Student needs get bumped

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April 4, 2008

1:29 AM

One would think that the prospect of summer would ensure happy faces around campus. A well-deserved three-month break is visible on the horizon, but between finals and class registration it is difficult to put the stresses of this semester, and even the next, on the back burner. When the trials of life seem too much, be thankful for what you have: good friends, a loving family, and a roof over your head. But what if that roof weren’t guaranteed?

The 320 students who are victims of this semester’s involuntary bump processes are faced with this dilemma. In addition to stalking Banner, they must spend the next month fighting with Residence Life and pleading with the landlords of Williamsburg.

Bumped students were kindly greeted by a member of ResLife with a letter explaining their fate, but these students shouldn’t have much to worry about. The Reslife website promises that there is hope for bumped students who are patient. They still have the chance of being reinstated; they are just temporarily excluded from the process. However, temporarily excluded is merely a euphemism for temporarily screwed.

Unfortunately, there are no immediate solutions, but the more changes that are made now, the fewer the number of students who will be burdened in the future. The problem is twofold: The College does not have an adequate number of dorms to accommodate its students, and the alternative housing options in Williamsburg are virtually unattainable given the lack of affordable housing and the stigma given to students. Many think the potential election of Matt Beato ’09 to City Council will change the situation in Williamsburg.

While I believe Beato would be an indispensible voice for College students and the community, some responsibility rests on the College to look out for its students. Beato and the Student Assembly should be commended for turning a student temper tantrum into a respectable arena for communication and change, but when push comes to shove, as the bump process shows, it isn’t just the City of Williamsburg treating us poorly.

Last week, Mayor Jeanne Zeidler and Vice Mayor and Economics Department Chair Clyde Haulman participated in a forum to discuss affordable housing, but their lip service only addressed solutions for low-income workers and commuters. They audaciously call for the help of students who participate in efforts like Habitat for Humanity to resolve this issue, yet are not willing to return the favor to the students they have made homeless.

However, the mayor and City Council should not take all the blame. The mayor reported that the College has been approached with plans for privately developed, student-oriented housing, but rejected them. If Beato wins a seat in the City Council and the city does not make the changes the students are petitioning for, will all hope be lost?

The College needs to step in and address its own housing issues by drawing up plans for more dormitories and student-oriented housing. When Williamsburg denies us our voices and tells us we could ruin its small-town charm with more student housing, it is the responsibility of the College to step up and find alternative solutions; we are the charm of the College.

__Joanna Sandager is a freshman at the College.__

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