As you’ve probably heard (or, unfortunately, experienced), a whopping 326 students were bumped from the College’s housing lottery this semester. This is a huge jump from the norm, which is usually about 100 to 200 students each year. For some reason, though, no one can really explain what happened to make this year any different –– the assistant director of Residence Life, Katrina Pawvluk, was quoted last week in The Flat Hat saying, “I’m afraid I do not have a real good answer for why the process is going so slow this year or why our demand for housing is higher.”
p. According to Pawvluk, any student who really wants on-campus housing will eventually get it, and the folks at Residence Life are going to dedicate themselves to this goal over the next few months. I guess it’s good to be optimistic, but I personally would not want to risk not getting campus housing solely based on the hopeful expectation that some students will choose to drop out of lottery over the summer.
p. What makes this housing situation especially bizarre, though, is the gender disparity in the group of bumped students. Out of the 326, 210 are women and only 125 are men, a split of 62 percent women to 38 percent men. The gender split at the College is only 54 percent women to 46 percent men, which doesn’t really explain this weird statistic. My initial explanation was that the fraternities moving back onto campus into the units –– Kappa Alpha, Pi Kappa Alpha and Beta Theta Pi –– were taking away housing spots that were available last year and causing the high numbers of bumped students (which would explain why so many women are currently displaced).
p. In some informal talks with other students, though, I’ve been told that most of the brothers in these fraternities already live on campus, so they aren’t “taking away” any spots, they’re just all moving into the Units. If anything, this should help the rest of the student body by freeing up the nicer rooms on campus. Thus, the gender ratio remains a mystery.
p. Regardless of the reasons behind the current housing situation, the basic conclusion is the same: these kids need a place to live. Typically, students who are bumped during the spring semester eventually get reinstated before classes start again in the fall, but these individuals should be able to have more control over their living situations than simply waiting for someone else to drop out of the lottery.
p. This is why it is now more imperative than ever that the student body pushes the City of Williamsburg to change its three-person housing rule. This rule states, under section 21-2 of the Zoning Ordinance of Williamsburg, that no more than three unrelated people may “live and cook as a single housekeeping unit.” In practice, it provides a reason for the city to evict groups of students living together in off-campus houses based on the number of people under one roof.
p. I spoke with Student Assembly Senator and formerly evicted student Matt Beato, a sophomore, who asserted how illogical this ordinance is: “With other laws, you typically are harming someone else when you violate them; with the three-person rule, you can be evicted for harming absolutely no one.” While many students living off-campus can get in trouble for breaking the noise ordinance or violating parking laws, students penalized by the three-person rule are not actually doing anything wrong. Because it essentially discriminates against individuals before any “real” laws are even violated, many see the ordinance as purely anti-student.
p. With the string of evictions earlier in the semester and now the high number of bumped students who may be forced to find off-campus housing, this issue certainly seems to have come to a boiling point. Students are going to start demanding action from our own Student Assembly, from the City of Williamsburg and from the student body itself. Thankfully, our new executive seems to have prioritized this issue; SA President-elect Zach Pilchen declared to me that, “You can rest assured that we will place this issue at the forefront of our administration’s relationship with the city, and that positive progress can be expected from your Student Assembly on this front for the first time in 15 years.” That is exactly the mindset we need when tackling this issue, and I look forward to hearing and reviewing Pilchen’s logistical plans for making it happen.
p. The three-person housing rule needs to be our main concern until we make significant headway –– a change in the ordinance will significantly affect other important student concerns like student parking and voting rights, as well as help build positive relations between the College and the city.
p. __Devan Barber, a junior at the College, is a staff columnist. Her columns appear on Tuesdays.__