By Vicki Franks ’20
Arts & Life Editor
Changes to the enforcement of Gordon’s housing policy were met with strong emotions from the student body when it they were announced this past Spring ‘17 semester. Those emotions continue to run high as the changes reaches their first anniversary.
Now that the dust has settled, the impact of these changes are brought to surface.
Before the ‘17-‘18 school year, upperclassmen had the option to apply for off-campus housing. However, the new policy states that to live off campus, a student must be either married, at least 23 years old, a part-time student or living with parents or relatives.
However, Director of Residence Life, Michael Curtis refutes calling this policy “new.” In an email he wrote, “the big change has been that in recent years, we have seen our number of students who qualify to live off-campus skyrocket (primarily students living at home, but also increases in some of the other categories of 23 or older, married, or part-time students) to the point where that group can now fill that 10% of the student body.”
He continued, “We have not made any changes to the housing policy, it has always been, ‘Students who are married, are 23 years of age or older, are living with relatives, or have part-time status, are normally allowed to live off campus after they apply and are approved. All other students are required to live on campus unless granted special permission by the Director of Housing’ (Student Handbook, p. 29).”
According to Curtis, this policy has always been the case for students. What seems to be new is the lack of wiggle room students have for qualifying for off-campus housing.
In an email from Housing, sent Feb. 17, 2017, the Director of Housing, Marta Peralta, emphasized this shift by saying, “If you do not fit into one of these categories [23 or older, married, part time students, or living at home], you do not qualify to live off campus, and you will need to find housing on campus.”
The end of last year brought further change to housing at Gordon by ending all intentional living programs on campus.
Former member of the “Reveal” intentional living program in Drew, Nate Ryan (‘19), said, “I was a big advocate for cutting the program last year.” He continued “[I] had a feeling that because of the way Drew is shaped and structured… that community was going to happen and be created authentically in that environment regardless of whether or not there’s a program in place.”
This year, Ryan found his hypothesis to be true; an RD was not needed to add additional structure for meaningful relationships to develop among the residents.
In truth, the enforcement of the housing policy has affected multiple populations of students.
Married couples are not only a part of the few who qualify to live off campus, but they actually don’t have a choice. There is no married housing on Gordon’s campus, nor is it available to Gordon students at Gordon-Conwell.
In his email, Curtis said, “The Ferrin apartments have been used on numerous occasions for married students but it has depended upon demand. We had four married couples in the Ferrin apartments around the 2010s.”
He continued, “There has been much more demand for students that need accommodations for dietary and medical issues. With only five apartments available, we have to evaluate the needs each year.”
The lack of demand, however, has left the small population of married couples at Gordon with little choice but to find housing elsewhere.
“You can move off campus if you’re married. You have to move off campus when you’re married. I have tried, I have asked, I have searched, and there is no married housing at Gordon College,” said Allie Sweet (‘20), a sophomore who got married this past December.
The new enforcement of the housing policy leaves no choice for married couples to live on campus. And with limited affordable housing in this area, married couples are in a bit of a bind.
Because of this, Sweet, a social work major, has considered switching schools, but ultimately decided not to due to the quality of Gordon’s social work program.
While the new housing policy does not explicitly state that married couples cannot live on campus, the implications of the stricter enforcement of this rule, as well as the apparently low demand of married housing, is that there is now no on-campus married housing.
Married couples are not the only students feeling the negative impacts of this change in enforcement.
Danielle Maneval (‘20) expressed her own thoughts on the housing policy that now makes it nearly impossible for her to be approved for off-campus housing during her time here at Gordon.
She said, “It feels like the school’s forcing you to stay on campus… And you’re forced to buy the meal plan, and you don’t have a choice to not buy the meal plan unless you’re living in the apartments.”
With limited situations that allow for the approval of off-campus housing, students have little say in how they are housed during their college years here.
On the other hand, other students feel that the social aspect of living on campus is a crucial part of the college experience.
“There’s so much on campus, like activities that you would miss out on if you were off campus… especially on weekends there can be a lot to do… and just being a part of the community on campus. If you live off-campus, you’re not likely to be socializing as much,” said Phoebe Kebabian (‘20).