SU Student Demands of the Office of Residence Life
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For many years now Susquehanna University’s Office of Residence Life has failed to properly accommodate the specific case by case housing needs that come with those individuals, and their families, with financial instability, as well as students with mental health concerns. While many of these cases have unfortunately not always been handled properly, complaints have seemingly become even more frequent under the new Director of Residence Life, Ed Stigall Jr.
Students have often been made to ask total strangers for rides home or even pay for motel or hotel rooms when told they could not stay on campus two or three extra days while they wait for parents to have a day off work. Considering most students on campus do not own a car and most parents need to work 40+ hours a week to financially support a college student, it is unethical to assume every student can leave the premises around six o’clock when considering that their parents’ work schedules may prohibit them from picking up their child(ren) at certain times and on certain days.
Students have been, on multiple occasions, forced to leave campus or told they would have to leave campus in the future, even after explaining they currently have no home to go back to. Specifically pertaining to this idea, the Office of Residence Life needs to take into account that there are students leaving their home to avoid abusive parents or guardians, due to a fallout with parents–such as often happens with LGBTQ+ individuals–, or students whose parents are no longer living therefore leaving them with no home and financially independent of others. These cases can be exceptionally difficult because on paper there is still a financial connection made between the student and their parents/guardians even though the students may be, in reality, completely independent of them. For many students in this position, being granted the opportunity to stay on campus as opposed to returning to an unsafe space is a saving grace. For many students, campus is the only home they really have.
For these reasons we sign that the following be put into practice immediately:
1. In order to avoid sending students home who do not have a home to go back to, or who are not financially stable enough to be sent home, a process should be made by which a student can receive permission from Financial Aid to stay on campus. Financial Aid should be given the right to approve or deny students since they are most familiar with the financial situation of any given student.
a. A committee should be formed including students that would define what qualifies as a “financially unstable” student.
2. Give the Counseling Center the ability to approve students who have been attending counseling to stay on campus over breaks in situations that they see fit. This would likely include situations involving mental, physical, or emotional abuse when returning home as well as any other mental health concerns that may be connected to leaving campus. Residence Life is not qualified to make decisions as to what situations are safe or unsafe for students to return to. This should be handled by the professionals staffed at the Counseling Center.
3. Students staying on campus to work should be able to stay on campus regardless of the amount of hours worked per week. The current policy which requires 20+ hours per week is not sound in logic since those making the least amount of money on campus (those working under 20 hours) would be expected to spend the largest amount of money to stay near campus since they would have to live in town. Many students looking for jobs on campus fall into similar categories as points 1 and 2 (students looking to avoid going home for a variety of valid reasons).
4. Students must be given respectful and proper consideration in cases where the student may not be capable of vacating campus by the required time due to the work schedule of a parent/guardian. As is mentioned above, many students at Susquehanna University come from middle class, or lower class households that cannot afford to take a day off work, particularly in the middle of the week when most students are done finals, to move their child(ren) and their belongings home. The goal of Residence Life should be to accommodate these students as best as possible rather than to request their removal from campus as soon as they can, while threatening to fine them if they don’t. Fining 50 dollars to a student that cannot afford to leave campus could not be more counterproductive. Students do not leave due to financial constraints at times, and by adding a secondary financial constraint it shows the student body that we as individuals are not respected or cared about.
5. A process should be created by which an official complaint can be filed against Residence Life, and any other campus office, and the staff members working within the aforementioned office anonymously through the current Residence Life Liaison appointed by SGA.
6. Finally, a student organization such as the Student Government Association should be given the power to review cases in which a student believes Residence Life has not properly accommodated them and followed the rules as they are written in the student handbook. A three fourths vote should be required to pass through SGA and return the case to the Director of Residence Life. At that time, there will be further review of both the student’s case and SGA’s decision.
a. A committee should be created made up of faculty and students to add these changes in policy to the “Residence Life & Community Living Policies” section of the student handbook.
The office of Residence Life owes an apology to all students that they have harmed in their attempts to keep as many students off campus as possible. The aforementioned department has failed to make students and their well-being a priority on Susquehanna’s campus and for that reason we demand more than just a conversation. We demand these changes be made for the sake of future Susquehanna students and furthered accountability.
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