The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News December 2, 2005

Fewer Students Will Live Off-Campus
ResEd Plans to Curtail Off-Campus Housing

The Office of Residential Education has decided to change its policy regarding off-campus housing, effective fall 2006. Whereas in previous years, students had advantage based on credit hours, priority will now be determined by semesters of residency.

Oberlin students whose class standing is inflated by AP and transfer credits will no longer receive an advantage in their housing selection. Instead, priority for residency both on and off campus will be given to students based on semesters of residence, requiring a minimum of six semesters on campus to be eligible for off-campus housing. Priority will be decided within each class by lottery. A limited amount of off-campus spots will be allotted.

Students will still receive residency credit for an approved Academic Leave of Absence, which includes studying abroad and living off campus. This way, they will not unfairly fall behind their peers.

ResEd’s change in the off-campus selection method is due to a number of factors.

“[There was a desire to] make the process more equitable for those students who have actually lived with us for six semesters and who now want the opportunity to live off campus,” said Associate Dean of Residential Education Molly Tyson.

The new process has also been instated in order to reduce the number of people living off campus by lowering the number of students who are eligible.

“The board felt that Oberlin College is a residential campus and that too high a percent of students were living off campus to consider it residential,” said Tyson.

“Housing in town was not always perfect for students,” said Michele Gross, director of business operations and dining. “[Housing has a] negative impact on the town’s economy because there weren’t many houses left for families because so many were made into rooming houses for students.”

Not only did the amount of off-campus students lessen the selection for non-College residents, but it also drove up the cost of rent because out-of-town students could often pay more for rent than the town residents.

Student senator and residential assistant of two years Marshall Duer-Balkind recognized that the housing situation is complex. He said that he feels the College should take an active role in filling the vacated rental homes as more students begin to live on campus in order to, according to Duer-Balkind, “make sure the [house-renting] market just doesn’t crash.”

“As of now, a lot of College employees live in surrounding areas instead of Oberlin,” said Duer-Balkind. “The College should be offering loans to employees to help them buy and renovate local housing.”

The College is currently in the process of adding new campus housing near Stevenson for 168 students. This is part of an attempt to create a total of 300 new housing spaces, a venture that has already begun with the Union Street houses, which have created living space for 132 students.The new housing, however, will not immediately change the number of off-campus residents because once it opens up behind Stevenson, some of the existing dorms will be vacated for complete renovation.

As of now, there are approximately 465 students living off campus and that number is not likely to change until the new housing is complete, renovations are finished and the new housing is ready to open. In fact, the change may take even longer than that. At the Nov. 9 Senate meeting, Nancy Dye announced the plans for housing near Stevenson were going back to the drawing board.

Duer-Balkind believes that the plans were turned down because “they didn’t contain any acknowledgment of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard that the Oberlin Board of Trustees committed to in 2004.”

Housing such as the Union Street houses is in response to students wanting to live off campus.

“We wanted to provide juniors and seniors with an off-campus experience with an on-campus setting,” said Tyson.

Village housing does not only require a higher number of residency credits than the standard residence halls, but it also costs more money. Such housing is approximately $1000 more expensive than traditional dormitory housing and can be more than $2500 more than off-campus housing per year. Therefore, the “off-campus experience” does not come with an off-campus price tag.

“That’s classist,” said Duer-Balkind. “You provide nicer housing for those who could pay for it. Those who can’t afford [upper standing dorms] but could afford to live in town will be forced to live in standard residence halls.”

SRA Hannah Fenley points out that the fact that off-campus housing is not guaranteed “could present a problem for getting leases” for students studying abroad.

“People who are abroad now were told that the lottery will be happening in the spring. In the future they will be doing the lottery sooner, probably in the fall semester instead of spring for the following school year,” said Fenley. “When I’m a senior I like the idea that a sophomore or junior wouldn’t get priority over me and wouldn’t increase the lottery pool.”


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