This is a sad fact to many, but, unfortunately, Penn is not Hogwarts. Not even close. Sorry. We don't even have a talking hat to sort first years into Houses. No, we have "Assignments Operations" for that. Nothing magical here.
Instead of housing students by their year in a dorm system, like most colleges, Penn tosses the freshmen into various College Houses. Some College Houses are predominantly freshman, like the Quad, but others aren't, like whatever we call High Rise South these days.
Penn should room students by class and guarantee students housing for the first two years. Freshmen living with other freshmen, sophomores living with other sophomores. It'd improve the on-campus experience for everybody.
We could fit the entire freshman class in the Quad, Hill and King's Court/English House with room to spare for RAs, GAs and a few others. The high rises could hold the entire sophomore class as well. That'd leave a few College Houses for upperclassmen too.
This isn't just abstract theory. At Villanova, where I transferred from, students were promised housing for at least three years, always separated by year. Some move off campus, but more stay. By the end of the three years, most Villanovans know almost everyone else in their class.
That level of camaraderie is unthinkable here. But this isn't Housing Services' fault. It's our fault.
Housing gave some thought to a two-year housing guarantee for freshman and sophomores, but ultimately decided that such a system would be impossible to implement. Not because of limited space (there's more than enough for two years) or because of logistical difficulties (it'd actually be easier this way). We're stuck with an imperfect housing system because a lot of you are just plain stubborn.
When Penn asked upperclassmen if they'd be willing to give freshmen and sophomores preference in on-campus assignments, they got a resounding "Hell no."
"Mandates aren't done [at Penn]," said Leslie DeLauter, director of the Office of College Houses and Academic Services. The students won't let Penn tell them where to live. "Penn has a culture of choice."
Rather than offering more support to students their first two years, upperclassmen demand preference. To hell with those stupid underclassmen. We're tossing sophomores into the street because some seniors won't leave Harnwell, and we're forcing freshmen into high rises because some sophomores are too content in King's Court.
If you were placed into a high rise freshman year, I know you're already with me. You were exiled from your peers into a land of jaded upperclassmen and closed doors. Living in a high rise as a freshman was "the worst decision of my college career - socially," said College junior Dave Bonda.
"Social suicide," was how College junior Joe Cangialosi described his freshman year on the 17th floor of Hamilton.
One of the great things about college is your dorm experience freshman year, where you are forced to get to know everyone on your hall.
"[In the quad] there's a greater sense of togetherness," said Cangialosi. "You only get a sink and a bed. You share everything else."
Apartment-style-living segregates freshmen from their peers, and rarely leads to interclass interaction. When you have your own bathroom and kitchen, there's no reason to leave your apartment to interact. But it's mighty tough to remain a complete stranger to the guys you see every time you take a shower. In fact, showering with complete strangers would be pretty damn creepy.
But high-rise apartments are perfect for sophomores. Already about 30 percent of sophomores move off campus to live with their friends in an apartment or house. After a year in a dorm, sophomores are ready for apartment-style living.
If they all lived in the high rises, they'd interact more as a class than they do now, scattered across University City. It'd be another year of meeting up with friends down the hall before dinner or a party. And they wouldn't spend a ton of time as freshmen hunting for an apartment next year.
The housing folks agreed that the two-year on campus system offers definite perks. "If it were possible, we'd definitely be in favor," said associate director Sue Smith, "It would solve both the students' concern of where a second year would live, and housings concern about filling beds."
So until upperclassmen give up a bit of choice, we'll keep forcing freshmen into high rises.
And that's not a good thing.
Jim Saksa is a College senior from Toms River, N.J. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You, Sir, are an Idiot appears on Tuesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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