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The Dartmouth
June 17, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students protest housing shortage

With nearly 400 rising sophomores currently without housing for Fall term, still-homeless students have been involved in a variety of protest activity -- with some rallying in front of Parkhurst Hall last night for more dormitories and many others signing an online petition for the same purpose.

An electronic petition for guaranteed housing posted on the web yesterday gathered the most numerical support, attracting over 380 signatures from students in all grade levels by press time last night, less than 24 hours after it was posted.

The most visual demonstration of that widespread student frustration was the vigil. But despite the attendance of key college administrators and the conspicuous surveillance of both Safety and Security and the Hanover Police, the crowd peaked at 20 students.

Senior Associate Dean Dan Nelson, Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman, Dean of the College James Larimore and Dean of First-year Students Gail Zimmerman attended the vigil to engage in a dialogue with students.

Fifty-four disgruntled students signed a petition for guaranteed housing and 20 students recorded their personal stories of anguish, all of which will be presented to President Wright this morning at 9:00 a.m.

"I wanted to bring to the administration's attention the gravity of the situation and the personal impact it has on students like myself," Jennai Williams '03, co-organizer of the event, said.

Even in the face of low turnout, both Williams and fellow organizer Adam Kuhlman '03 felt that the vigil was a success.

"I think that this will make a statement ... that we are serious about the policy change," Kuhlman said.

The petition at the vigil addressed more than just the housing crunch, however, delving into what some students perceived as underlying reasons for the lack of sufficient on-campus residences.

"The manipulation of the D-plan to shore up the current flawed policy in a self-reinforcing system is egregious, a perversion of the purported intention of the plan, namely academic flexibility," Williams and Kuhlman stated in the petition.

While Redman did admit that College resources are not vast enough to allow the entire student body to be in residence during any single term, he defended the design by pointing out that students are able to select their own off-terms.

"There is an enrollment piece to the D-plan, but it is left up to student choice," Redman said.

Larimore and Redman agreed that with the expected addition of 500 new beds, the College should be in a position to guarantee housing to all interested students within the next five years.

Redman qualified this statement by pointing out that all figures are based on an estimate of housing needs which takes into account a certain percentage of the student population who would prefer to live off-campus regardless of the availability of on-campus housing.

"I would assume that if that number is accurate, we could guarantee housing to the remaining students," he said.

And Larimore reminded the audience that "there is still a policy decision to be made" regarding any future guarantee. In addition to guaranteeing housing, the Office of Residential Life and other administrators are working in concert in an attempt to make the room assignment process more fair.

"We are looking at tinkering with the priority process," said Redman, adding that it has already been decided that active-olders will no longer be given higher priority numbers than rising seniors in subsequent room draws.