By this time next year, Waseque Qazi will not have a place to live.
Qazi, 21, a computer science major at Stony Brook University, will face eviction from on campus housing at the end of this academic year, in accordance with Stony Brook’s, ‘8-semester rule.’ The rule states that no student who enters as a freshman may live on campus for more than eight semesters-roughly four years-weighing heavily on Qazi who will not graduate on time.
Of the students who started school at Stony Brook in the fall of 2002, about one out of every five who did graduate took more than four years to earn a bachelors degree, according to research by Emily Thomas, director of planning and institutional research at Stony Brook. This is attributed mostly to the indecision almost all students encounter when choosing career paths. Now more students face the dilemma of continuing their educations and finding residences, as universities place limits to on campus housing.
‘I always thought I would easily graduate in four years,’ Qazi said. ‘Once I started, I knew it was going be a lot harder than I thought.’
In Qazi’s case, which is still pending appeal, he would face eviction under the six semester stipulation of the rule, which gives transfer students six semesters of on-campus housing after he transferred from Binghamton University.
‘I was unhappy with the school I was at,’ Qazi said. ‘It was small, and very far away from home. I thought I would have a better academic future here, as opposed to Binghamton.’
Only a precious few ticks remain before Qazi must face the realization of no longer being able to live in this Long Island based university as a student born in Bangladesh and raised in Queens, N.Y. For Qazi, and students like him, the approval of an appeal to overturn the ‘8 semester rule,’ is described as ‘rare’ by Stony Brook’s Division of Campus Residences.
It is estimated that about 900 students will face the rule this housing season and only about 70 will petition-about eight percent-meaning most students are either graduating or have made arrangements to live off campus, commute to school or even drop out.
For Qazi, and those like him, the almost certain final moments are spent reflecting on how things could have been different if they graduated on time.
‘Not graduating on time sucks,’ Qazi said. ‘You spend your entire life thinking you’re going to get through school and that it’s all part of the plan. It’s not just what my parents expect from me, it’s everyone in my family. This is just what’s expected from my culture. When I talk to my aunts and uncles from Bangladesh, the first question is: how are you? The next question is: when are you going to graduate?’
Qazi juggles the pressures of graduating on time with parents who are finding it increasingly difficult to afford an ever rising Stony Brook tuition.
‘Ever since I found out about the six semester rule I’ve been working twice as hard,’ Qazi said. ‘I’ve been taking courses I shouldn’t be taking at the same time because they’re so demanding just so I can make it out as soon as possible and not burden my parents anymore. This week I spent eight or nine hours a day for four days on one project for a computer class and it’s still not done.’
Associate Director of Residential Programs, Alan S. DeVries, will have Qazi’s future sitting atop his desk soon. DeVries takes in all the appeals to the ‘8-semester rule’ and admits that though overturning the rule is uncommon, financial status plays into the decision.
‘Financial reasons are common, especially last year when the economy tanked,’ DeVries said. ‘Telling someone to go find off campus housing when one or more parents are out of work, the committee was more sensitive to that last semester.’
DeVries does not personally pass the judgment that decides whether or not a student will be granted an extra semester- he collects the appeals. The Residential Hall Association, elected representative students from every residence hall, makes the final decision. Three RHA members, sometimes more, look over each application, which do not identify the students in hopes of preventing biased judgment. Then the committee debates over each appeal and decides to either accept or reject each petition.
Thomas Messina, 22, a health science major, is spending his ninth semester at Stony Brook commuting from home, after eight semesters living on campus. After realizing he wasn’t going to graduate on time, Messina appealed the ‘8-semester rule’ unsuccessfully.
‘I told them I don’t live near a train station, I don’t have a car, my parents work and I don’t know what time my classes are, so my parents can’t even drop me off at the station,’ Messina said. ‘They told me they could put me on a housing waiting list until May of 2010, which is funny because I’m going to graduate then.’
Messina contributes not graduating on time to the indecision he faced when choosing a major early in his college career.
‘I tried mechanical engineering for a year-realized I didn’t like it, so I kind of started experimenting around,’ Messina said. ‘I was thinking about doing business-didn’t catch my interest, than all of a sudden I felt like doing health sciences.’
Qazi, like Messina and other incoming college students, tossed around the idea of different career paths before settling on computer science. Qazi was a computer engineering major at Binghamton, and dabbled in economics, psychology and digital design while at Stony Brook. One peek inside his likely soon to be gone dorm room, however, outlines a completely different picture.
‘I want to draw for a living,’ Qazi said. ‘It’s not a realistic dream for the most part to want to be successful drawing. I know I need a degree in general to succeed in life. Also my parents wouldn’t accept me not having a degree.’
Strewn across his walls and desk are drawings Qazi has produced over years in support of his comic-book like website venture where he displays his work, in the hope that it will one day garner enough fan fare to make it a viable career option for himself. Until then, Qazi prepares for the seemingly inevitable conclusion.
‘I understand why they have [the eight-semester rule] and it’s because they’re booked over capacity but they probably shouldn’t accept as many students or rather they shouldn’t guarantee housing to all incoming freshman,’ Qazi said.
DeVries, however, makes the point that students like Qazi are more equipped to live off campus than a student new to the college level.
‘We’re better off turning away an upperclassman,’ DeVries said. ‘They have a better chance of surviving over an incoming student, and living off campus after eight semesters on,might not necessarily be a bad thing for an older student.’
Qazi inevitably wants to draw manga, the Japanese art form that resembles the American comic book- hinted at by the large box that rests under his lofted bed overflowing with the manga graphic novels. He pursues this goal while still in school.
‘Usually it comes down to sacrifice,’ Qazi said. ‘I’ll work on my school stuff a lot less because I would be so caught up in my drawing. It’s just that art comes naturally to me, computer science doesn’t. In the end, school work is just school work. It makes you want to do what you enjoy even more.’