New housing process could be a new mess

Garrett Bullock

gabullock@ursinus.edu

Since housing is so central to our lives as students, it is unsurprising that the new housing policy is causing an uproar among us. Clustering is Residence Life’s most recent attempt to rebalance flaws in the housing system. The policy seeks to alleviate student anxiety, give students a better chance to live with friends, and break down the non-inclusive culture of certain residence halls. After clustering, the second step – to be implemented next year – is to remove the squatting process in its entirety.

While created with good intentions, the clustering/no squat- ting policy presents a wealth of new issues that, ironically, threaten to exacerbate the problems they seek to address. I do not intend to debase any group or office: I write with the utmost respect for all involved. Instead, I only hope these recommendations are taken seriously.

Clustering allows students to select housing in groups of 3, 5, 6, or 8, meaning friends can live together more easily. Many students end up stuck on Main Street their sophomore or junior years, with friends scattered between houses – two in Clamer, two in Duryea, etc. Clustering would fix this problem by allowing friends to “cluster” in one space. The chronology of the clustering selection, however, en- dangers seniors’ chances of get- ting a single or a room in New or North. Clustering goes before the senior lottery, which has caused many people on campus to fear that a rising sophomore could get a single before the senior lottery even starts. However, if the order was senior cluster, then senior lottery, then junior cluster, then junior lottery, etc., seniority would be preserved and people could still live with their friends.

This solution seems to make sense, but it is tough to know what the cluster application process actually looks like; Residence Life has provided little official insight on how they will determine which cluster applications to accept. The “Fall Housing Information” section on the Residence Life website states that “clusters will be assigned based on class year, lottery number, and housing ability.”

But will there be other criteria, like disciplinary record or group affiliation? Will application reviews be subjective, or will there be clear quotas to en- sure fairness? For example, will there be 30 singles reserved for Seniors every year? Will Reimert suites be allocated based on lottery number, or will ResLife be able to choose who gets a suite based on who they think should have one (subjective)? Until ResLife clarifies their criteria
on the Ursinus website or some other public forum, the application review process remains a mystery, and the senior-losing- out scenario remains possible.

More difficult to discuss is the topic of squatting since its elimination, when combined with clustering, may actually exacerbate the problems it attempts to solve. These issues are primarily peer-pressure to live in suites and the strong white male culture in Reimert. While the current squatting system is too stable (it is very hard for new groups to enter Reimert), removing it entirely could allow more men to move in.

Without squatting, women’s suites, which are currently preserved through squatting, would be up for grabs every year. If those suites are thrown into the clustering and the lottery, the women that want to live
in Reimert –– who are vastly outnumbered by men in Greeks, sports teams, and other groups that want to live there –– are at a numerical disadvantage. Certainly, women could get their suites back and could increase their number of suites, but the numbers are hardly in their favor. No one should feel pressured to live anywhere, and all living spaces should be and feel inclusive for all Ursinus students. Right now Reimert is not as inclusive as it could be, and removing squatting could make the situation worse. A simple solution for this is reduced squatting. If organizations were guaranteed squatting in one suite and limited to clustering one or two others, then women would be allowed to retain their suites, but space would still be created for new, ideally not just white male, groups.

Again, ResLife’s change to housing is warranted, and their goals are admirable. The policy modifications I suggest are only meant to ensure the change to clustering can better achieve these goals. In no way do I speak for all students, but I know many share my concerns. I sincerely hope the students will not just be heard, but listened to on this issue.