NIU has an obligation to accommodate parents or married students outside the residence halls.
The old-married housing facility was far too old and decrepit. State funding was not on the horizon.
The state of Illinois has not given NIU funds for capital projects in years and will likely not be able to for some time.
Administrators at NIU felt they had to act.
So they made a deal with the devil.
In order to potentially get a housing project done by this fall, NIU was forced to outsource the job to a developer and then in turn that developer hired Collegiate Development Services to build and manage the Northern View Community.
At the same time, NIU Housing and Dining executive director Kelly Wesener said they are using some of the same policies in regard to the Northern View Community that are employed in the residence halls.
Competing goals between a public entity and a private endeavor cause disagreements and other communication problems, like with the outsourcing of this project. What is good for the community isn’t always cost effective.
To get this project done, NIU had to sacrifice its control. It is now paying for that choice.
Many students living at Northern View are not the nontraditional students NIU was aiming to accommodate, but students excited about moving to a new development that looked so incredible on paper.
Residents have been upset with the unfinished landscaping and community center. As previously detailed, problems at the Northern View Community continue to be chronicled.
These include lack of sod, leading to an excess of flies and gnats; parking issues; lack of Internet connectivity; lack of clear communication; and incomplete carpentry. These are valid complaints.
The problem lies in trying to sell students on a project while not being up front about the potential for delayed completion.
“We understand their frustration,” said Brian Hemphill, vice president of Student Affairs. “We want to make sure that they get everything that they are promised.”
Finishing apartments weeks after the promised date of Aug. 20 is not doing residents a favor. It’s fulfilling an obligation and living up to contractual obligations.
When asked if students could back out of their housing contracts considering the conditions, Hemphill said they could not, but that individual cases would be reviewed.
Immediately after opening the new facility, tenants were informed there would be no compensation provided for the inconvenience brought on by the problems.
And offering would-be residents – some with children – free accommodations in Grant Towers or the Holmes Student Center hotel for the duration of the delays is inadequate.
Residents are not paying top dollar to live in Grant or the Holmes Student Center.
Though the recent flooding was atypical, problems with the weather and manufacturers should be anticipated. Any project manager will tell you about the many hiccups that are inherent to construction, it is why they are paid well to handle issues and expedite project completion.
Hemphill says hindsight is 20/20. We just wish NIU administrators’ foresight was better.