The residency requirement disintegrates community life

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Photo courtesy of the University of Dallas

As an incoming freshman, I genuinely looked forward to the prospect of on-campus living. Now, as a senior I tribute my lasting, fulfilling friendships at the University of Dallas to dorm life. Regardless, the UD residency requirement eventually hindered the very community life that it supposedly intends to promote. 

According to the UD website, those who are under 21, unmarried, have earned fewer than 90 credit hours and live further than 50 miles from campus are required to live on campus (with the exception of veterans). In October 2019, I wrote a news article for The University News about the struggles that several students faced in attempting to receive an exemption from the residency requirement.  

After witnessing even more of my friends experience financial hardship as a result of the residency requirement, I decided that it was time to share my own story and offer solutions to an issue that many students face each year. 

As the youngest of seven children raised on a single income, I have worked three on-campus jobs during the school year and have worked full-time every summer to stay financially afloat. My situation is not unique to me.

In the spring of my sophomore year, 2019, I agreed to room with some friends in the Northgate condominiums. I applied for a housing exemption so I could save money by sharing rent with several roommates and cooking affordable meals. 

I naively thought I would receive a financial exemption because I was receiving a Pell Grant and federal work-study. After receiving an email notifying me that I was not granted an exemption, I was distraught and perplexed: What had I done wrong? Was there anything more I could do? 

Only a couple months later, in July of 2019, I received an email informing me that I had been granted an off-campus housing exemption. But by that point it was too late for me to find viable off-campus arrangements. I wondered to myself, “Why did I receive an exemption after being turned down before?”

The office of financial aid graciously offered me a housing grant, for which I am incredibly grateful. Because I couldn’t secure a good housing situation in time, I accepted the housing grant and lived on campus. In the fall semester of my junior year, I lived in Clark Hall yet again. 

While trying to reconnect with my friends who I hadn’t seen all summer, I found Clark residence life to be incredibly isolating. Some of my friends live in the student apartments, others in Old Mill and still others commuted. Without a car or apartment of my own, my opportunities for developing community life were limited to visiting friends’ apartments with no ability to reciprocate.

The supposed purpose of the residency requirement is to integrate the academic and social lives of students. In my own experience, this very same requirement essentially ended up having the opposite effect. Instead of holistically sharing my life with the ones to whom I’d become endeared in Rome, I was further away from them than ever before. 

I don’t wish to merely air my grievances. The housing office has offered me much flexibility and generosity over the years. Rather, I’m raising my concerns as one of many students who ended up with an undesirable and unaffordable housing situation their junior year.

If the actual purpose of the requirement is to prevent students from drinking underage, then that should at least be clearly stated in the student handbook. 

As an alternative to the current prohibitive housing policy, I propose a blanket exemption for anyone in the junior class who requests to live off-campus. Offering incoming juniors the option to live either on or off campus could prevent much of the financial uncertainty and unfortunate separation that far too many students have experienced over the years. 

As a near-graduate of UD, I have come to know the university well enough to recognize its flaws and love it despite them. 

For the sake of current and future UD students facing financial challenges, logistical issues and a deterioration of their community life as a result of this incongruous and paternalistic policy, I ask that the board of trustees and other relevant authorities revisit and revise the residency requirement.

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