A post on the unofficial college meme page, Cox Knollege, by sophomore Phelix Venters-Sefic about their frustrations towards the process prompted other Knox students to share their difficulties with receiving off-campus housing. This year, Director of Campus life, Eleanor Kahn will be handling room assignments for the first time.
The main point of misunderstanding between the administration and the students is what it means to be a residential college. Although it is stated in the agreement all students complete as freshman, many failed to read or analyze the contract in full detail. The policy states that students cannot be granted off-campus housing without permission from the college. Off-campus housing is typically only granted to upperclassmen. Kahn says that transparency is something the office is working towards.
“We think we do a pretty good job of saying ‘residential college’, but whether or not students know what that means is where the misinformation is coming from,” Kahn said, “Transparency has always been important to me, so it’s frustrating when a student or a parent is like, ‘I didn’t know that.”’
Venters-Sefic shared that they had a meeting with Campus Life about trying to receive off-campus housing after the application was only sent out to rising seniors. Venters-Sefic was confused as to why they weren’t receiving this information as well, as they are a rising junior. Kahn shared that financial reasons were not a reason to go off-campus.
“Money not being a reason to get off campus is really crazy to me because of how many people can’t afford to go to this school É I think in a lot of cases they are looking [for financial gains] and not being like, ‘what’s best for the student?’” Venters-Sefic said. “Because why would a student go out of their way this much if it wasn’t the best option for them? At the end of the day, they just kind of want more money from us.”
Sophomore Bryanna Martinez wanted to go talk with Kahn about her personal situation, but after other students who had scheduled meetings with Kahn told her it wouldn’t yield the outcome she wanted, she decided to stay away.
“It would be way better for [me] financially if I go off-campus and if I go off-board because I can’t afford college. Knox likes to say that they help you. They really don’t,” Martinez said.
Kahn wants to make sure that every bed on campus is filled, but each student’s financial situation is different, and she is working to find the point where off-campus housing is necessary for a student’s success.
“If it’s the difference between a student leaving Knox or staying at Knox, that’s a big deal. We don’t want students to leave just because they can’t get off-campus,” Kahn said.
For some students, including senior Ananda Badili, it has been a long process to get the most adequate experience for her needs. Having a gluten intolerance, she wanted to live in a place with a kitchen, but both her sophomore and junior year she was forced into living spaces that didn’t offer what she needed.
“It just became emotionally really exhausting for me until I got to a point where I wasn’t doing well academically,” Badili said, “My first three years of housing were a nightmare, and that’s not all the responsibility of the Campus Life office, but a lot of the disorganization that I experienced made it a lot harder for me to create a living environment that was functional for me.”
When Badili got off-campus her junior year, her financial aid reduced $1,300 dollars for moving off-campus and another $1,300 when she went off-board. Even with this adjustment, it was cheaper to move into an off-campus apartment. Before coming to college, Badili was under the impression she was going to be able to reduce her loans. As tuition increases and her financial aid fluctuates, she found herself having to take out more.
“Moving off-campus for me was like, I have a car’s worth of student loans, but I could’ve had a house worth of student loans. I know people that are going to be $150,000 dollars in debt. That is crippling,” Badili said.
Another complaint from students is about the lack of consistency. Kahn wants to make each year as consistent to years past as possible. Yet, coming into this position at this time with few rules is difficult.
“There’s a learning curve, so that’s a challenge, making sure that I’m learning everything I need to learn so I can communicate clearly to students,” Kahn said.
For senior David Petrak, getting off campus was as simple as signing a lease before getting permission. Even after being told he would not be granted off-campus as a sophomore, he signed a lease with his peers anyway. Despite Knox’s policy of ignoring unsanctioned leases, then housing coordinator, Student Support Specialist Craig Southern, granted Petrak approval to live off-campus as sophmore.
“I’m curious about the new situation, it doesn’t seem like they have all their ducks in a row,” Petrak said.
Kahn has yet to face the issue of a signed lease this year. She argues that each student has already signed a lease to Knox when signing the housing agreement coming in as a freshman. She hopes to not have to cross this path for the 2019-2020 school year.
“Having a lease signed, I would hate to set the precedent that that’s how you get off campus. Because I think people would just go crazy signing leases,” Kahn said.
As the housing selection continues, Kahn hopes to be as diligent as possible. The main qualifications to off-campus housing are being married/in a domestic partnership, have a dependent or have a disability or medical reason. She hopes to meet with students about the many circumstances that involve the need to go off-campus and understands that there are gray areas.
“What we are trying to figure out now, is what are the exceptions to these black and white things? Because some people’s situations don’t fall into these categories,” Kahn said. “I think that’s where some students are probably feeling frustrated, those exceptions aren’t being made a lot right now because we are trying to figure out where those are.”