No Room in the Inn; JCU Struggles with Crowds

by Kurtis Loux

ROME, Italy – Having trouble finding a seat during lunch? Or maybe one in the library during midterms or finals? That might be the short-term expectation at John Cabot University as overcrowding of the campuses becomes an issue.

In Fall 2018, JCU had 1,507 students enrolled, the most it has ever had since its founding in 1972, according to the Dean’s Office. Not only that, but it was also the first semester since Spring 2014 that the number of visiting students exceeded the number of degree seekers enrolled on campus. While the growth of the university signals a better reputation as a school of choice for those interested in having an international experience, it comes at a price.

“The café is always cramped, trying to find a seat in the library during finals feels like a fight…there just simply isn’t room,” said a degree-seeker student. “The administration isn’t listening to the degree seekers, they’re listening to the money.”

This student isn’t alone in feeling that way either. When talking with  a handful of other degree seekers, most have the same sentiment: the university is just not suited for accommodating so many students, particularly study abroad students. “They’re growing too fast,” said a resident assistant who wished to remain anonymous  “I don’t know how they accepted so many extra visiting students, but it just ruined the whole thing.”

However, the Administration would beg to differ. “Our mission to bring both groups together might create, especially in the Fall, a feeling of being overcrowded,” said JCU President Franco Pavoncello. “It is important that students understand the approach; we are in this together. Our goal is to make life easier, safer, better, and more successful for our students.”

To accomplish that goal, the university is focused on expanding. For the short term, starting in July, JCU will be renting the first floor of the building next to the Critelli Campus, giving the students access to a new student lounge, classrooms, and tutoring rooms with the hope that it will take some strain off of the resources at Tiber Campus. “Take half of Critelli and add it to the existing Critelli, that’s how much space we’re adding,” Pavoncello said.

In the long run, the university will also expand across the river to the new Vallati building, which will be ready in 2020. The 80,000 square-feet building will host a 300-seat theater  , a gym four times the size of the one currently in Gianicolo, a 16th-century chapel, an internal covered courtyard, as well as new classrooms and residences, according to the President.

However, degree-seeking students don’t feel like expansion alone is the right way to solve the issue. “I’m not going to be around for the new building, so I’m stuck dealing with all the downsides of overcrowding without getting to reap the benefits of the ‘solution’,” said Joel Hashop, a communication major. “I regret that our students feel this way,” said Kathryne Fedele, Director of Administration, Chief of Staff, and Title IX Coordinator,  and “but the Administration really is doing its best to create a better atmosphere for all students, and this includes expansion of all sorts.”

Adriana DeNoble