Does mandating that students live on campus instill a sense of community, or does it force students to live in an uncomfortable environment?
It is directly stated on Guilford’s page regarding the policies on Residential Education and Housing that “Because Guilford College is a residential campus that values the community of students in a residential setting, traditional students under the age of 23 are required to live on campus and have a meal plan with our dining services.”
It’s an extremely trying process for those students to gain the privilege of living off campus because they are required to complete an application that justifies their need. Certain factors are taken into consideration like financial means, marital status and mental disorders, but many students feel that these factors are either being disregarded or improperly managed.
Colin Nollet, a junior and resident advisor in Milner, explained that determining someone’s financial means isn’t a simple task, and it can be difficult to perceive the financial capability of certain students.
“I think the costs are reasonable in a sense,” Nollet said. “However, money becomes very relative when you start to think about class and the way we assume people’s financial backgrounds.”
The recent issue of lower enrollment and Guilford’s growing debt could be affecting the department’s stringent policies on granting off campus housing.
Senior Rebecca Van De Beek has applied to live off campus for multiple years, expressing her concerns to the department of Residential Life, but has been denied repeatedly.
“I understand that the school is in debt,” Van De Beek said. “However, my safety and comfortability should not be disregarded because the school needs my money.”
The housing department commented on its policy.
“We remain flexible in accommodating off-campus releases for those students who clearly demonstrate a need based on the criteria,” said Director of Residential Education and Housing Susanna Westberg via email.
Despite the department’s claim regarding leniency in granting off campus housing, many students find this sentiment to be untrue.
Sophomore Gaines McKenzie said that the most difficult part in applying to live off campus was communicating with the department.
McKenzie was denied living off campus this year after having his doctor provide a signed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) form to properly display evidence for his individual need. He described the responses of the housing department as impersonal, and unhelpful and that the department did not respond in a timely fashion.
“I am honestly just baffled as to how I can turn in a complete ADA form, including multiple requests from my doctor who knows what I need, and still get rejected,” McKenzie said. “The hoops they make you jump through to get the help you need are frankly absurd and the way I was treated even more ridiculous.”
If the purpose of students remaining on campus truly revolves around maintaining the sense of community Guilford strives for, students shouldn’t feel that their needs are of lesser importance than how the school appears and how much money each student has to offer.
It is the duty of the staff in the housing department to analyze each individual student’s purpose for requesting off campus housing and to adequately work with them to, at bare minimum, achieve a sufficient compromise. Guilford has over 1,000 traditional students, and they aren’t just numbers to improve the College’s image or relieve some degree of the College’s debt.
Prospective students are drawn to Guilford because of the close-knit community we are blessed with. But when currently enrolled students feel as if their wellness is of lesser importance than the monetary benefits to the College, that is far more capable of dismantling the community than if students chose to live elsewhere.