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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

UF 10-year development plan leaves graduate students worried about housing

<p dir="ltr"><span>A playground in Maguire Village</span></p>

A playground in Maguire Village

When UF computer science graduate student Michael Sanchez found UF’s 10-year master plan online, he searched the housing section for the keyword “graduate.” Out of the 20 results, only one wasn’t connected to the word “undergraduate.”

Sanchez, the president of the Mayors’ Council, which represents students in graduate and family housing, then read every part of the 313-page plan, thinking the search wasn’t working. 

But it was. Every cent of UF Housing and Residence Education’s $404 million to $479 million budget was slated to go toward undergraduate dormitories, according to the housing master plan executive summary. 

“[I was] trying to figure out like, ‘Man, are these guys really serious? In the next 10 years, they don’t plan to do anything with graduate and family housing?’” he said. 

But that wasn’t all he found. A master plan map shows a recreational field in place of Maguire Village and University Village South, which make up 40 percent of all graduate and family housing complexes. 

This proposal remains unfunded and unapproved, and there are no current plans to close Maguire or UVS, said Student Affairs interim associate vice president David Bowles. However, residents are still worried about the map’s implication and the lack of focus on graduate housing in the master plan. 

Bowles said the recreational fields that overlap with Maguire and UVS are simply a “placeholder for the future.” 

“No plans have been developed for them,” he wrote in an email. “There is a significant list of recreational needs on campus that take priority and need funding before considering new fields in that area.”

Regardless of Maguire and UVS’ fate, Sanchez believes graduate housing needs more support. 

“They need to get $10 million from that $480 million that they’re going to use to make this campus a wonderland for undergrads and renovate graduate and family [housing],” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez believes graduate students are one of the university’s prime “stakeholders” and that pushing them away is counterproductive. 

UF reported it received $776.2 million for research in 2019, much of which goes toward graduate and Ph.D. research, Sanchez said. Graduate students are also champions for diversity, he said. More than 70 countries are represented in graduate housing, he said.

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Mayors’ Council vice president Aravinda Munasinghe is worried about UF’s climb up the national ranks if graduate housing is neglected. 

“President Fuchs talks about [how] we are becoming a top national 5 university and in the Top 10 universities,” he said. “But we just can’t do that by just developing one section of the university.” 

This isn’t the first issue the Mayors’ Council has encountered with housing. They’ve been asking for updates about the future of Maguire and UVS for about six months with little response, Sanchez said. 

Housing’s executive summary says that buildings with poor ventilation systems are “areas of critical need,” but graduate housing has these problems as well, Sanchez said. More than 50 of the 358 apartments in Maguire and UVS are unavailable right now due to maintenance issues.

Housing emailed the Council in July to say that some students may be relocated during apartment repairs in Maguire and UVS, but they haven’t heard anything else since, Sanchez said.  

“It’s like pulling teeth, you know? It’s an ongoing battle,” he said. “What’s going on is just ugly.” 

The Council ultimately wants housing to communicate with them about the status of Maguire and UVS. 

“What we at Mayors’ Council are trying to do is keep the villages not only open, but up to code and up to date, just like everyone else has a chance to live in a nice apartment and feel like they’re cared about by the university,” Sanchez said. 

A playground in Maguire Village

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