USC students living at local off-campus housing have experienced unsafe living conditions and feel that nothing is being done to protect them. Students are forced off-campus after their freshman year due to a lack of on-campus accommodations and it's time for the safety of students to be the university's top priority.
Off-campus housing opportunities are promoted by Garnet Media Group that hosts representatives of different off-campus housing complexes on Greene Street during its housing fair and has other opportunities to advertise the complexes. Most students take up these opportunities to move off-campus, but many don’t realize the unsafe conditions they have been thrust into until it is too late.
The Retreat at Columbia seemed like a fairly safe place to live until his own recent experiences and occurrences like the shooting on Sept. 5, Bryson Sherill, a fourth-year finance student and second-year resident of The Retreat, said.
During the night of the shooting, Sherrill heard gunshots and saw people running outside and screaming. He said he let a few girls into his house that got hurt while running from the scene. After the shooting, The Retreat offered its residents no information as to whether they would work on rectifying their security systems and instead blamed the residents for the events leading up to the shooting.
"I don't feel like they take much responsibility in anything, I feel like most things they blame the residents on," Sherill said.
When asked to address these issues, The Retreat's management said in an email to the Daily Gamecock that "resident security and well-being are our highest priorities," and "enhancements to parking gates will be completed in coming weeks." Their management team is also working closely with the Cayce Police Department, who have increased patrols at the facility.
"Everybody can’t stay on campus, there’s just not enough dorms," Sherill said. "You're basically forced to go off-campus sophomore, junior and senior year."
This year the University had already undershot the amount of first-year students coming in by almost 400 students, therefore forcing registered on-campus housing students off-campus due to lack of space. The University promises four new buildings in the new Campus Village, but it will be completed in fall 2023.
Kate Stinson, a fourth-year business student and third-year resident of Redpoint Columbia said that after the shooting at the Redpoint pool in June, management brushed the situation under the rug by promoting new updates to housing as well as remodeling the pool and other amenities. Stinson said this isn’t the first time Redpoint has made false promises to residents about new safety changes after its recent rebranding.
Stinson said one of Redpoint's biggest selling points was that an alarm system would be installed in each resident’s apartment. However, in the three years, Stinson has been living at Redpoint, she has never received the alarm system code or any information about it from management.
When asked to comment on these issues, Redpoint declined to comment.
Residents of these complexes no longer feel that they can confide in the housing management about their safety concerns. The university needs to step in to help students feel safe about living off-campus by sending USC patrol through neighborhoods and establishing a better safety and security plan with off-campus management.
Cole Coffee, a second-year chemical engineering student and first-year resident of The Retreat said that he has seen the security gates closed maybe once or twice and has generally felt unsafe in his neighborhood more than three times a month since he moved there.
Coffee said the night after multiple cars were broken into and property was stolen, the only communication residents received from management was an email about a stray dog.
"It doesn't seem like these things that really should be being taken seriously are being taken seriously," Coffee said.
If USC doesn’t have the resources to house all of its students on campus, then it should at least be involved and honest with students about the safety concerns that most off-campus residents face. The university should allocate resources to off-campus housing premises that continually have problems with safety and security.
The Daily Gamecock reached out via email to USC's Office of Off-Campus Housing on Oct. 20. On Oct. 24, the office referred The Daily Gamecock to communications and received no communications after from the office or a communications representative.
The university could help “light a fire” under these companies, Coffee said, and help students feel more protected and supported.
“(The university) should do their due diligence and helping to make a safety plan or sending USCPD out here to patrol,” Stinson said.
If USC truly has its students' best interest at heart and cares about their safety, they need to start holding these off-campus housing establishments accountable and making a plan for change.
Correction, (Nov. 2, 2022 at 5:50 p.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said Campus Village had no set finish date. It also said the university advertises off-campus housing on its home page, through emails and by putting representative of these off-campus housing complexes on Greene Street. The story has been reflected to show that Garnet Media Group hosts a housing fair with representatives from the off-campus housing complexes and that the Campus Village project is set to finish in fall 2023.