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Claremont's Looming Housing Crisis

November 15, 2011

Clancy Tripp
Claremont's Looming Housing Crisis

Plaintive emails and rampant rumors about Claremont McKenna College's very own housing crisis leave many students picturing hundred of homeless CMC’ers posting up in tents on Green Beach. Ever since the Dean of Students office asked students to volunteer to either move off-campus or create triples out of double rooms, the buzz on campus seems to revolve around who is willing to make sacrifices for returning CMC’ers – and most students are less than enthusiastic. Katie Browning, a junior studying abroad in Chile, puts the problem in terms we can all understand with what she calls “The Pong Dilemma.” She explains, “Everyone loves the game and wants to play, but there are never enough tables for everyone to show off their bounce shots at once! Someone's gotta be kicked out and go fill out the slap cup team.” The slap cup team may be less glamorous - but what if skipping out on those glorious bounce shots saved you $400? It appears the question now is, who’s going to volunteer to join the slap cup team?

Unbeknownst to most students, the housing situation at CMC is as intricate and impossible to predict as a 3-D puzzle with a thousand pieces. Among the contributing factors to the problem are the number of students who study abroad or off-campus in D.C., the number of students taking/returning from a leave of absence, those that are suspended, transfer in, or drop out of/extend their study abroad experience. Additionally, the financial aid CMC offers has fewer students choosing to transfer out of CMC. Kristen Mallory, the director of the Off-Campus Study office, is one of the lucky administrators in charge of juggling all these students and figures. She estimates that roughly 10-20 students will be without beds on campus but will not know for sure until January when all these factors play out.

Though Dean Eric Vos declined to be interviewed until the issue has settled down, it is clear that the housing dilemma continues, in part, because many students are reluctant to move into triples or find housing off-campus. Freshman Lauren Henderson believes the Deans’ request is unreasonable, stating, “There might be enough room for an extra bed, but definitely not enough room for another person's stuff.” Students in singles are just as resistant to the idea of losing their coveted spots. Even students who look at the situation objectively, like freshman Amelia Evrigenis, worry that there are too many variables. Evrigenis offers “I thought that it might be a good opportunity to live in a triple, but I didn't know how my roommate would feel about it, who could move in, or if I'd really want to commit to that.” As an LA native currently abroad in China, Priscilla Hsu offers “if worst came to worst I could attempt to commute from home” but explains that solutions like this one are more logistically difficult (and costly) than living at CMC.  It seems students and administration alike are scrambling to find a favorable solution.

From on-campus resources, financial difficulties, to missing out on part of the college experience, off-campus students shared their worries about returning without housing. Hsu explains that the issue is of great financial importance.  She offered that her decision to live on- or off-campus would be contingent on the meal plan and financial aid benefits and that she would be “really upset” if she didn’t have on-campus housing. Quinn Chasan, a junior spending his semester in Washington D.C., also vehemently professed his desire to remain on-campus. He recognizes the benefits of living inside the CMC bubble, “I've lived on my own for the past 6 months here in DC…So, no, I want to have all of the amenities that come with dorm life.” Browning appeals to her fellow students saying, “If there wasn't a place for me on campus I would feel like I was missing out…the experiences you remember the most and that stay with you for the longest are those that happen at 3 in the morning on a Tuesday night when you really should be in bed.”

CMC’ers on-campus and off-campus alike voiced their concerns over the way the situation was handled.  Browning explains that despite the fact that CMC doesn’t necessarily guarantee housing, “it almost seems like they do” since about 97% of students live on campus according to CMC’s Residential Life webpage. The number of students willing to bite the bullet--or join the proverbial slap-cup team--and move off-campus or into a triple is in fact dwindling, but this is no new problem. This year, Scripps College (as CMC has done in the past) will rent out a floor of one of Pomona's dorms and house 20+ students on their campus. CMC almost followed suit until a student suggested allowing students to move off campus. This message was incorrectly conveyed to the student body at large and, voilà, the rumors began that the DOS office was kicking students out of their rooms and forcing them into bad housing situations.

Mallory explains her office’s sticky situation stating, “I know everyone wants to study abroad with their friends, or be an RA, or have an internship. I know all these reasons yet something has to give. So what do I do?” Though many students are eager to offer criticism, few CMC’ers are willing to offer viable solutions. Regardless, almost all students interviewed agreed that they would have appreciated a warning further in advance. Freshman David Leathers agrees there is simply not enough time and “finals and the holidays are going to dominate student's minds [more than] a $410 financial incentive.” Browning offers a humorous alternative to the housing hubbub, calling out to her fellow students, “Is anyone down for Occupy Pomona's New Dorms?” even offering, “I'll help make the signs.”

If this year constitutes housing mayhem, housing pandemonium may break out next year as well.  Mallory reports that the off-campus survey she sent out asking who was interested in studying abroad pulled in responses from 170 students who plan on studying abroad in the Fall and 77 who plan on going abroad the Spring term.  Mallory explains that the problem is not the Dean of Students Office, the Off-Campus Study Office, or the students themselves.  The real obstacle is that students enjoy living on campus so much that fewer in recent years have wanted to leave.  The problem, she states, “It’s no one’s fault.  It’s that people love CMC.  And that’s a good problem to have.” This housing crisis is up to you, CMC students, to fix.  If you truly have stag pride and CMC love, approach your administration with your own solution.

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