GW makes housing change

GW housing officials have eased off a new requirement that all sophomores live in campus housing next year by making it easy for students to claim exemptions.

The University will now allow sophomores to move off campus by signing a form indicating they cannot afford to live in a residence hall or have another extenuating circumstance, housing officials decided over winter break.

Unlike five previously standing exemptions to housing rules, no evidence is required for students to be exempt under the new provision. It is based solely on a form submitted by the student that pledges truth of financial difficulty or other hardship.

The new exemption will only be offered this year, Dean of Students Linda Donnels said. In the future, Donnels said, the University will use electronic databases like Banner Web to verify applications and other exemptions will be clearly categorized.

“This is a victory for students,” Residence Hall Association President Noel Frame said. “A lot of students were concerned because they had already prepared themselves to live off campus.”

Frame said the exemptions will be “fairly liberal.”

But the new decision is a step back for neighborhood residents who have fought to get GW to house more students on campus. The Board of Zoning Adjustments mandated in March that GW house all sophomores on campus

Donnels said students will need to provide a “narrative” describing their reason for exemption and she does not think students will abuse the provision.

Other students exempt from living on campus include those who commute, are married, have children or who have certain disabilities or religious beliefs.

While the new exemption was initiated by GW, the other five were required by the BZA.

Although GW never officially announced sophomores would be required to live on campus, housing officials informed the Residence Hall Association of the new rule in meetings November.

When the rule was announced, RHA members said they may be unable to achieve their goal of eliminating the housing waiting list this year.

Frame said 10-student RHA housing committee has met weekly with the Community Living and Learning Center to express student concern.

“RHA expressed very loudly and clearly that we needed to have an exception,” said Frame. “The students should have had sooner notification (of the new regulation), but I think they have personally compensated with this exemption.”

Apartments in the D.C. area are cheaper than most GW housing. The least expensive residence hall, Pelham Hall at the Mount Vernon Campus, costs $6,195 a year for a double room while an apartment in the Statesman, at 2020 F St., costs $5,850 a year for a similar size room.

Local Advisory Neighborhood Commission member Elizabeth Elliott lives in the York apartment building on F Street, a building she said sophomores have lived in for years.

Elliott said GW’s move to require sophomores to live on campus moves the University closer to adhering to the Campus Plan, which requires all underclassmen to live on campus by 2003, but the new provision may hinder that goal.

“It seems like the typical gray area,” Elliott said. “It’s like we want to do it, but there’s an escape plan there.”

Students can download exemption forms at gwired.gwu.edu

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