Changes for Off-Campus Housing on the Horizon

Changes for Off-Campus Housing on the Horizon

Housing both on- and off-campus has been a recurrent issue throughout the past decade at Colgate. However, it has become even more of a concern as different options are explored to ac­commodate the Class of 2014, one of the largest in Colgate’s history. The Of­fice of Residential Life (Res Life) will have to rethink its policies and pro­cesses surrounding student housing in the future, including the Neighbor to Neighbor Program, better known as the Off-Campus Housing Initia­tive. The program was created by Tim Mansfield in 2001 in an attempt to improve the “town and gown” relations and provide support to those students who live off-campus. Keep­ing in mind the 850 students who, in a year, may be signing leases for off-campus apartments, the Office of Residential Life knows that it needs improvement.

Years ago, as many as 500 Colgate students were permitted to live off-campus. However, due to negative backlash from the townspeople and the mayor of Hamilton in recent years, the number of students allowed to live off-campus was reduced to 250. This number was a compromise between the Colgate administration and the vil­lage of Hamilton. Therefore, a lottery was put in place to determine which seniors would be granted the privilege to live off-campus. Associate Director of Residential Education and Technol­ogy Ryan Bennett explains that every­one who wants off-campus housing needs to apply. Those who are not eli­gible, such as underclassmen and those students who have a serious offense or negative conduct history, are removed from the lottery.

“We disqualify someone that we would really worry about what they would do in the village,” Bennett said.

However, Bennett is looking for ways to determine off-campus status based on merit and quality of housing application.

“Since such a system would be pretty subjective, we haven’t found a way yet,” Bennett said.

Since certain houses and locations are more desirable than others, students rush to sign leases as early as their sophomore year. Meanwhile, these students are not notified whether or not they have received off-campus housing until the fall semester of their junior year.

“Colgate does not support a student signing a lease two years before,” Bennett said. “Students could find themselves in a spot where they are committed to paying a landlord and Colgate.”

Letters are sent out to sophomores warning them of the risks of early lease signing. Meanwhile, landlords are get­ting more creative to maintain their businesses and livelihoods. Many have created clauses in their leases stating that students who sign a lease and do not get approved for off-campus housing must find a group of students to replace them, otherwise resulting in the loss of their down payments.

In the past, directors in Res Life have attempted to talk with landlords, urg­ing them to not sign leases with sopho­mores. Wayne Foster, landlord of eight houses in Hamilton, agreed to Colgate’s terms several years ago.

“I held off signing leases until stu­dents’ junior years and I had three houses unrented,” Foster said.

Consequently, in recent years, sophomores have been signing leases even earlier.

“I had sophomores calling me before classes even started, but they want the more desirable houses.”

Sophomore Joanna Brunner has her housing situation under control.

“The whole process has been pretty stressful,” Brunner said. “We didn’t know when was the right time to start looking for houses, and once we realized so many other people had already signed leases, we figured we really needed to start looking. Luckily, it looks like it’s going to work out.”

Meanwhile, other sophomores are still concerned.

“I was walking around a tailgate at the beginning of the year and overheard peo­ple in my year talking about signing leases, and I was thinking, what is going on?” sophomore Danny Werber said.

Even the seniors are noticing the panic among underclassmen.

“There’s been four groups of sopho­mores that have taken tours of my house already,” senior Molly Novatt said, who is currently living in an off-campus house. “We didn’t sign our lease until junior year, but I guess we got lucky.”

Other sophomores are not as worried.

“I had no idea that sophomores were even thinking or worrying about senior-year housing. At this point, it’s really not on the immediate horizon,” sophomore Billy Barkhausen said. “I really don’t care that much where I live senior year. It’s re­ally too far away to think about seriously right now.”

While there is concern among stu­dents regarding the availability of off-campus housing, much concern resides within the administration and the townspeople of Hamilton.

“It would be great to get to a point when no one wants to reduce the 250 number, when I don’t hear townspeople talking about reducing the number to 150,” Bennett said.

Meanwhile, landlords feel differently.

“I think things are going well and I’d like to see that number raise to 300,” Foster said.

However, townspeople may not agree with increasing the number of Colgate students residing within the village. Some students take their independence too far and disturb their neighbors with loud par­ties and unruly conduct. Therefore, one of Bennett’s goals for the Neighbor to Neigh­bor program is to improve the relation­ship between off-campus Colgate students and their neighbors. He also hopes to find other ways to quantify Colgate students’ contributions to the village of Hamilton.

“Students could host gatherings for the residents on their blocks to sub­tly show their neighborhood that they have passions and aspirations beyond drinking alcohol and throwing trash on their yards. It only takes one stu­dent being loud to disrupt an entire street,” Bennett said.

“Current off-campus seniors’ behaviors affect the class of 2012. Unfortunately, they get judged by what their predecessors do,” Bennett said.

However, Wayne Foster believes that Hamilton needs Colgate.

“Landlords are such a huge tax base. If they took the students out of the vil­lage, it would be devastating,” Foster said. “People should realize what Col­gate brings to the table. In such a small town, so many things are offered to the community because of it.”