When I went on a tour at Colgate, the first thing that struck me was the town. The small, cozy shops and apartments enchant you the second you drive in. College students run up and down the stairs to their apartment with stuff they got next door; it is so exciting. I always wanted to live in town with my friends, especially during my senior year. However, I’ve learned about the immense restriction Colgate has on the number of students that can live off-campus. Recently, the off-campus housing selection email came out for juniors, and many people aren’t happy. As stated in the email by Director of Residential Life Danielle M. Nied, “Colgate requires every student to live in University-owned housing during all four years – with exceptions for only a limited number of seniors (approximately 30 percent of the class).” Last year, two of my friends and I signed a lease as sophomores for an apartment, as did hundreds of other students. We did this knowing we could lose the deposit or have to back out of the lease. Even though off-campus lottery decisions haven’t started, many students are still signing without approval. The fact that students are compelled as sophomores to sign a lease for senior year presents a significant flaw in the office-campus housing process and timeline.
I do think that off-campus housing provides so much more than the administration thinks. The school chooses to view it as a liability, but in reality, it’s a time for seniors to adjust to being on their own for a year before exiting college. Every year, we live in dorms, townhouses or apartments that the school created for us. We are on a meal plan, sleeping in a dorm bed and taking the cruiser up and down the hill. Colgate prides itself on being a four-year residential liberal arts institution, but some issues arise with that.
How can students possibly be given every resource that comes from living on campus and then be pushed into the real world after college with no residential life to assist them with their housing needs? A feeling of responsibility comes with living in a community with neighbors who aren’t college students and having a landlord. Off-campus housing inadvertently forces students to mature and gain real-world experience when they do things like pay for utilities, call for a plumber or just order a new couch. If it does stem from a liability issue, there has to be a better solution than allowing only 30 percent of the senior class to live off-campus. Also, a privilege issue arises because students who can afford to take on the risks and costs take away from those who have waited in the off-campus lottery.
I do think that sometimes Colgate’s solution to issues is to constrain students and implement new policies, believing it is the better option. However, the administration also has the opportunity to have a conversation with students and landlords about the issue and come to a solution that benefits everyone.