Off-campus housing changes may create some controversy

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    Proposed changes in BYU’s off-campus policy guidelines are aimed at helping students, but may create some controversy.

    The policy proposal creates a BYU Center for Conflict Resolution to aid students and BYU-approved landlords.

    The center will open this fall in the Wilkinson Center near the Dean of Students’ office and will employ trained faculty, staff and graduate students experienced in mediation, said Carrie Jenkins, assistant to the president for university communications.

    The center will be free and will provide an objective environment for students and BYU-approved landlords, she said.

    “It provides an opportunity for the mediator to be truly objective,” Jenkins said.

    On average, there are between five and six complaints per week at the housing office and the university hopes the center will alleviate issues before they become problems, she said.

    In addition to the center, BYU administration has proposed seven policy changes to its off-campus policy guidelines to aid students and BYU-approved landlords.

    Students can review the potential policies and voice their opinions through the Web site www.byu.edu/offcampushousing using the “contact us” link or by calling the housing office at 378-5066.

    To accommodate students’ needs, the university is inviting suggestions and comments about these revisions until Sept. 30.

    The proposed changes are:

    * Landlords’ contracts for the university approval will change from an academic year (September through August) to a calendar year (January through December).

    * Approved landlords will use a standard agreement prepared by BYU in issuing rental agreements to student tenants.

    * All approved properties, including condominium complexes, will have a local agent who resides no more than 20 driving miles from BYU and have the authority to take necessary corrective action.

    * Approved management will have a designated time period to address critical repair problems – usually 24 hours. This would include such repairs as broken water lines, lack of heating and inoperable toilets.

    * BYU’s Off-Campus Housing office will conduct initial inspections of facilities of owners seeking first-time approval. University officials will not conduct annual inspections. (If needed, however, the university maintains the right to conduct an inspection.)

    * Approved landlords will need to be in compliance with the minimum specifications outline in the 2003 BYU Off-Campus Housing handbook. During 2003 and 2004 all facilities will be inspected for compliance with the new specifications.

    * The period for eligible students to live in BYU-approved housing without being enrolled in school will be reduced from 12 months for four months. There will be no further changes in eligibility status, however. Students eligible to rent approved off-campus housing include: BYU students enrolled full- or part-time; students enrolled and attending an LDS institute program; and, students enrolled in an education institution, such as Utah Valley State College, that provides an option of gender-segregated housing by off-campus landlords.

    If accepted, the revisions will become effective January 2003, which gives recent graduates still living in Provo a few months to find a new home that is not BYU-approved.

    “Only four months? That’s ridiculous because everywhere is BYU-approved housing,” said Valerie Turner, 23, a BYU graduate that stayed in BYU-approved housing for one year after graduating. “Besides, I didn’t even know there was a time limit on how long a graduate could live in BYU-approved housing,”

    The most difficult part of staying in Provo after graduating would be finding a place to live that is not BYU-approved but still social, she said.

    “I know tons of people that graduated over a year ago but are still living in BYU-approved housing,” Turner said.

    One landlord said the four-month time limit for non-students living in BYU-approved housing is understandable but will make managing more difficult.

    “It’s going to make more people ineligible on a regular basis,” said Dave Freeman, president of Glenwood Intermountain Properties.

    One reason for the 12- to 4-month revision stems from BYU’s choice to use a gender-segregated housing option, a decision any university can make, Jenkins said.

    “If you do provide gender-segregated housing, you need to provide such housing for students only,” she said. “It cannot be available to the general public.”

    However, education institutions such as Utah Valley State College students, those enrolled in an independent study course, an online course or a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints institute program are also eligible to live in BYU-approved housing, Jenkins said.

    “When a student signs a contract to live in BYU-approved housing, they need to be honest with the property owner,” she said. “If they do not qualify, they cannot live in BYU-approved housing.”

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