Last Friday over 100 students received notification that they were not selected in the off-campus housing lottery and will not be allowed to live off-campus during their senior year. As a representative from the junior class, we believe this decision contradicts a precedent that has been set in relation to off-campus living at Union.
Since I was a freshman here, the consensus on campus has been that seniors have the opportunity to live in an off-campus accommodation if they want to do so. This model was the same when my sister Shelby Cutter ’11 graduated, and seems to have been unchanged until last week. With the construction of upper-class dormitories on the horizon, it is presumable that Union is shifting away from off-campus living for seniors. With that said, many students feel blindsided by the recent denials for off-campus release.
On the surface this issue may seem negligible, but many students have already signed a lease and paid a security deposit for their off-campus housing. Collectively, my housemates and I have paid $13,200 to a landlord for an off-campus house next year.
Our landlord could potentially exercise his right to take legal action against us if we break our binding agreement, in which we would be obligated to pay $73,500 for the ten-month contract. We are one case of many juniors in this situation, while numerous sophomores have also put down payments on future senior homes.
During our time at Union, students are taught to be proactive about senior living, resulting in students seeking off-campus houses starting their freshman and sophomore years. With leases starting in July, it seems unfair that students are expected to refrain from signing leases until February. If Union wants to continue this trend, it would be advisable to provide students with ample time to sort out their living situations.
Last year, several sophomores were released off-campus due to a lack of space on-campus and overcrowding in Fox. Once a student is granted release to live off-campus, they are free to do so until they graduate. This means that next year there will be juniors living off-campus, while seniors who have already put down-payments on houses will be required to remain on-campus.
I want to make it clear that I acknowledge that the Union College handbook states, “All students are required to live on campus for their entire time at Union College, if space is available.” Indeed, this issue is policy-related, but this requirement has not been brought to the attention of the student body. The first time we were personally notified that off-campus release is not guaranteed was less than one month ago at an information session on Wednesday January 29th, 2014, long after most students signed leases with landlords.
While ignorance of Union policy is not a valid excuse, I am merely suggesting that Union reexamines its procedure to grant students off-campus living. Many students feel that an integral part of the college experience is to live independently in their own homes, and this policy hinders that possibility. I have had a tremendous experience at Union and simply want to live with my best friends under the same roof.
I love Union—its people, the culture, its academics, and that intangible sense of pride we all feel when we pass by the Nott on a spring day. I am writing this article because I care about Union’s future and want to spread awareness about this issue.
Correction: This article states that over 100 students were not released from campus. According to the Office of Residential Life, 88 students were not released from campus.