Under the cover of the residential life homepage, Kalamazoo College quietly reimplemented an old housing policy a few weeks ago, requiring students to “live in the College’s residential system… through winter quarter of their junior year, starting with the Fall 2017 entering class.” With the administration having not yet made any sort of public announcement about the change in housing policy, the situation has the potential to go almost entirely unnoticed by current students.
This may seem unnecessary to point out, much less to devote an entire article to, as, obviously, this policy does not and will not impact current students. It is easy enough to throw up our hands and say “tough break” for the incoming first-year students, and this is likely what the vast majority of us will do (perhaps including myself). Nevertheless, this newly-implemented housing policy is still worth consideration, and not only for the benefit of our future fellow hornets. Rather, this policy seems to suggest that the College still holds some confusing and/or troubling notions that show a lack of understanding regarding the average experience of students here at Kalamazoo College.
Few other American colleges and universities insist on having students live on campus into their junior year, and a number don’t even enforce dorm requirements past the first year of study
For one, a number of students simply do not wish to live on campus past their sophomore year, and it could certainly be argued that this alone ought to be enough of a reason not to reimplement this requirement. Few other American colleges and universities insist on having students live on campus into their junior year, and a number don’t even enforce dorm requirements past the first year of study. So what is it that compels K to keep us living here?
According to Stephan N. Sanney, Director of Residential Life here at Kalamazoo College, it is, primarily, for our benefit. In a statement made to The Index, Sanney holds that the College believes that students living on campus are provided with a more “seamless transition to college,” they remain “better connected to campus resources,” and have a “multitude of opportunities for leadership and involvement.” Sanney also argues that all of this is made available without “worry of rent, utilities, or preparing meals,” and that living on campus allows students to “learn what it means to be a member of a community” and to “live with others who may be very different from themselves.” When asked what the College stands to gain from the new housing policy, Sanney maintained that “the overall community benefits from a vibrant residential system and one in which students with a shared college experience can connect, motivate, and challenge one another.” When asked directly if the change is financially motivated, Sanney affirms that, “practically speaking, filling spaces in the residential system… provides the College with greater financial stability.”
All of this is well and good, and seems to be a series of genuine answers to what must be difficult questions for one person, especially regarding a “College decision” that was not solely “crafted or dictated by the Office of Residential Life.” Nevertheless, one could see how it might leave a bad taste in students’ mouths to have these “decisions,” made for us. I reiterate, a significant number of students at Kalamazoo College simply do not wish to continue living on campus past the first or second year. Is this not their decision to make as adults? Can the aforementioned benefits of continuing to live on campus be fully felt or appreciated if they are not entirely consensual? Is choosing where and how to live not a fundamental moment in the life of a young adult? And is it right or fair of the College to delay the opportunity to make this choice? These are all questions the College will have to contend with as they move forward with this new policy, and students have every right to be displeased with the answers.
Practically speaking, filling spaces in the residential system…provides the College with greater financial stability.
Furthermore, it is worth considering that Kalamazoo College remains far and away the most expensive college in the state. Much to our annual dismay, tuition seems to increase every year without any kind of change to merit-based scholarship to supplement rising costs. This has the potential to leave students feeling utterly stranded at an academic institution like K when enrollment goes from merely being “pricey” to being financially irresponsible. One of the most effective ways of abating this by cutting costs and potentially limiting student loan debt would be to eliminate the cost of room and board, which makes up nearly $10,000 of the $56,000 K students annually shell out to the College. But to require students to live on campus for longer period of times, is it not unfair to argue that Kalamazoo College is only serving to make itself that much more unaffordable?
And finally, how long can we expect this to last? Sanney insists that these changes are not “new,” rather, a “reversion” to an old housing policy, removed a few years ago due to a “lack of space within the residential system,” brought on “unusually large class sizes.” But if this is indeed true, what is to stop another increase in student enrollment from changing the policy once more? And if this is the case, can the College truly afford for so much disparity between individual classes, and how will this potential disparity impact students?
From all I have learned upon my investigation, this new housing policy has really only served to create uncertainty. And in the midst of all of these pressing questions, all I can hope to find, it seems, is more. When it comes to the new campus housing policy, did the College truly think through the potential social and financial implications? And who, in the end, really benefits?