If you’re like me, you spent some portion of the past two weeks as a nomad. When my lease ended at noon on Aug. 20, I was faced with up to nine days of apartmentlessness before the start of my next lease and nowhere to store my copious amounts of junk. I solicited my (also nomadic) friends for ideas and heard everything from “go home” (not an option if you don’t enjoy a 750-mile commute to work) to “sleep in the library” (a tactic employed with surprisingly frequency, apparently).
Unwilling to spend $40-plus a night on a hotel room and $500 on a moving pod, I opted to move into my friends’ subletter-less apartment in the hopes that my apartment would become available before that lease expired. It didn’t, and I ended up moving into yet another apartment that wasn’t mine before getting my key. But at least I didn’t end up sleeping in the UGLi, I guess.
Now, I am a Democrat, so in the midst of all that moving, I started thinking about how “the Man” could help me, the little guy. There must be some accommodations for students trapped in leasing limbo and generally without the resources to subsist, let alone comfortably. That was about the time I learned about temporary housing.
It turns out that the University does offer limited opportunities for “homeless” students — provided they are international or possess a signed residence hall contract. Starting in late July, international students planning to live in the dorms this fall could pay just $27 a night to stay in Betsey Barbour until move-in. Other dorm-bound students willing to pay $50 a day could apply to move in a few days early. Considering my roommate paid almost $100 on top of a full month’s rent just to tack an extra 24 hours on our lease, that’s a quite bargain.
Furthermore, the University also houses students who participate in marching band, members of the football team and even orientation leaders post-orientation during August, among others. But beyond a consideration for those who have already paid into dorm living by check or talent, the University seems generally unconcerned about where students sleep in those last crucial preparatory weeks leading up to classes.
With this format already in place for some students, I can’t help but think that it wouldn’t be that difficult for the University to broaden the scope: Why not open up a dorm for the last few weeks before fall semester starts and allow enrolled students to reserve a room at a nominal fee?
The University has the resources, so it would seem only natural to make them available to those for whom they were intended, those who need them: the students. Based solely on many upperclassmen’s aversion to the dorms, I bet there’s little risk of overcrowding. And in addition to going above and beyond expectations in fulfilling its responsibility to students and easing their transition pains, it could even be an extra source of revenue, albeit a very small one. There’s not much to lose.
Granted, a huge part of off-campus living is learning personal responsibility, which seems to be the motivation for many universities to overlook policies like this one. When I spoke with a manager in the housing department at Michigan State University, he told me that MSU also has early move-in policies for students living in the dorms but no accommodations for their off-campus peers. He was of the opinion that if you opt out of campus housing, you’re on your own.
I’m all for personal responsibility. However, there should be a point at which we acknowledge that some things are tough for anyone in this situation of limited means and resources. Students should never feel like they’re completely on their own, left to fend for themselves. That’s why the University provides things like the health service and even legal services for students in conflict with their off-campus landlords. That’s why there’s such a thing as campus housing.
Maybe I could have shelled out the money to store my belongings and put myself up in a hotel, but with one- to two-months’ rent at stake, I reacted like a typical college student and decided to rough it instead. It’s hard to find a couch to sleep on when so many of your friends are in the same boat as you. I’m sure the University has some couches to spare.