Recently, certain members of the Undergraduate Assembly expressed their hope that the new college house on Hill Field would be freshman-only living and that freshmen should live in the Quad or Hill as opposed to the high or low rises because this allows them to have more “real college experiences.”
We find this idea to be misguided and, quite frankly, insulting.
When (and why) did members of the UA take it upon themselves to decide what a “real college experience” was? We understand that Quad-style living is often associated with more parties and large social events and that some freshmen would love to have these experiences.
However, as evidenced by the responses and criticism the UA has received, this is not necessarily the college experience that every freshman wants. Many pointed out that high-rise living is not mutually exclusive with the tight-knit community and close halls often attributed to other houses, and the insinuations of UA members that Quad living should be a one-size-fits-all freshman year prescriptive are narrow-minded.
Furthermore, the idea that freshmen need to be guided into housing decisions — that the UA needs to save them from living in the high rises for the sake of their first-year experiences — is condescending. These are adults who have been accepted into one of the leading institutions in the nation and will soon be making important decisions regarding their educations, careers and finances. We imagine that they are more than capable of deciding what they want to prioritize with regards to living — be it the opportunity to see someone get MERTed outside the Quad gates every weekend, private bathrooms or a specific residential program — and choosing a college house accordingly.
That being said, we do believe that there are significant shortcomings in the existing housing system. While freshmen should not be precluded from living in the high rises on principle, upperclassmen should get preference for the high rises (residential programs aside).
Spots in the high rises are in high demand, and upperclassmen should have higher chances of getting one by virtue of seniority. Furthermore, each year, there are countless freshmen who want to live in the Quad who aren’t able to do so. At the same time, there are always stories of upperclassmen who, having lived in the Quad their freshmen year, end up assigned there again for their sophomore year even though they wanted to live in the high rises. This is an obvious problem with a simple solution — give upperclassmen more spots in the high rises, thus opening rooms in the Quad up to freshmen who want to live there.
But aside from all this, the reason that housing is such a contentious issue — the cause of the discrepancy between the demand and supply for high rise rooms in the first place — is that the quality of Penn housing is sorely lacking. The Quad was recently renovated, but many of the lounges are still barely furnished. Anyone who has ever lived or visited a friend in a high rise is all too aware of the frustration that can result from their temperamental, unreliable elevators. And why aren’t the low rises in higher demand? We commend the University for their plans concerning the new college house to be built on Hill Field — it’s awesome that they’re trying to give Penn students more living options — but there are issues with the existing houses that should be just as much of a priority as, say, finding someone to donate enough money to have the new house named after them.
We’re happy that the UA has created the Residential Services Advisory Board to research and improve residential life. We’re also happy that the University continues to expand on-campus housing for students. We agree that most high-rise rooms should in fact be saved for upperclassmen. However, what the freshmen and student body in general would benefit most from isn’t a black-and-white generalization about what the “right” way to live is in order to have an enjoyable first year. Instead, the UA’s new board and the University should work together to ensure that students can have enjoyable and fulfilling living experiences regardless of the type of “real college experiences” they want to have.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.