Home is Where the Heart is: Juniors’ Hearts are Off-Campus

A petition protesting the college’s decision to require all juniors to live on-campus garnered 228 signatures in five days. The petition points to the lack of on-campus apartments, requiring some juniors to live in small houses and stay on the meal plan, increasing their cost of attendance. The petition, created by sophomore Tessa Dibble, reads: “Living off-campus enables students to gain experience in self-sufficiency and start transitioning to a more independent, adult lifestyle. In addition, juniors should be able to go abroad without fearing that it will jeopardize their housing upon return. While we respect the college’s focus on community, it is not realistic to keep juniors on campus given the current state of housing.”

Photo by Phillip Engh

Last year many juniors successfully petitioned to live off-campus due to over-enrollment, but current rising juniors have slim chances of living off-campus next year. As reported in February, the addition of the East Campus Residential Development allows the college to provide housing for 82 percent of the student body, making the requirement to stay on-campus for three years possible to enforce.

Senior Associate Dean of Students Rochelle Mason said, “The new construction adds 154 new beds, allowing students to develop communities in small house and larger apartment environments, so we’re adding new and unique residential opportunities for our students.” This aligns with the statement from Deans Mike Edmonds and Mason when the three-year on-campus living requirement was strengthened. “We are a residential liberal arts college, and this policy reflects who we are and what we believe,” said Deans Edmonds and Mason, including that prospective students have access to all cost of attendance information before committing to CC.

The petition reacts to the requirement during the apartment selection season with a range of concerns. Students signed the petition for various reasons, from personal frustrations with the housing system—such as sophomore Louisa McBride’s comment “I have nowhere to live”—to structural critiques like sophomore Anna Wermuth’s comment: “If CC wants to make claims about supporting low-income students, providing more housing flexibility is absolutely necessary. The stress that comes with living on-campus can create extreme anxiety and dissatisfaction with being a CC student. In order to retain enrollment and reduce student loan debt, lifting the restrictions on off-campus housing is one of the first steps.”

Many students point to the financial necessity of living off-campus before the benefits of independence and self-sufficiency. Sophomore Cassidy Lam cited her reason for signing as, “I cannot live on campus if y’all don’t share some more financial aid because I legitimately cannot afford to continue going to this school.” Other students agreed with the personal stories of frustration, citing the structural disregard for the stresses of paying for CC. “The meal plan is stupid expensive, housing is stupid expensive,” said sophomore Sam Toulmin. “CC shows no interest in giving students the power to do what works best for them to fit their lifestyle and minimize the costs of college.”

Allowing juniors to live off-campus could defray the cost of attending CC and minimize student loans. “I could save $6,000 during the academic year if I could live off campus,” wrote sophomore Amanda Franks on the petition. “The fact that I’m required to live on-campus puts me further in debt than I actually need to be. It’s absolutely absurd to say that CC cares about low-income students when they ‘won’t approve off-campus living for fiscal reasons.’” This creates a tension between students and the administration as interpretations of CC goals and values differ.

The petition calls for the opportunity to live off-campus if rising juniors find housing options that better fit their needs. “The goal of the petition is to allow juniors to have the option of living off-campus,” said Dibble. Her personal concerns center around being off the meal plan and having access to a more private kitchen to accommodate dietary restrictions. The housing lottery and apartment selection process has eliminated her chance of an apartment with a kitchen. Petition signers expressed the shared desire for independence including sophomore Norbert McGettigan, who wrote, “The school should not require students to live on campus for three years while offering insufficient apartment housing for all juniors and seniors to live in, allowing them to be off the meal plan.”

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