Chris Lewandowski was so convinced Northern Illinois University would rule against him in his dorm dispute that he had already mentally conceded the financial loss.
"The first appeal was so frightening that we didn't have much hope," said his mother, Rita Lewandowski.
Turns out, there was nothing to fear.
In a letter that arrived at the Lewandowskis' Naperville home Thursday afternoon, an NIU representative said the school's Housing Appeal Board has ruled in the college student's favor, meaning he will not have to pay $7,490 for a dorm room he has no intention of using next school year.
"We're just ecstatic," Rita Lewandowski said.
The Problem Solver wrote about Chris Lewandowski's situation in the May 21 column, detailing how the soon-to-be sophomore received conflicting information about his contractual obligations.
Before he signed up online for 2013-14 student housing in December, the younger Lewandowski called the university's housing department and asked if he could cancel the contract in the event he found a more suitable apartment off campus, he said.
A representative at the DeKalb school told him there would be no penalty if he canceled his housing contract request before May 1, he said he was told.
He asked the same question again in April and a housing employee emailed him with a similar response — he would not have to pay for student housing if he canceled by May 1.
After Lewandowski submitted papers to cancel his contract in mid-April, the university sent him a letter saying he could not cancel. He had to pay the entire $7,490 whether he lived in student housing or not.
In mid-May, a university spokesman forwarded the Problem Solver screen shots from NIU's student housing website, which states students have three days to cancel their housing requests or they will be liable for the entire contract.
The university rejected Lewandowski's initial appeal, but the Housing Appeal Board, which heard his case May 17, was more forgiving.
"The Board has recommended your appeal be granted," wrote Blanche McHugh, the school's associate director for residential administration. "The Board took into consideration the additional information you submitted with your appeal."
Rita Lewandowski said she and her son were pleasantly surprised by the ruling.
"It's just such a relief," she said. "We were so sure we were going to lose."
NIU spokesman Paul Palian said the school has examined the communication Chris Lewandowski had with housing officials. Those exchanges were also considered by the Housing Appeal Board.
"The system worked," Palian said. "I'm glad it was resolved in a satisfactory manner."
Massaging the system
Stacey Kemerer, who applied for a state-issued massage therapist license in February, finally received it May 16 — exactly one week after she was featured in the What's Your Problem? column.
The Oak Park resident had feared the three-month turnaround time would scare off a potential employer, who offered Kemerer a job in March. Her future boss was holding the position for her until the license arrived.
Kemerer said the May 9 column helped.
"My future employer saw it in the paper and let me know she didn't have any plans to terminate my contract," Kemerer said in an email.
With the license in hand, it's now all systems go.
"I will be having a training session on the computers and will be able to start soon," Kemerer said.