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Friday, December 8, 2023

Opinion

UH is way too crowded


A student looks panicked as they struggle to move through a crowded hallway

Lily Huynh/The Cougar

UH is known for a lot of things, from our diverse student population to the variety of engineering programs on offer. But lately, the University has seemingly developed a reputation for something not so positive: overcrowding.

Nearly the instant the Fall 2023 semester started, multiple users had already started complaining about overcrowding on the UH subreddit.

Some took issue with traffic surrounding the campus, while others complained that the line to even get into a parking garage stretched around the block. To many, the process of parking and getting on campus was just the beginning, as overcrowding spilled out into common areas.

“There was barely anywhere to sit, and I had people walking right behind me on the way to class,” one user said. “I tried to get lunch but everywhere was full, and I’ve never seen the student center that crowded before.”

Overcrowding can be easy to dismiss as just something mildly stressful to deal with, but it can have a very real impact.

Even on the surface, long lines at the student center means students are potentially unable to get food in between classes. Crowded spaces in the library could keep students from focusing, and the lengthy wait times to get into a parking garage cause students to risk running late to class.

And while the University has felt crowded in previous years, this year feels uniquely bad. As the rest of the country relaxed Covid restrictions, UH followed suit — moving more classes and events to in-person.

In many ways, having events in person is preferable to having them online or at reduced capacity. Cage Rage, Glow Party and the energy of live football games aren’t easily replicated over Zoom. But while some can easily shrug off the crowded spaces, the impact is felt heavily on others.

Studies show that crowded dorms can lead students to withdraw from social interaction, harm their mental health and even introduce deadly habits like binge eating. Students with anxiety disorders or with higher risk of illness are more likely to develop serious health problems from overcrowding.

The problem goes deeper than just students, however. Campus staff and faculty have to deal with the immense strain of handling Cougar card requests, teaching large classes and providing food to an incredibly packed lunchroom during peak hours.

Put simply, the University’s student body is far too large for the amount of space available on campus. While the official numbers for the incoming 2023 student body have not been released yet, some sources say that 39,000 freshmen applied for admission this year.

UH accepts approximately 66% of incoming students, meaning that up to 25,000 freshman could have been accepted for the 2023-2024 school semester.

While the number is most likely not that high, one thing is for certain. The University has consistently admitted larger numbers of students without making the structural changes needed to accommodate them.

Certain departments have gone understaffed, multiple buildings have not been updated for years and the University seems more interested in decreasing parking options than increasing them.

To their credit, UH has consistently maintained enough space for students wanting to live on campus. Beyond that, crowding does tend to get less intense as the semester gets underway, and there are efforts being made to update some buildings, albeit slowly.

But if the University really wants to be known for putting students’ mental and physical health first, they should try walking a mile in our shoes. The staff making decisions about the University’s future aren’t the ones having to scramble just to find a spot to sit down, and it shows.

Malachi Spence Key is a journalism senior who can be reached at
[email protected]

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