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Friday, January 21, 2022

Alachua County Commission postpones vote on UF’s Campus Development Agreement due to affordable graduate housing

Commission will delay vote until December and requested that Board of Trustees address graduate students’ housing concerns

Citing the UF’s lack of a plan to provide affordable graduate housing, the Alachua County Commission delayed its vote on Campus Development Agreement until December.

Graduate students have expressed their dissatisfaction with UF since the university announced the planned demolition of Maguire Village and University Village South, two of the five existing graduate housing complexes. 

Graduate students are concerned UF will not replace the housing with affordable graduate student options as the city around it continues seeing an affordable housing crisis unfold.

The commission unanimously agreed to delay its vote Tuesday following a discussion with  representatives from UF and Graduate Assistants United. The commission requested the board share its future plans for replacing the beds lost by the campus master plan.

Commissioner Ken Cornell said the goal of postponement is to give UF time to come back with a plan. 

“Research is a big component to the University of Florida, and these graduate students are important to the University of Florida,” Cornell said. “So we are hopeful that we’ll get an understanding of what their plan is to deal with this issue sooner rather than later.” 

Commissioner Mary Alford acknowledged the effects the planned demolition of the two graduate student apartment complexes will have on the county.

“As affordable housing is eliminated on campus, then those students obviously are going to want to move to the most affordable housing they can find close to campus, which then displaces campus employees that move further out,” Alford said.

UF director of planning Linda Dixon said at the meeting that the university will have something in place to address the loss of graduate housing, but they are unprepared to announce the plan as of Nov. 9.

Graduate students facing displacement by the campus master plan have continued speaking out against it two years after its proposal.

A petition was released three weeks ago calling for UF to reverse the decision of demolishment. It demands UF to immediately reverse its decision to close Maguire and UVS, open all apartments to new residents, have the villages appraised by a third party to determine how long they can stay open and further investigate campus housing policy.

The website SaveUFGradHousing.com was also published Oct. 22 by a coalition of graduate students and residents, including a letter from Raymer F. Maguire, III. Maguire Village was dedicated in honor of his family, including his grandfather, who served as president of the Student Body and the alumni association.

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In the letter, Maguire states he believes closing the villages may be wasteful because the apartments could still be livable, and he urges UF to reconsider the decision.

Rent-burdened graduate students may be put in even more dangerous situations if the villages are closed, Rachel Hartnett, GAU co-president and a doctoral student in the Department of English, said.

“We know that there are students living in unsafe or hazardous conditions because of this,” Hartnett said.

She hopes the petition will raise awareness and apply some pressure on UF.

“These are people who love their spaces, who love their communities, who love their neighbors, and want to protect it,” Hartnett said.

Aantaki Raisa, a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications, has lived in Maguire Village since October 2019. She signed the petition because she likes the affordability and safety of living on campus.

An international student from Bangladesh, she said the community at Maguire Village has been welcoming. She worries that international students may be left in unsafe living conditions without on-campus housing.

“When we hear news like, ‘oh, yeah, they’re going to close down villages,’ as an international student, I feel so unwanted and uncared for,” Raisa said.“My existence, my issues really don’t matter to the university.” 

Alford said she hopes to mitigate any unintended consequences from the demolition of Maguire and UVS.

“Having lived in Gainesville for many, many years and seen the culture and the international flavor that you get at Maguire Village and the proximity to campus, it hurts my heart to see it go away,” she said.

Contact Eve Thompson at ethompson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @evealanaa.

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Eve Thompson

Eve Thompson is a third-year journalism major covering Santa Fe. In the past, Eve was a News Assistant on the university desk. When she’s not submitting public records requests or staring at a blank Google doc, Eve can be found on a boat, usually listening to 70s music.


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