Continue the Practice of Off-Campus Housing at Dickinson College

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November 29, 2017

Dear President Ensign and Members of the Board of Trustees,

As alumni, we are deeply troubled by the Office of Student Life’s decision to remove the option of off-campus housing for rising seniors. Not only does this option limit a student’s choice but it also hurts the truest forms of a liberal arts experience; a Dickinson experience.

Currently as it stands the college will be unable to house all rising seniors in “small houses and apartments”. As stated by Dean Bylander in her message to the Class of 2019, there are only 466 apartment style beds available within campus housing. At a college with class sizes of roughly 600 students, over a hundred seniors would be left out of apartment style housing. Furthermore, this number is misleading. The statistic fails to include those that qualify for disability housing via the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Say for example there is a sophomore that is living in a group of four students and is gluten free. As should be granted, that individual would qualify for disability housing and have an apartment or small house with its own kitchen to accommodate their dietary needs. The downside is that eliminates three additional beds for seniors in an apartment or small house. In many cases, friends of the individual who qualifies for ADA housing tag along with them. As such, with the lower number of beds in houses and apartments, the number of equitable housing options for seniors diminishes greatly. In turn, the same people who tag along with a friend for ADA housing will continue to circumvent the housing lottery system and obtain houses and apartments on campus.

Any Dickinsonian knows that a liberal arts education does not stop in the classroom, but continues in various activities, one’s social life and the world around them. Based upon this new decision, future seniors will be forced into living in lower classman housing options, thus hurting the social elements of one’s college experience. Yes, it is true there are now beds available for all students on campus, but the new options and ruling from student life will hurt the overall social experience. As a school that has previously struggled with retention rates, the administration should be looking for ways to enhance the Dickinson experience, not limit it. A true Dickinson experience includes a thriving social life. The new policy from the Office of Student life will create a hindrance to it.

In its essence, a Dickinson education encourages to connect not only with the world but with the community around them. Over my four years as a Dickinsonian, I observed the strained relationship between the community and the college. A source to this is the lack of connection the college has with the community. By isolating the student population further from the community, it will continue to reinforce the divide between Carlislilians and Dickinsonians. Many efforts have been made to improve it, but this new policy will only hurt this growing partnership by making our limestone walls taller and inaccessible to the community that we hope to engage with.

I urge you to reverse this decision until fair housing options are available for all students. It is abhorrent that a school with one of the highest tuition, room and board costs in the country cannot guarantee a small house and apartment for all seniors. It should not be required to live on campus if first years are still living in forced triples and outdated dorms. Until houses and apartments become an option to all rising seniors, I ask you to continue the practice of off-campus housing, as has been the practice in recent years.


Members of the Dickinson College Alumni