By Maura Driscoll
On Feb. 14, 2014, the one day all year meant to be filled with the most love possible, I received nothing of the sort from the Office of Residential Life.
Instead, I received what would spur six-months’-worth of anguish and resentment toward a school that I otherwise adore.
Although I am currently a very happy resident of 22.5 Union Ave., only two months ago, I was still burdened with the belief that I would be responsible for paying not only my room and board, which for a scholarship kid is not exactly cheap, and my legally binding rent agreement off campus.
Learning that I was finally, after long last, released off campus just a month away from beginning my senior year did not fill me with overwhelming relief.
In fact, I felt just the opposite.
I was angry and frustrated with the system, irate that I had been forced to wait until the end of the summer to be told I had been released, after Union had finally determined that, predictably, they did not have room on campus for everyone.
Allow me to expand on some of the reasons that I was so furious with Union for dragging its feet until July 22 to inform us waitlisters that we had been released.
For starters, I had been accepted to the South Africa mini-term program last spring, but after discussing it with my parents, we decided that we simply could not afford the costly trip considering that I would be paying both room and board and rent.
Over the summer, I worked three different jobs to try and save at least a few dollars to help pay for what I believed was about to be the most expensive year of my life at Union.
Rather than spend my days off at the beach, I had no days off, and my summer was more about working doubles and internships than relaxation.
Furthermore, my family began to make cuts wherever they could to attempt to afford the upcoming year, forced to choose the disastrous financial situation I had backed them into rather than living life as we normally do.
I am not saying that I am blameless in the mess that the off-campus release process became last spring.
Yes, we are all aware that leases should not be signed during sophomore year for off campus houses.
However, should you be released, certain houses off campus are incredibly sought-after for a multitude of reasons — the primary and most important being that Schenectady is not always a safe place.
This is not a secret, and we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge some of the less-than-desirable behavior that goes on in the surrounding areas.
Students battle for the houses closest to campus that historically are rented to Union undergrads for exactly that reason — the landlords can be trusted and they are close to campus.
Discourage against signing a lease too early as much as you would like, Office of Residential Life, but I promise that your warning will not be a great enough deterrent to outweigh the prospect of missing out on a reliable off-campus house.
Union feels as though it has found a solution to maintaining its status as a residential college by building a new dorm near College Park Hall for upperclassmen, a project that is slated to be completed for fall 2015.
Undoubtedly, even fewer students will be released for the 2015-2016 academic year as a result of this new housing project.
However, let us remember that the Karp Hall renovations were meant to be completed for this term, and they remain under construction. Ground has yet to be broken on the new dormitory project.
I am not attacking the housing process at Union as a whole — I wholeheartedly respect that Union wants to maintain a residential-campus status and have as many students living on campus as possible.
The system through which this is carried out, however, is flawed.
A major fault in the system that continues to stand out to me is Union’s policy of refusing to take away releases after they have been granted.
This means that the sophomores last year that Union was forced to release off campus due to overcrowding got to keep their off-campus status while 88 seniors were denied a release.
How is that fair for seniors who have earned the privilege of living off campus?
Furthermore, Union notoriously over-enrolls the incoming freshman class.
It seems as though every year Residential Life turns doubles into forced triples and lacks space on campus for every student.
When this is the case, as it was last year, why is it so terrible for seniors to be released off campus?
I am not calling for Union to change their residential campus policy.
Instead, I am simply asking for some revisions so that the housing process is a smoother and less antagonistic experience for all involved.
Releases should be done in waves, as the school becomes aware of what their capacity on campus will be, instead of releasing every student when for some, it is then too late.
Having experienced it firsthand, I would hate to watch future classes at Union undergo the stressful and sometimes agonizing off-campus release process with the college’s current policies.
I love this school and all that it does for us, but this is an issue that cannot continue, and students and the administration need to work together to find a solution for an easier transition to off-campus life.