A surplus of students searching for on-campus housing made USC look for unconventional places to house students this fall. The biggest change to USC’s housing plan was the school’s leasing of part of the University Gateway apartments located on Figueroa street, directly across from campus.
University Gateway’s rooms are split into two designations of “on-campus” or “off-campus” housing. Students considered on-campus lease Gateway units through the university itself, while students considered off-campus sign leases directly with Gateway. Off-campus leases are not associated with USC despite the flats being in the same building as the on-campus units.
“Because of the pandemic, like universities across the country we have two classes on campus for the first time this fall,” Director of USC Housing Chris Ponsiglione said in a statement to Annenberg Media. “To provide additional capacity for the second-year students, USC Housing leased space at University Gateway apartments to ensure that we were able to offer space through USC Housing to all incoming freshman and sophomores.”
According to Ponsiglione, it is undetermined whether USC will need — or even be able to — lease University Gateway for the next school year.
Gateway’s unique hybrid situation has brought about challenges in enforcing health guidelines on the building’s residents. Early in the fall semester, USC-affiliated housing implemented new rules to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them, USC required on-campus residents to show their daily Trojan Check to exit the building, while non-residents were prohibited from entering.
With Gateway housing both on-campus and off-campus residents, the apartment complex as a whole was supposed to follow USC Housing’s guidelines. However, residents reported that Gateway did not have the same level of enforcement as other on-campus apartments.
USC Housing, however, asserts that the enforcement at Gateway is no different from other on-campus apartments.
“Residential education has seen no difference with enforcing housing policies or safety measures,” Senior Director of USC’s Residential Education Grant Burlew said in an email to Annenberg Media. “Residents who have USC Housing and live in University Gateway are required to sign and adhere [to] all of the same agreements as other USC Housing residents.”
The quality of Gateway’s apartments has not met the expectations of some of its tenants, especially when compared to traditional on-campus housing offered by USC. On-campus Gateway resident Adrianna Milagros, a junior majoring in interactive entertainment, reported numerous sanitary issues around the complex, such as seeing cockroaches in a laundry room and trash throughout the building.
“When we first moved in, it was a nasty...and at my school prior, I’d never experienced anything like that,” Milagros said. “There [were] bloody pants underneath my bed and a bunch of trash.”
Milagros also said that Gateway is largely unresponsive to on-campus residents because it is more difficult for the building’s management to find USC Housing students in the system. When she called security about a noise complaint, management could not find her name in the system to help facilitate her request.
There are struggles with living in the building for off-campus residents, too. Off-campus resident Joe Mulholland, a junior majoring in computer science and business administration, said he had to send emails to multiple Gateway staff members to get maintenance done on his apartment because it was not clear who was in charge of the issue.
“A lot of the time it’s kind of like the runaround,” Mulholland said. “Email one person, they tell you to email somebody else and then email that person to email somebody else. And I just don’t know who actually solves the problems at Gateway.”
Mulholland has stayed at Gateway for over a year and has seen gradual improvement in Gateway’s events and management’s effort. Still, Mulholland does not believe the experience at Gateway compares to the on-campus experience at USC’s traditional housing.
“With the movie nights and things like that, they’re doing way more than they ever have,” Mulholland said. “But I still think it’s severely lacking compared to other people who actually live on-campus, and I feel really bad for the people who USC assigns to Gateway because they’re not getting their money’s worth, and it’s not the experience that they deserve.”
Mulholland believes that Gateway has potential with the complex’s nice outdoor spaces and the close proximity to USC’s campus. To Mulholland, all that Gateway needs to do to improve its relationship with its residents is one thing: care.
“I think that if Gateway can put more investment into the people that are here and treated them as students rather than as just tenants, I think that would make all the difference,” he said.