It is that time of year when stress overwhelms GW students. With midterm season, figuring out spring break plans and applying for next year’s housing, we are all running around campus counting down the days until we can take a deep breath. Narrowing down which residence hall we want to apply for and who we want to live with provides a major headache for many students. And the decision to no longer offer students the right to squat their residence hall room only adds insult to injury.
The rationale behind GW Housing Programs’ decision is two-fold, and both reasons are flawed.
GW’s Director of Housing Programs Seth Weinshel said in a Feb. 14 Hatchet article the decision to end the program was made because the policy “wasn’t fair to the entire student population, and we decided we should give everyone an equal opportunity to get these rooms since they are so limited.”
At face value, this makes sense. Surely if large amounts of students were keeping the best rooms in the nicest halls year after year, then this would be an obstacle for students seeking to move up from a less appealing housing option to something more coveted.
The second facet of housing’s argument to eliminate the policy, as Residence Hall Association President David Glidden pointed out in the same article, was that the squatting option was not being widely used by the student population. In fall of this year, only 180 students opted to stay in similar rooms in the same residence hall for more than one academic year.
I find it difficult to understand how a policy of squatting that is not widely used would unfairly reserve such a large number of rooms. It seems the process is not necessarily shutting out students who want to live in certain buildings if it is not a popular option.
If hundreds of rooms were unavailable to students, then I could understand housing’s desire to fix the system. But it seems as though housing and the RHA are trying to fix something that was never broken.
Notably, the best argument for eliminating the squatting option is that the Class of 2014 is significantly larger than the Class of 2013, and therefore, there could be a scarcity of rooms next year. This issue arose last year, when 19 of the 159 students on the housing wait list were sophomores, who are required to live on campus because of D.C. zoning laws. These students were eventually placed into residence halls like Philip Amsterdam, Ivory Tower and 1959 E Street.
A larger sophomore class could again mean more upperclassman rooms for underclassmen. If upperclassmen squat their rooms this could be challenging for housing, but not impossible.
Only 19 students who were wait-listed last year were actually guaranteed housing, and even with the squatting option available, these students were still given a housing assignment. It is possible to place students in housing with the squatting option.
The policy gave students who actually liked their housing the ability to keep their living situation the same. This eliminates the stress over housing assignments and allows students to budget for their housing costs for the next year, since they know they will be charged a similar amount for a similar room. Fundamentally, these upperclassmen students are, in small numbers, squatting rooms in upperclassmen halls, and eliminating this policy is a disservice to students who had made plans to squat their rooms. Squatting was a valuable policy to those who used it, or those who wanted to use it.
While I understand that housing and the RHA are trying to do what they can for students, eliminating this policy for the reasons they have stated is not sufficient justification for the students who wanted to take advantage of squatters’ rights.
Gabrielle Friedman, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
This article appeared in the February 28, 2011 issue of the Hatchet.