Living off campus is freeing and sometimes less expensive than living in residence halls, but it can also be isolating. When officials decided to offer on-campus undergraduates with tap access to every residence hall, they missed the students who may benefit the most.
Those who live off campus or commute from neighborhoods outside of Foggy Bottom often feel left out of the campus community. Finding something to do in between classes is a struggle because students cannot go straight home. Spare time on campus can be spent visiting friends who live in residence halls, but off-campus students have one more barrier to enter these campus hubs.
Allowing undergraduates tap access to any residence hall does not extend to students living off campus, but it should. There is no reason that students living off campus – whether they are a few blocks away or commuting to school – should be exempted from this policy. The University should strive to include all undergraduates in its new policies to help create a more cohesive campus community. GW should provide tap access to all undergraduate students so those who live off campus also feel included on campus.
The University has pushed aside issues of exclusion from off-campus students, especially in their struggle to find community. While student leaders have advocated for dedicated campus space for commuter students and more community spaces, officials have not met their advocacy halfway.
Commuter students have asked for storage lockers on campus, dedicated community spaces, refrigerators and commuter student representation in the Student Association – but all requests have been fruitless. Students need to have somewhere to go between classes and campus activities, and tap access would help solve some of these problems by expanding the number of places students can complete schoolwork or meet with friends. Students could drop their lunch off in a friend’s refrigerator before heading to class or store their bags in their bedroom.
Providing tap access to off-campus students would ease students’ ability to spend time with friends and meet new ones. Off-campus students could partake in community bonding events in residence halls and meet with students who are not in the same class as them.
But the University excluded off-campus undergraduates from the new policy, meaning these students need to stick to the old method of waiting to be let into a residence hall by a friend. We already know the abandoned policy was senseless – that’s why SA leaders pushed to change it.
The University would not be alone in instituting this policy. Wake Forest University – one of GW’s 12 peer schools – allows all undergraduates access to residence halls using their student identification cards. Georgetown and New York universities – both peer schools – are more in line with GW in that they only permit on-campus students tap access. But not providing tap access to off-campus students means not including them in the GW community, which further isolates them from the school.
The University should strive to ensure that all students feel like they are part of campus. Introducing tap access for all on-campus students helped build community across residence halls, but it is not enough. The University should show dedication to all students by providing universal tap access to undergraduates.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a junior majoring in political science and psychology, is the opinions editor.
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