Don’t @ Me: The Need to Revise Res Life

I’ve got a problem. And no, I do not have a fever, and even if I did have a fever, the only prescription would not be more cowbell. My problem is with the Department of Residential Life and Campus Activities and how they go about dealing with students and arranging housing for upperclassmen. While cognizant of the fact that this may strike many readers as a liberal arts college student whining, my only endeavor in writing this is to illuminate the underlying causes behind grievances that I, and other students, have. When it comes down to it, Res Life needs to be more fluid and efficient in their communication with students, taking action to ensure that all students feel accounted for and taken care of.

Cartoon by Lo Wall

Students, particularly rising upperclassmen, have been left confused and unhappy about their living situation in some dealings with Res Life. The apartment selection process was unduly stressful and tense, and despite having constructed brand new apartments for the 2017-2018 academic year and beyond, there were still not enough apartments for all juniors to live in one. Having lived in large dorms and small houses for their first two years, it was entirely justified that each rising junior wanted an opportunity to embrace a living situation with more independence. It was clear that not every junior could have an apartment and the logical progression would be to allow students to live off-campus. The three-year on-campus living requirement made this impossible for everyone who could not get an apartment, as, according to the College’s website, “The residential requirement is a critical part of the Colorado College experience.”

To say that the residential requirement is essential, and that having so many students live on-campus is crucial to building community, is an inherently flawed statement, as the Department of Residential Life and Housing seems unwilling to acknowledge (or is oblivious to) the fact that to build a healthy community, you must have people who want to live there. As such, the three-year on-campus requirement appears to students as a thinly veiled attempt to squeeze more money out of their pockets. Living off-campus is significantly less expensive, and it is also possible for eating off-campus to be far cheaper than the meal plan. It is certainly nice to live in a dorm or small house, with a meal plan from Bon Appetit to provide every meal. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t necessarily have a nice declining-balance fund for you to eat endless brunch every weekend. College is, ostensibly, about growing up and becoming independent. When parts of the College stand in the way of that by preventing or simply not being able to provide a more independent experience as students grow older, then it is clear that something has to change.

One of Res Life’s espoused core values is that of responsibility, defined on their website as such: “We educate and prepare students to think critically, make thoughtful decisions and embrace personal and social responsibility. We do so by holding students accountable, both individually and collectively, for their actions or inactions in an environment marked by care and concern where we empower students to do the same.” Some students have encountered conduct issues relating to relatively minor infractions that were inflated to grand proportions. When frustrated students are made more frustrated by arbitrary disciplinary policy and screwed-up communication and expectations, the “community” that Res Life is trying to create cracks, and we’re all left worse off for it. Perhaps, teaching responsibility could be better achieved in allowing students to build their communities as they see fit.

Furthermore, the lack of adequate space and prohibition of living off-campus for juniors gives an unfair advantage to students whose high schools offered courses for college credit. It gives preference in the lottery to juniors with more credits, thereby letting students who have more credits through their high school to guarantee themselves a preferential living situation, whereas students who do not have this boost to their transcript are left fighting for the scraps, through no fault of their own. It is well known that college-credit courses in high school tend to be filled with white, affluent students, as published in an Atlantic article “The Race Gap in High School Honors Classes.” But in saying this, I am by no means attempting to claim that everyone at CC who has AP credits is a white, affluent individual. However, I am going so far as to say that at a school where diversity is nowhere near its peer institutions, it might not be far off the mark to say that this preference in housing benefits more white, affluent students than it does students of different races and/or economic status.

Maybe, just maybe, if there’s better reasoning behind why living on-campus for three years is so critical that community we’ve heard so much about can coalesce into being. I am not asking for Res Life to change their policy overnight—I would rather they come out with a public statement explaining why the three-year requirement is so critical. I don’t know about other apartments and small houses, but I can’t say the residents of my building are all hanging out together and enhancing our learning environment. Res Life needs to recognize that their current lottery system unfairly benefits students who have more credits reaching back to high school. Moreover, Res Life should explicitly state that the three-year requirement has nothing to do with economic incentive.

John Feigelson

John Feigelson

John Feigelson is an avid writer, reader, climber, skier, Swedish fish eater, comic book aficionado and New York Yankees fan. He is an organismal biology and ecology major from New York City, and loves the thrill of journalism.

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