Student Life Column

Sukesh: An extension to Syracuse University’s housing requirement restricts students from choosing their own path

Will Carrara | Contributing Photographer

Syracuse University has a two-year on-campus housing requirement, but officials are considering extending the requirement to three years.

Despite the suggestion by Syracuse University officials that living on campus contributes to better grades and more campus involvement, a student’s decision to live on or off campus after their second year should be left up to the student.

SU officials are considering the extension of the on-campus living requirement from two to three years, citing research that suggests students who live on campus have a better university experience. But because campus involvement is an individual choice, students’ experiences at SU — or at any university — cannot be cast under a huge net. It doesn’t make sense for the SU administration to take claim on the experiences of others.

Kevin Quinn, senior vice president for public affairs at SU, told The Daily Orange that research suggests students who live in on-campus housing are more engaged in campus social life. Freshmen and sophomores, who constitute the majority of students who live on campus, of course seem more involved in campus social life because they are trying to find their place in the SU community. It makes sense for underclassmen to join more clubs and participate in more events because they are getting a sense of what SU has to offer.

Upperclassmen, on the other hand, generally know where their interests lie. So if the statistics and demographic generalizations convey decreased student involvement, this could be attributed to students devoting themselves to the one or two organizations they are most invested in.

There are students with flourishing social lives who live off campus, as well as students who excel in academics. There are also students who struggle in both those areas who live on campus, right in the middle of it all.

The main concern that SU administrators should have regarding the housing requirement is students’ financial abilities to pay for housing. Forcing higher prices on students who would otherwise be able to afford an off-campus apartment or house is unfair. Not every university has the ability to provide scholarships and grants to help students pay for housing.

Vanderbilt University — an SU peer institution in Nashville, Tennessee — has a four-year on-campus housing requirement. But the university still doesn’t guarantee housing.

“We are fortunate right now that we have enough students interested in living off campus that we are able to accommodate all the people who want to live on campus, but we do not guarantee housing,” said Jim Kramka, senior director of housing operations at Vanderbilt. “We can’t because we don’t have enough beds.”

A university should be able to provide on-campus housing, especially if it is a requirement for students. If the school cannot guarantee housing, the option to live on or off campus should be available.

It’s important to note, Kramka said, that the rental market of a university’s location should be considered in housing requirements. If living off campus is the same price or more expensive than living on campus, then the housing requirements may benefit students. This is the case for Vanderbilt, which is why its housing requirement can be somewhat justified, despite its shortcomings.

Although there are likely students who want to live closer to the hub of campus, forcing all students to do so until their fourth year is not in the best interest of SU students. Instead, the university should advertise the option for upperclassmen to live on campus, while still guaranteeing underclassmen a place to live.

The fact of the matter is that students differ in their level of campus involvement and academic success regardless of where they live in relation to campus. To draw a connection between an entire student population’s university experiences and their living situations is not a strong enough justification for an extension of SU’s on-campus housing requirement.

Aishwarya Sukesh is a freshman magazine journalism and psychology dual major. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at aksukesh@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @AishuSukesh.

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