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Integrate study abroad into general housing with contracts

By Mia Edelstein

Section: Opinions

March 6, 2015

As someone who is studying abroad next spring and therefore guaranteed on-campus housing, I feel guilty complaining about my options since they’re much better than many juniors’ and seniors’. However, I believe my proposal of joint housing for study abroad and non-study abroad students will help out everyone in the system.

Fall housing for students studying abroad in the spring is limited to Ziv suites and Village singles and doubles. It is even more limited by the handful of students going abroad. While you may have a large group of friends, if they’re not studying abroad in the spring, you can’t live with them. Instead, you have to hope that you have a connection for a Ziv with people you won’t hate living with, a good enough number for a Village single, or a friend you won’t mind sharing a room with for a semester. It becomes a scramble of trying to find out who’s going abroad, and while Brandeisians like to say that the school is small enough that we pretty much know everyone, it turns out that campus is big enough that we end up in a blind quest, asking every junior we encounter if they are perchance studying abroad in the spring.

For instance, my friends have a good enough number for a non-study abroad Ziv and all five of the six spots. I would love to be their sixth, and another friend would be interested in replacing me when she returns from study abroad after the fall, but the two of us are resigned to finding other housing, and my friends are left searching for a sixth.

For students studying abroad in the fall, the process is even more stressful. These students are not guaranteed on-campus housing when they return in the spring. The Department of Community Living says that they try to place returning students in Ziv suites vacated by spring study abroad students. Fall study abroad students who are not lucky enough to be placed in a Ziv get thrown into a room vacated by a senior who graduated in December. That is, if they get housing at all, which DCL makes no promises about. This stress is only compounded by how little information there is on the DCL and study abroad websites that students opting for fall study abroad are left in an abyss.

From returning students, I’ve heard that the only way that they got spring housing was by pestering DCL incessantly. They and friends in a similar position had to send DCL emails many times before going and while abroad in order to ensure their spot in a Ziv because, as this student informed me, there was no formal process. As mad as DCL makes us, they do work hard and should not have to deal with such badgering.

Instead, students studying abroad in both the fall and spring should be able to live with non-study abroad students in the same on-campus housing unit. This would solve the dilemma of spring study abroad students being forced to plead their case to other students, friend groups being torn apart for a year, and fall study abroad students being left in limbo.

Residents-to-be of a Ridgewood, Ziv or Grad would make a formal agreement among themselves that when their friend leaves to study abroad for spring semester, their friend returning from studying abroad in the fall moves into the vacated room. The two study abroad students would sign a contract like responsible adults. Essentially, DCL would be allowing a room to be transferred from one leaving study abroad student to another returning one. The issue is solved among the students, so the work for DCL would be minimal, and fall study abroad students would be able to rest assured that they will have somewhere to live when they return. It makes sense that DCL would appreciate having the returning students’ housing figured out rather than having to scramble to figure it out in the weeks before those students need housing after winter break.

As far as doubles in the Village that normally go to juniors studying abroad in the fall, these could be occupied by a non-study abroad student and two friends, one who will be on campus in the fall and one back in the spring. These could even remain rooms given to spring study abroad students exclusively, not changing from their current state. Or these rooms could be made available to all juniors and seniors in general.

Admittedly, this would change how many midyears could be admitted and subsequently housed. However, Brandeis needs to cut its enrollment. At the group panel discussion last week, Vice President for Campus Operations Jim Gray said that the Castle will remain open next year but gave a very vague answer about its future after that. I’m hedging my bets on that some, if not all, of the Castle will be closed by the 2016-2017 school year, as the building undergoes serious renovations (or complete demolition). If that does happen, sophomores, who are guaranteed housing, will have to live in housing traditionally reserved for upperclassmen, a move that would displace even more upperclassmen off campus. If Brandeis radically shrinks how many midyears it admits, it would have to house fewer of them, both in their first semester on campus and in later semesters. It’s nothing personal against the midyears, it’s simply that they live in rooms that could be used in this new formulation of study abroad housing options.

It’s hard to not get screwed by housing, but if DCL were to consider this proposal, they might have some more satisfied students.

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