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University must expand housing to accommodate students

We have a lot of people here at Brandeis. Well, perhaps not compared to Ohio State or Penn State or some other 60,000-student monstrosity. For Brandeis, however, we’ve been steadily growing over the last couple years and that growth is beginning to show. My graduating class—the class of 2018—is the largest we’ve ever had, just like three other classes in the last five years.

Most discussion of the admission rate on campus is negative, but our community does gain benefits from having more students. The more people on campus, the more money comes in tuition. We can hire more and better-known professors, have more events and expand our programs. All of these are benefits to us and our students. We also get a better campus culture when we get more diverse viewpoints among our student body. The larger our classes, the more of our students win national awards and fellowships and improve the academic prestige of our university.

At the same time, however, we lose out when our classes get larger. Besides the possible decreases in the quality of our applicants, we end up with a crisis of on-campus services. Our dining, financial aid and especially housing systems have the capacity for only a certain number of students, and when our admitted class gets larger we have more and more students competing for the same resources. We might be able to squeeze more people into a dining hall or find more money for aid, but ultimately it’s nigh impossible to force that many more people into our residence halls.

As a campus community, we need to seriously invest in improving our residence halls for the benefit of our students. Not only do we face a looming housing crisis when the Castle is inevitably closed for students, but even our newer residence halls often need serious repair. Anyone who’s been into the Shapiro basement or anywhere in the Castle knows the state of disrepair some areas of our housing system have fallen into. If we don’t take care of these buildings now, they will be so destroyed by years of neglect that the improvements will be exorbitantly expensive and push the university even further into a housing disaster, just as the Castle stands poised to do to us next year.

I’m aware that we’d be spending a lot of money if we get serious in tackling our housing issues. To an extent, we can help minimize these costs by saving up and performing restoration work in a couple of years. Ultimately, however, we save more money by performing maintenance every year instead of skimping to save money and then facing a Castle-like emergency. We are quickly reaching a point where we can no longer wait for our financial situation to fix our housing, but will instead be compelled to act.

If we plan on continuing to increase our class sizes, that won’t be enough for us. We’ll need to construct more housing if we ever plan to keep up with demand. The problem for us isn’t space—we own ample land around the IBS that could be built on. The problem again is money. If we invest in an expansion fund, then over the next couple of years we’ll be able to save up some money to invest, and the selection of a new president ought to bring with it a new pool of donors. It might not be enough in the short term, but we will eventually save up to invest in our housing if we focus our efforts on fundraising.

I’m aware that I’m asking for a lot, but the wellbeing of our students starts and ends in their housing situation. If you have to live in a swell pit with mice and a collapsed roof, no amount of Einstein’s can overcome the sense of anxiety and depression from not having a true home. We have a duty to our students to provide them with a safe, comfortable place to live, especially since other colleges around the nation are capable of doing the same. We shouldn’t be known as a place with terrible housing, or a place where the administration doesn’t care about us. Until we invest more in our students, this housing crisis is only going to continue.

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