How off campus living is affecting Colby’s culture

Campus living is a large part of what makes Colby different from other educational institutions. With 95 to 98 percent of all students living on campus in either a dorm or an apartment, the campus has a unique culture and community. As more students decide to live off-campus, however, the culture changes, and it is worth examining these effects.

The majority of Colby students find living on campus a good fit for a number of reasons. Some like that they have unlimited swipes in the dining halls; others that they can get up five minutes before class. Still others appreciate being around other people living in the same situations and environment. There are many benefits to living on campus, but those who live off campus see benefits in relocating as well.

In a conversation with Kat Restrepo ’18, she revealed her reasons for wanting to live off campus her senior year. “I wanted to have a kitchen and didn’t want to live in an apartment where most of the on campus social scene is,” she explained. Kat plans on living on Carroll Street with five other Colby students. In Kat’s case, she wanted the freedom of amenities while also staying close to campus.

Because housing is mostly on campus, most social events take place there as well. However, there are parties that take place at off campus houses, and this introduces an element of exclusivity into Colby’s culture. When Jacqueline Albanese ’19 was asked about her thoughts on off campus living, she responded, “I’m normally impartial, but on nights like tonight (October 1) I’m against it because people are leaving to go party and be exclusive when they could be here on campus and be inclusive.”

Jackie has a point. Off campus houses are more obscure, and thus only those who are “in the know” about the address and time are able to go. It also heightens the risk of police interaction that could end poorly for those who are underage. Another concerning aspect is transportation to and from these off campus parties. Having to travel introduces drunk driving as a potential risk.

Usually, Colby students are smart about transportation and find a sober person to drive, but sometimes there are one or two people who decide they are sober enough, smart enough, or invincible enough to take to the roads. Sometimes they win that bet, sometimes they lose. I respect the houses that coordinate a bus to and from these events for mitigating this threat. After all, they’re just trying to have fun and are also taking a risk themselves being the host. 

So far this year there haven’t been many issues with off campus parties. There are clearly risks, however: someone could drink too much, someone who shouldn’t drive could drive, or the police could get involved. Both the host and the people invited need to weigh the pros and cons.

As far as off campus parties becoming a growing phenomenon, Jackie noted, “Off campus isn’t a thing here, stop trying to make it happen.” I have to agree with this statement. I chose Colby for many reasons, one of them being that most students were located on campus. I liked the aspect of community, and that meant a lot to me as I’m sure it does for many other people on campus. Why would you want to come to Colby if that wasn’t what you were looking for? Despite the slow move to surrounding areas, I feel our strong community is still intact, but how will it evolve if the ratio continues to change?

Whether you decide to live off campus or on, simple interactions are the most important aspect of keeping community alive. One could live on campus and be just as exclusive as someone who lives off, so it is up to the student body and how we react to these changes that will determine our future community dynamic. Choosing where you want to live has more implications than one would assume, and that is a power we as students should acknowledge.

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