Is Housing Denison’s Downfall?

By Alex Lazo

Earlier this year my class had a discussion about what we felt Denison’s greatest issues were. The unanimous answer was the administration, and how their policies actually work against the best interest and development of their students. Virtually all of my classmates were able to recount a personal experience in which they believed the administration had failed them, with examples that covered everything from meal plans to mental health. However, the most commonly reoccurring narrative among my peers pertained to issues with Denison’s housing.

Although my class showed clear aversion to the administration, 127 found in our most recent survey that Denisonians take a pretty neutral stance with an average approval rating of 52.89%. To test this, we asked the student body to rate how they feel towards certain groups via a feeling thermometer, with 0 meaning very cool/negative and 100 meaning very warm/positive (just like in the lacrosse post). Based on this thermometer, we found that seniors disapprove of the administration the most. As shown in the graph below, they have the most notable spike of disapproval at roughly 10%.

On the other hand, the approval rating of Adam Weinberg does not appear to be burdened by student reluctance to the administration. In my class people favored President Weinberg over the administration because they felt there was a more personal connection to him. He makes himself accessible to students; he can be found at sporting events, club organizations, and even getting lunch at Slayter. The figure below breaks down Weinberg’s approval rating based on graduation year and all four grades are significantly more fond of him than they are of administration.

Because President Weinberg has made himself a present figure on campus, students can actually view him as a person and with genuinity – meaning even when students disagree with him, he at least still feels like an approachable person who can be reasoned with. Whereas, Denisonians find it difficult to form a connection with the administration because they do not come across as accessible as Weinberg. After speaking with my classmates it became clear that because of this relation, students perceive the administration as an autocratic institution (minus the autocrat) that rarely consults with the greater student body before implementing intrusive policies that infringe on our ability to be independent thinkers.

The matter of the administration’s invasive housing policies has been a long-standing concern for many Denisonians. Despite the potential for on-campus housing to foster a greater sense of community, many students take issue with being compelled to reside on-campus for the entirety of their college experience.

Denison’s austere policies on living in a dormitory for all four years of college has left many students feeling that they are being unfairly restricted in their choices and are not being given the level of independence that they deserve as young adults. Although the administration has tried to compensate for this policy with “apartment-style” living for upperclassmen, these dorms are far from it. Considering students are prohibited from bringing in outside furniture and that directors of Denison’s Residential Communities & Housing reserve the right to enter our rooms without advance warning, it does not feel plausible to label these dormitories as apartments, at least not in good conscience. I mean seriously, they treat having a full bed in our rooms as if it’s a war crime. Twenty/twenty-two-year-olds not wanting to sleep on a twin bed in their apartments? Perish the thought!

That being said, I am well aware that complaining about wanting a bigger bed exudes major first-world-problem energy. However, there are a plethora of other issues that our forced on-campus housing brings about. For starters, living on campus limits our autonomy to make decisions as adults. It prevents students from obtaining any practical knowledge necessary for effectively managing rental properties and its associated financial obligations, thus leaving us unprepared upon graduation.

127 found that many Denisonians agree with these notions and would have preferred to take on more of these responsibilities that off-campus housing entails. The figure below suggests that the idea of living off campus definitely intrigues a portion of the student body. It also illustrates that some feel a lack of independence and are underprepared to conquer the real world because of their current housing situation. Nonetheless, there still is considerable support for on-campus housing because Denisonians believe it helps strengthen their connections with other students.

Regardless of the fact that on-campus housing has the potential to bring a college together because the close proximity helps cultivate relationships, Denison’s housing situation seems to constantly sprout new issues. It became abundantly clear that it is worsening each year, perhaps even each semester considering the fact that we could barely find enough housing for the juniors returning to campus from their semester abroad in the Fall. It forced students to live in random dorms with people they do not necessarily know; away from their friends and invading the space of strangers.

What was even the point of building Silverstein, the luxury senior housing, if we are just going to let underclassmen live there because we can’t find housing for them elsewhere? Meanwhile, the rest of the senior class lives in the Sunnies. These apartments were built as “temporary housing” but now it’s 25 years later and we still get the privilege of living in these lovely buildings with bursting water pipes and black mold infestations. If only there was a solution to all of these headaches, if only off-campus housing was accessible.

Alex Lazo is a senior and a Data for Political Research minor. Next year she looks forward to living in an apartment.

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