Our house, our rules: a defense of off-campus living

Many Colby students are familiar with the anxiety and drama that housing stirs up towards the end of every year. An increase of students results in an increase of stress when looking for a place to live on campus. We all have our preferences. We know the places we want to live and the places that we would rather cut off our foot than  live there. After freshman year, many of us feel like we have done our part in living in not so comfortable situations. Whether you are the only room of girls in a hallway of all sophomore boys or living in a forced triple, many of us have horror stories about our past experiences in the dorms.

Two springs ago, when I was deciding where I wanted to live for my junior year at Colby, the anxiety and frustration came spiraling back. I loved my past roommates, but I needed a space of my own in a less hectic dorm, where I did not have to pay hundreds of dollars for dorm vandalism. But of course, being at the bottom of my class year, the best I could do was going to be a double in AMS.  

It was at this point when an amazing opportunity presented itself: the chance to live off campus. A friend of mine had a house for the 2016-2017 year, but all of the housemates would be abroad the fall semester and they needed a group to live there for that one semester. It was in that moment (literally that fast), that seven of us decided that we wanted to live off campus. It worked perfectly, one out of the seven of us would be abroad in the spring. In less than a week, we toured the house, listed our pros and cons, and signed the lease. All that was left was to do was to inform Campus Life that seven of us would not be on campus.

At first, we were a bit worried about informing Campus Life that we were living off campus because we were past the date for registering to live off campus. However, after just a few emails with Campus life, giving them the seven names and the address to our off-campus house, we were all set.

It was almost too easy. Colby knew that there were not enough rooms for every student to live in comfortably and probably felt as if they needed students to live off campus. Now, Colby has done a complete 180°.

I loved living off-campus. It was something about being able to be done with school for the day and going back to my house. It allowed me to separate academic time from personal time. Overall, it gave me a break from the tedious, stress filled, overwhelming days on campus.

It was only from living off campus that I got a sense of what it was like to go grocery shopping and cook for one. It opened my eyes to the art of understanding budgeting between buying food, paying for more gas (since I was driving back and forth from campus to my house), and furnishing parts of the house.  I did not realize it at the time, but it also prepared me for my time abroad. It taught me how to live in a home, transport myself to and from places, and how to manage my time wisely.

By taking away off-campus housing, Colby is taking away students’ chances to grow up. To learn how to cook, clean, and take responsibility for their own lives. By forcing an all on-campus lifestyle for its students, Colby has a large influence over what everyone does and how everyone does it. Bathrooms and hallways are cleaned by the custodians. Everything is within a 15 minute walk, food is provided at all hours of the day, and there is no physical break between work and home.

But why did Colby decided to take away off-campus housing? Maybe because it’s known that some Colby students tend to be  disruptive in off-campus housing.  

There have been instances where students have been arrested, received several noise complaints, or provided drinks to underage students. However, these issues are prominent on campus as well. They are not going to disappear, even if the off campus housing option will. This issue does not depend  on where one lives. It lies in the attitudes perpetuated on this campus and the lack of accountability.

Furthermore, I feel as if Colby is not allowing people to live off-campus is because they are afraid that they will not have 200 willing students to live in the new downtown dorms. Around the social sphere I engage in, there has been a very negative outlook on the downtown dorms.

Why does Colby feel like it has the right to tell me where to live? The experience of living in a dorm can be a great transformation from home to school life. The dorm life teaches many lessons as well. However, it can also be a traumatic experience as well as expensive. Why would Colby take away the option of allowing me to pick housing that allows to grow as an individual, have a mental and emotional break from school, and lastly provides me a safe space?