Editor’s Column – Res LIfe & Housing Row

Andrew Wickerham

The recent row over off-campus housing is a topic near and dear to both my heart and my checkbook. As one of the scandalous sophomores who have within the last month signed a lease for a non-Colgate-owned apartment for the 2009-’10 school year, I took great interest in reading Associate Director of Residential Life James Amato’s recent letter to the sophomore class. Amato’s message — which, in short, told sophomores to quit being so proactive on senior-year housing — ignores some of the obvious shortfalls of Colgate’s ResLife programming and serves as yet another example of an office dreadfully out-of-touch with the housing situation at Colgate.

In particular, Amato’s point that “there are opportunities for senior year living that will not be known until the start of the junior year” riles me as a reinforcement of Colgate’s system of Balkanized housing that has been so ardently supported under the New Vision for Residential Education. In reviewing the Maroon-News files on housing, I’ve found that even before the University’s 2004 acquisition of Greek Life houses, Colgate supported efforts to get upper-class year students to participate in “theme” housing. Whether it be Greek Life, academically oriented, racially segregated, or otherwise loosely veiled under some sort of ResLife “opportunity,” Colgate’s multitude of housing programs seem determined to maximize the productivity of Colgate students, programming their lives even in their school-year homes.

I certainly do not wish to detract from those programs that serve legitimate purposes; my friends that reside in houses such as 94 Broad, Sigma Chi and the Creative Arts House all contribute a great deal to the campus dynamic. That said, I don’t feel any particular compunction about not joining these programs myself. When my days of classes, labs, newspaper, and COVE meetings are complete, I look forward to returning to my room in Cutten, free to read the Times and do my work without another level of scheduling in my life.

Such a safe haven from the bustle of daily life is calming and, in my mind, quite necessary to the sanity of many Colgate students. Yet, as Colgate students get older, the University seems intent on restricting this ability. For those students not interested in fraternities or programmed houses, the housing options are frustrating at best.

The newest of these options — the Townhouses — were conceived as a response to the housing crunch of the 1990s. For all of their modern amenities and comforts, last year’s housing process showed that few older students relish the idea of living with 11 to 15 of their semi-best friends, especially when such an arrangement is only possible after an application process that includes an at least half-thoughtful theme proposal. While Parker and Newell apartments may be smaller and non-themed, the possibility of being exiled to the University Court complex looms at the back of the junior and senior housing lotteries. ResLife’s subliminal message is clear — pick a theme or suffer a year at the whim of the B Cruiser.

Frankly, I loathe the idea of being so completely removed from both the school and the Village, and that is why last month I signed a lease for a downtown apartment. My decision to “circumvent the University administered process for receiving off-campus housing,” as James Amato put it, was driven not by a desire to offend or derail Colgate’s housing program, but simply as a means of avoiding it altogether. If ResLife or any of my classmates call this action “unfair,” so be it — I call it enterprising. If Colgate really wants to produce self-reliant students, perhaps the school ought to get off our backs about taking the initiative to jump on decent apartments, just as we will be forced to do when we graduate from our beloved ivory tower on a hill.