The Daily Northwestern

Goodman: Don’t institute live-in requirement for sophomores

Meredith Goodman, Columnist

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I currently live in an off-campus apartment. I like the freedom of having guests over whenever I choose, buying and cooking (well, reheating) my own meals and just being responsible for my own living space.

If you had asked high school senior Meredith if she would have lived off campus during college, she would have adamantly stated that she wanted to live on campus all four years. In fact, I was almost hesitant to come to Northwestern because I had read several online reviews stating that many upperclassmen preferred to live off campus. I looked at colleges where living on campus for all four years was common and encouraged, such as Rice University. I wanted a strong, on-campus community for all four years of my university experience.

But now, as a senior in college, I realize that there are many reasons to choose to live off-campus. Some students want to save money living off-campus, where the rent is cheaper than the cost of student housing and you don’t have to waste unnecessary money on a meal plan. Others may have a very large, close group of friends and want to live with them. Some friends of different genders may want to live together, which may be harder to arrange on campus.

High school Meredith may have applauded NU’s recent decision to require sophomores to live on campus as part of the University’s Master Housing Plan, but college Meredith thinks otherwise. Sophomores should be free to make their own housing choices after attending the University for one year.

Paul Riel, executive director of Residential Services, explained the University’s justification at a meeting.

“Freshmen and sophomores living on campus is probably a pretty good thing for a host of reasons,” he said. “It gives people more sense of continuity of care and our sense of community that we want to develop.”

Of course we all want a thriving on-campus community; it’s a large reason why we chose to attend NU. But forcing people to live on campus beyond freshman year is not the way to form this community. Sophomores who are forced to live on campus will likely resent the policy and not make as many meaningful contributions to the campus community.

Even more confusing, the University’s messages about the benefits of the suite-style or apartment-style housing that they intend to build contradicts the campus community that they are advocating. ASG student life vice president Chris Harlow said the new style of housing, as opposed to the traditional single or double rooms of dormitories, will offer “more independence for sophomores and upperclassmen.” If these upperclassmen want to go into their own suite and be independent, they will probably not be active in the campus community. They might as well be allowed to lease their own apartment off campus.

Instead of instituting this requirement, I think the University should acknowledge that students want to live off campus for many rational reasons and accommodate that fact by fostering an all-campus residential community. One solution could include renovating the commuter lounge in Norris University Center to be more spacious and cozy to encourage off-campus students to stay on-campus for longer periods of time. Another solution could involve more campus-wide programming, like NU Nights events. I would also propose expanding the residential college system and keeping their off-campus alumni active.

Building a vibrant campus community doesn’t have to mean that everyone lives on campus. There are many ways that the NU administration can promote a cohesive campus community, even with many of us happily living off campus.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at meredithgoodman2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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