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GW did away with its off-campus housing office two years ago and replaced it with a “virtual service” – a Web site with outdated listings, no contact information and little utility. The Web site isn’t as much virtual as it is pathetic.

The Web site officially comes under the jurisdiction of Student and Academic Support Services Communication and Technology. Two years ago, the off-campus housing office in the Marvin Center basement closed and responsibility for off-campus housing listings was passed around like a hot potato. The Community Living and Learning Center had its hands full dealing with University residence halls. The Student Association did not have the funding to handle the site, nor does it have the long-term staffing to maintain the service.

So the orphan off-campus housing listings were taken in by SASS Comm Tech. Unfortunately, the housing listings are a neglected child. And that neglect poses a problem to students who thought they could count on the University to help them locate off-campus housing possibilities. It turns out students have a better chance of finding an apartment if they use the tried-and-true method of browsing newspapers’ classified ads.

At an urban university where on-campus housing is at a premium, off-campus housing isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity. And while GW has no obligation to help students find off-campus digs, minimal online assistance could make a big difference.

But if the University is going to put up a housing site, it should not be a half-baked attempt. If the funding and staffing resources are not available, let students know and point them toward other resources. The Web site could be a useful tool if the University put any thought and effort into it. For students, the message is clear – grab a couple of newspapers to search for housing. Don’t count on the University.

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