One of the most troubling and longstanding problems facing students at the College of William and Mary is a lack of off-campus housing. In a recent interview, Williamsburg Mayor Clyde Haulman cited the lack of communication between Williamsburg residents and students at the College as the source of this problem. While I agree with Haulman that communication is the key to solve this problem, I would like to see more plans created to address the issue of communication.
Some students may believe that the problem has already been addressed — after all, in 2010 Scott Foster ’10 was the first student elected to Williamsburg City Council. While this vote did help to bridge the disconnect between the city and the College, I think it’s absurd to expect a single person to fix the problem. The Sept. 8 Williamsburg City Council meeting was enough to prove that students have not done enough to change the relationship between the city and the College. At the meeting, residents criticized any plan that would change housing restrictions to make the process of obtaining off-campus housing easier for students. These criticisms were met with little objection from students because of the pathetic lack of student representation at the meeting.
Haulman used his own personal experiences with students at the College to discuss how successful communication is the key to solving the current town-gown problems. While these inspirational stories prove that Williamsburg residents and students can peacefully coexist in the same neighborhoods, they do not provide a practical solution for the problem.
The only real solution enacted as of yet was the creation of the Neighborhood Relations Committee. This committee, formed in 2009, is comprised of a landlord representative, a neighborhood representative, a College representative, a student representative and a city representative. This committee seems like an effective way to open communication.
I think that it is important for students to build upon this step. While the committee is commendable, it is small, and students on campus are generally poorly informed about its purpose or even its existence. Students must be present at City Council meetings and become actively involved in finding solutions to these well-known problems.
With the recent increases made to the student body size and no foreseeable increases in state funding for new dorms, student need for off-campus housing will likely increase in the next few years. Students must become informed and must be more involved involved in the process of addressing these issues if the problem is going to get any better.