September 19, 2013
At the Sept. 9 Student Assembly meeting, Dean of Students Nancy Thompson and Senior Associate Dean of Students Meredith Harper Bonham announced to little fanfare that downtown housing will soon cease to be an option for Hamilton College students. While leases signed for the 2014-15 academic year will remain valid, all housing will be off-line by the fall of 2015. How many people will this change affect? And, more importantly, why did the administration make this decision?
In truth, only two percent of students (around 40 seniors) live off-campus. But the presence of these students in the wider community—often coming from one of Hamilton’s Greek societies—does serve the important purpose of connecting the Hill to our neighbors. Having the choice to live off-campus also highlights the trust the administration places in seniors to manage their own rents and living spaces, which is an important responsibility to develop for life after college.
The administration argues, however, that these benefits are outweighed by much larger costs. Their rationale rests on two major planks. First, the College actually decided to end downtown housing in 1995 when Greek houses were re-appropriated into all-campus residence buildings. The only reason this reform was not implemented with the rest of the housing reforms is that the campus has lacked enough beds to accommodate all students. With the completion of new facilities by 2015, that concern will be mooted.
Two, the logic employed for ending downtown housing in 1995 applies just as well today. The overriding principle behind the housing changes was that: “Hamilton is a residential college. All students will live in College housing, and all residential spaces will be available to all students.” Benefits of such a principle include equal access to all facilities, a shared living and learning environment and a unified liberal arts campus.
The only argument that could be brought against phasing out off-campus housing is that Hamilton does not offer a wide enough variety of on-campus housing. Yet, from the apartment living of G-Road and 4002 Campus Road to the traditional living of Ferguson and Carnegie to the suite living of Milbank and Babbitt, Hamilton provides more than enough housing options. Hence, The Spectator finds both the logic for ending downtown housing convincing and the administration’s policy of phasing out housing over two years fair to those few students who are directly affected.