Right To Shelter

Why Can’t We Accommodate at ITU?

Bilge Eren

The dormitory capacity at ITU is not sufficient. Unless steps are taken in this regard, students will be affected severely.

Of course, many of you have heard of the enormous campus of Istanbul Technical University (ITU). My most immense excitement when starting university was to be able to experience campus life. Campus life was the safest way for me and my family to come from a small city to a metropolis like Istanbul. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize there was no room for me and many female friends like me on campus. In my article, I will discuss the housing problem at ITU in general terms and what I witnessed during my student life.

Irregularity in the dormitory rights list

When I enrolled at the university in September 2016, like hundreds of students, I applied to stay in the dormitories on the ITU campus. At that time, I heard a lot about how applicants were ranked. Although some people said that it was based on which city they came from, some said it was the ÖSYS preference score, and some said it was the order of admission to the department. All I could understand was that the distribution of dormitory rights was not conducted transparently enough.

As for supporting this claim, when the school started, I was in the first place on the dormitory reserve list. Even though the rank of my friends waiting for a dormitory was climbed daily, I was still in the first row. New students were placed in dormitories, and my prep-class friends’ position in the list was moving by 10-20, but even though I was in the first waiting row, I did not get a dormitory right. They were placing the students in lower positions in the dormitories by favoring them.

Conditions from past to present

At the end of two months, I was placed in a dormitory within the ITU Ayazağa campus. Most of my friends waited until the second semester. The worst part about waiting in line for dormitories is that private dormitories make annual agreements; therefore, you cannot stay there because you are waiting in line. During this period, my female friends waiting for a dormitory stayed with their relatives, at the hotel or the school library.

In the dormitory where I stayed for two years, the rooms were for two people, and the bathroom was inside the room. The rooms of the opposite dormitory were for four people, and 50 people shared the bathroom at the end of each floor. Another problem is that students’ accommodation standards change only due to the luck factor.

One of the reasons I left the dormitory and rented an apartment was that I didn’t have privacy there. Entrance-exit hours of the dorm, arbitrary warnings from security, inefficient use of the kitchen, and not accepting guests even for a few hours when necessary were harming my quality of life. At the beginning of this year, I learned that they increased the capacity of the rooms in the dormitory I stayed previously from two to three. I believe instead of narrowing students’ living space, the campus can be used more efficiently, and new dormitories can be built.

However, a survey was conducted years ago to decide whether a mosque or dormitory should be built in a particular campus space. The mosque option won this survey at ITU, which had 65 thousand students at that time, with 95 thousand votes. Although there is a mosque in almost every building on the campus and there is no dormitory capacity to accommodate more than half of the school’s population, that mosque was actually built by respecting the survey. That shows that the dormitory crisis in ITU, which has been going on for years, has not been prevented due to the lack of financial resources or the lack of space on campus but because the decision of which building to build is made due to political concerns.

Sexist and restrictive attitudes

Considering the current dormitory capacities, we can say that accommodation areas for men are more than women’s. That may be because, until recently, engineering was considered a “male” profession or women were not given a field in academia. However, in today’s conditions, there is a clear gender balance in most departments, and the quotas are increasing yearly. The fact that the ITU administration is still not taking satisfactory steps towards this issue disappoints us regarding ITU’s vision and mission. This approach of ITU makes us feel that female students are still relegated to the background at specific points in the education process.

Sexism in dormitories is not limited to these. I have witnessed many times that while the security acts much more relaxed in men’s dormitories, they pay close attention to the practice of signing at night in women’s dormitories and to the address provided when signing the permit, especially on nights when female students were not staying in the dormitory.

Final result-Forced Migration

In conclusion, the dormitory capacity at ITU is not sufficient. Unless steps are taken in this regard, students will suffer. Although the dormitories’ conditions are not bad, the prices are above average compared to other public schools in Istanbul. When I moved to my first house in 2018, my fee for the dormitory was the same as my rent.

Of course, a dormitory may be a more economical choice under current conditions, but most of the time, students do not have the right to choose between a dormitory and an apartment. I have friends who graduated without being able to be placed in a dorm. Since most of my female friends could not stay in the dormitory, they received education under conditions they did not deserve.

According to my observation, they generally tend towards communal life. When I say “communal life,” I mean students rent an apartment with more residing students than the house’s capacity. That is a lifestyle in which the living room of the house is generally used as a dormitory, crowded, lacks hygiene, you may have trouble focusing during finals week, you have many responsibilities, and it is popularly described as a “student house.”

This lifestyle has become the norm for both students and new graduates. As a new graduate, even if I found a job immediately, I don’t think I would be able to leave my current student home. We have been forced to accept that our personal space has narrowed due to economic difficulties. Not only the life inside the house but also the fact that how close the first concrete wall near our window brutally reveals the limits of our personal space. We are stuck, we are limited, we are trying to fit in, we are paying all our income to tiny spaces… We can’t decide between returning to our family home or migrating to small cities, and we go abroad. Thus, I have explained the ITU dormitory problem from my perspective.

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