University Administration Addresses Problems at the Nest


Photo by Cecilia G. Hernandez

Dan Maurer and Scott Andrews

Students that live at NEIU’s on campus residential community are concerned about their living conditions and problems with the third party company that manages The Nest.  Scott Andrews from The Independent interviewed Dr. Terry Mena, Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs at NEIU about these serious issues.  


Dr. Mena took responsibility for some of the unsanitary, equipment and technological issues reported by students and confirmed that the internet is slow, and that the laundry and trash rooms are sometimes dirty.  


He said, “That is accurate, and why is that? So, we have a full building of close to 389 residents, which is the first time in the history of the building and is a huge testament to Dr. Gibson’s leadership and my being her designee. With more people, you have these things occur. More trash, maintenance issues, more internet usage, and an increase in multiple needs.”


 Dr. Mena said due to the increase of The Nest residency at peak times; the internet service is reportedly slower, usually in the mornings and evenings, for 14% of students, and for these students, connectivity was the issue 35% of the time.


New equipment has been ordered, but due to the pandemic-related microchip shortage, supply chain issues and contractual obligations with the vendor, a date has yet to be secured to replace the networking equipment. 

According to Dr. Mena, no confirmation whether new networking upgrades can be installed by Spring 2023. Students with internet problems can report internet issues on the resident portal app or call the help center number listed on the display screens located on each floor of The Nest. 


The Nest is managed by American Campus Communities Inc (ACC), a large national publicly traded company with revenue totaling $245.7 million in the second quarter of 2022 with a net profit of $4.4 million.


There are many complaints about ACC on the Better Business Bureau regarding the living conditions for students living in communities owned by the company. These include sanitation issues, environmental concerns, maintenance and billing issues.  Additional complaints are on Yelp from students and their families around the country.  

Photo by Mariana Silva Lindner

According to Dr. Mena, the laundry and trash rooms are unsanitary because some students are not taking responsibility and are not putting garbage in the proper receptacles. 


The problem usually occurs on the weekends, he acknowledged. To address the problem, Dr. Mena said American Campus Communities is hiring additional part-time staff for the weekend to clean the laundry and trash rooms as needed. 


The University is working with the Student Government Association to educate students better about following the rules and taking care of their residential community. Dr. Mena stated he might consider installing cameras and holding students accountable if garbage is not disposed of appropriately.  


Students Expressed Frustration with Rules at The Nest


Students expressed their frustration with the rules in place at The Nest regarding visitors and apartment occupancy limits. For example, all visitors must register with the receptionist, and only eight people are allowed in an apartment at one time. 


Dr. Mena explains this is not to restrict students, but solely to ensure the safety of all residents and their guests, he said “Our contract mirror is no different than any other residential complex contract in Chicago or Cook County. They have rules and restrictions. We are no different. I am, in fact, concerned with the guest policy at NEIU.  I think it’s too lenient and puts us at risk. We have had two reports already about the safety of our students. I and the University have a responsibility to keep our students safe.”  


Dr. Mena acknowledged a policy breakdown with the key security access cards at the beginning of the Fall semester. The doors were not locked securely. Once University Administration learned of the problem, an abundance of additional cards were immediately ordered, so the problem does not occur in the future. 


Dr. Mena discussed the situation at the State of the University Address, where he had to apologize to the eight students who were affected during move-in by unsatisfactory room cleanliness. 


He said this problem occurred for two reasons. First, an unexpected amount of requests to the university came in for residential accommodations at the beginning of the Fall semester; to prevent further issues there will be a cut-off date of June 1, 2023 for priority applications for The Nest.  


The second problem was that The Nest’s capacity went from 187 students during the Summer semester to 389 students for the Fall semester. There was an unexpected breakdown of the process, according to Dr. Mena.  


“We are looking at Summer housing needs,” explained Dr. Mena. The Nest may need to be closed for the second half of the Summer Semester to perform a deep cleaning and for routine maintenance in the future. Dr. Mena said he is looking at alternatives, but there is a current housing crisis nationwide with educational institutions.


Brianna Hernandez, Media relations representative for ACC, sent via email a statement from Fred Dillard, Director of Housing & Residence Life, that read: “The health and safety of our residents is our top priority and we remain committed to maintaining an environment where students enjoy living, as evident by our 97% satisfaction rate among The Nest’s community. We will continue to collaborate with the University and respond to work order requests in a timely manner.”


The Independent’s Dan Maurer spoke briefly with NEIU President Dr. Gloria J. Gibson about the issues at The Nest, as well. When asked what was being done to address those issues, she said that The Nest was under the purview of Dr. Mena, and that there needed to be policies and protocols in place to ensure these things don’t happen again. She also said that she and Dr. Mena deeply regret what happened with the messes as students moved in at the beginning of the semester.


Students living at The Nest reported various sanitary, maintenance, technological and management issues with the facility. These include:

  • The laundry and trash rooms are dirty, with litter on the floor and garbage overflowing in the receptacles. 
  • Maintenance issues such as some bathtub drains were clogged or problems with equipment like window blinds being defective or broken.
  • Residents experienced repeated problems with Internet service and bandwidth issues. 
  • Many students believe the rules are too restrictive for adults, such as having visitors for only a specific amount of time and registration requirements for all visitors. Also, only eight people are allowed in an apartment at one time. If rules are broken, students could face eviction.