend themselves against these claims. Desyllas finished by questioning $1 million profit increases each year for the past 4 years, and what he saw as a possible insurance scam.
Two other senators spoke to the issue, providing another side of the picture. Senator Chris Moller is the vice chair of the board of directors for College Housing Northwest. While admitting that there are certain issues that need to be addressed, he sought to clarify some of the claims made by Desyllas. He said the insurance case raised by Desyllas is still pending, and that the $1 million annual revenue increase represents gross, not net income. He also sought to justify the salary that is awarded to the president of the organization.
“The president’s salary … is comparable to other people in his position, both private and nonprofit,” Moller said.
“The reason the board set that rate,” Moller continued, “is so that we can get qualified people to manage the housing in an effective way so that students, rather than worrying about their housing, can go about what they are here to do, which is be a student.”
Moller went on to explain that the rent for College Housing Northwest is about 80 percent below market value, and he sited both in-house and out-of-house surveys to support his claim.
“College Housing has been working on these issues, and has been working diligently to address all of them,” he said.
Two students from the standing-room-only crowd spoke to the issue including Trevor Bryant, who in essence supported Desyllas’s claims of improprieties. Bryant is a representative of the Formation of Independent Student Tenants (FIST), which is an advocacy group representing student residents on campus.
Senator Shane Jordan worked for College Housing Northwest for 4 years as a night manager, in which he serviced 13 different buildings on campus. While acknowledging the points made by Desyllas and Bryant, he pointed to the solid record in responding to student needs as an advantage and encouraged open dialogue between FIST and CHNW. “I think that their points are well taken, and I think College Housing would listen to those and work with them,” he said.
“Let’s bring College Housing and FIST together and solve the problem,” he continued.
No motion was brought to the senate floor, and no official action was taken. Desyllas said that as representatives of the student body, senators should be aware of the issues that student residents are facing.
“We need to be responsible for what happens on this campus,” Desyllas said.
In addition to addressing student housing, the senate welcomed Aaron Bertrand back to the Evaluation and Constitutional Review Committee (E&CR). The committee then presented a report regarding pending changes in the constitution. They are planning an all day session on Sunday to reword and rewrite certain parts of the constitution. Bertrand was a member of the E&CR last year, and joins Elijah Michalowski, Paul Paris and Amara Marino.