New housing policy unfairly hurts transfer students
Last year Puget Sound decided to alter their policy and require students to live on campus for their first two years at the university. With the addition of a large new residence hall, this was seen as a step toward furthering the on-campus community and a chance to bring in more revenue from room and board expenses.
Puget Sound is certainly not out of place with their requirements. Many comparable liberal arts colleges have policies ranging from one to four years of campus living. The policy went from two to three years when I was at Occidental College in Los Angeles, with the option to apply for off-campus housing as a junior.
The application form at Occidental focused on academic quality and engagement in the campus community. The administration wanted to ensure that the students that were permitted to leave campus would still be active, successful members of the school.
The appeal form for Puget Sound students looks very different. Rather than judging an individual’s performance or involvement, the exceptions they list include: being 23 years of age, married, with children, or exhibiting medical needs that cannot be met through on campus living. Though they include financial well-being as a possible exemption, they claim this is only viable if the student would be unable to attend Puget Sound because of the price difference.
While it makes sense to give exemptions to all those listed above, another thing they might consider is giving a waiver to transfer students. Transfers, despite being of junior or senior standing with the university, are required to live on campus under current policy. Most schools of similar standing make exemptions; understanding that isolating transfer students to on-campus housing certainly won’t transition them into social life with their peers.
I have lived on campus this year as a junior and have enjoyed the experience, but when applying to live off campus for my senior year, I have been met with stubborn opposition. I am sure Residence Life staff have terrific intentions, as keeping first and second year students on campus may have its benefits. From their website, the goals of campus living are “to cultivate new friendships, focus on academics, and pursue interests and co-curricular activities.”
Such goals have applied to me this year. As a transfer student, all my friendships were new, and living on campus has certainly done its part in getting me involved in organizations on campus. The trouble is, those connections that I have made could largely go unfulfilled if I am forced to refuse the generous housing offers I have received from my peers.
Though many appeals are unresolved and will be sorted through during the summer months, the administration has already denied several transfer students the ability to live off campus, disrupting housing plans for many. One has to question the motives of Residence Life Faculty in this regard. The two-year policy makes some sense for freshmen and sophomores, but for transfer juniors and seniors? Integration into both the academic and social communities are listed as goals by residence officials, but it is tough to see how preventing new students from cohabitating with their peers accomplishes these goals.
If they were to admit that the real incentive behind this policy is revenue, they may fear public backlash. However, the policy’s inclusion of transfer students in the two-year requirement simply doesn’t make sense. By denying transfers the ability to live off campus, they are not only further excluding them from the social benefits of living with peers, but they are denying them the opportunity to experience independent living, a crucial stepping stone in the growth of a young adult.