Letter to the Editor: Does NU have a housing problem?

Dick Reif

When I attended Medill from 1962-64 B.C. (Before Computers), graduate students’ biggest gripe was Northwestern’s total lack of housing for us. We were at the mercy of Evanston landlords who charged whatever the market would bear for unbearable living accommodations. I thought NU solved this problem over the past six decades, but apparently I’m wrong. An article in the Chicago Tribune’s Evanston section on September 8 by reporter Bob Seidenberg said the Focus Development real estate firm plans to build a 14-story, 297-unit apartment complex at 831 Emerson St., catering primarily to many NU students living off campus. “These students are going to live somewhere,” stated Focus Development director Justin Pelej. He’s right. But why isn’t “somewhere” on NU’s campus, in university housing or fraternity and sorority residences? Focus Development’s plan sparked a firestorm of protest at a public hearing. Opponents cited a shortage of parking spaces and an inadequate sewer system for the site.

But even if this high-rise isn’t built, it raises disturbing questions. Why do many students live off campus? Are they post-graduates or undergrads? Grad students may want to live off-campus if NU doesn’t provide enough housing or charges too much for what’s available. Undergrads who live off campus ignore a key purpose for attending a four-year residential school: to share rich experiences and vital support resources in an academic setting. Does NU allow undergrads to live off campus except for internships and residencies? If so, why? I don’t have the answers but hope to get them from NU administrators.  If not, an old French proverb remains true: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Dick Reif, Medill ’64