Every fall, students with nonsenior status who plan to live off campus the following academic year must apply for off-campus status from the Office of Residential Life. Typically, most of the students who apply for off-campus housing receive approval. However, this fall, the residential life office only gave off-campus approval to 51% of applicants for the 2020–21 academic year.
The college’s decision to accept just over half of all applicants for off-campus housing sparked outrage among students in the college’s current sophomore class, many of whom anticipated they would be approved due to the college’s generally lenient history with off-campus housing. In response, they organized a public conversation with Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado and a protest against the Res Life decision Nov. 11.
It is unlikely this student protest will have any effect on the sophomore housing situation for the 2020–21 academic year, as there was a low turnout and the Office of Residential Life has maintained a firm stance on its decisions regarding off-campus housing applicants. However, it draws attention to the administration’s failure to meet its students’ needs and the immediate need for change within the housing selection process, especially considering the college’s current housing crisis on campus.
This year, many sophomore students were denied housing in Emerson Hall and the Terrace Residence Halls, both of which primarily house sophomore students. Due to a lack of available space, many were forced to select housing in freshman dorms or on-campus apartments, which can be significantly more expensive than their typical sophomore housing options. This messy process sparked an initial sense of housing-related frustration among members of the sophomore class, and they have every right to pursue off-campus housing in hopes of avoiding a similar situation next year. By denying many of these off-campus requests, the college is only further igniting frustration and distrust among its students.
The decision also carries significant financial burdens, especially for students who cannot afford the ridiculously high prices of on-campus apartments. The cost of a single or double room in the college’s on-campus apartments is significantly higher than many off-campus housing options. By rejecting just under half of all off-campus applications, the college is forcing students to pay out of pocket to remain enrolled in an institution that, already, has ever-rising tuition rates that demand students take on loans or debt.
Students should not be burdened with the responsibility to find their own solutions to the college’s housing problems. Rather, the college has a responsibility to make a stressful process like housing selection as effective and straightforward as possible. This could look like engaging in more transparent discussions with students about the college’s housing situation and providing more adequate, affordable options for on-campus living. As Res Life plans future housing selection processes, it is necessary that it considers the impact it has on student life and does all in its power to alleviate student concerns.