The leaves have barely started to turn, and students have already begun to determine next year’s housing arrangements, a process that compounds the stress often associated with a new school year. First-year students have not had the chance to solidify friendships by October, let alone find a suitable place of residence for their sophomore year. Freshmen should be given more time to find housing, but as long as students are willing to sign early, landlords have little incentive to push back lease signing. During his 2004 campaign, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he supported a city ordinance to push back lease-signing dates to mid December, but he has so far failed to bring the measure before Ann Arbor City Council. The Michigan Student Assembly should pressure Hieftje to postpone the lease-signing season by pushing this vital ordinance through City Council.
Before most freshmen have taken their first midterm exam, they must decide whether to move off-campus or remain in University residence halls. It is unfair to ask such a decision of students who have hardly had time to get tired of their roommate. Many students, overwhelmed by the prospect of finding off-campus housing, prematurely resign themselves to another year in the dorms. The situation is similar for upperclassmen. For example, many tenants must decide whether to renew their contracts for off-campus housing for the 2006-07 school year shortly after fall break. Forcing students to renew their contracts just six weeks into their lease pressures students into hasty decisions about housing.
Although Hieftje’s proposal would certainly improve the housing situation, December may not be late enough. Indeed, if lease signing were to overlap with final exams, students would be just as stressed as they currently are. Lease signing should take place after winter break to be synchronized with February residence-hall contract renewal and to permit a winter Greek rush.
The Greek community has resisted moving rush to winter, claiming it would be unable to fill its houses because most students sign off-campus leases well before fall semester ends. By shifting the lease-signing process to winter semester, Greeks will be able to move rush back without hesitation. Greek rush is a time-consuming and hectic process, and it has no place in the already-overwhelming early weeks of first-year college life. In the interest of allowing students to investigate all their possibilities before making such important decisions, leases must be signed later in the semester.
Moving lease-signing dates to winter semester will synchronize the on- and off-campus housing searches and maximize students’ options. It will be the responsibility of the new MSA-City Council liaison to catalyze action within the Council and to pressure Hieftje to execute his campaign promises. Students need more than a few months to decide where and with whom they will spend the following year.