Thinking Beyond the College

by Ben Bollinger | 4/28/03 5:00am

To the Editor:

Chris Moscato's critique of the Dartmouth's coverage of the Gile Tract housing project development in April 24 letter "The Wrong Focus" is unabashedly self-centered and uninformed. I, like all students, agree that there is a student-housing problem and would encourage others to work to address this issue.

The author of that article should realize, however, that these situations are in no way unrelated.

In the past several years, the Upper Valley area has experienced unprecedented economic growth, leading to the creation of many more jobs than the existing housing market can support. Currently, there is a need for more then 3,000 housing units to support the Upper Valley workforce. The resulting rise in housing costs has made it nearly impossible for Upper Valley residents to find housing within close proximity to campus. This has driven people further away from Hanover; it is not uncommon for employees of the College to drive 45 minutes or more to work every day.

This situation is related to Dartmouth students and student housing in two important ways. Students regularly benefit from the work of College employees. Yet, their appreciation of their work rarely extends to an acknowledgement of their right to live within reasonable distance of the campus. Dartmouth College is an extremely privileged institution, and it should not be surprising that the community in which it is located is equally as exclusive. Should the custodians who maintain existing college housing not be entitled to live within close range of the campus?

Adding new dormitories means creating additional custodial positions at the College, but fortunately this does not necessarily translate into unmitigated housing demands. The shortage of housing units on campus that drives students off-campus adds pressure to an already tight housing market. Students are able to pay higher rents, while their landlords fail to maintain the properties. Creating additional housing units on campus may therefore alleviate the housing problem in Hanover and nearby communities.

Until that happens, there are many of us who believe it is important that we do everything possible to create affordable housing for all members of the College community. With the Gile Tract development project, Hanover has the opportunity to create 60 units of affordable housing.

A group of students has joined with community members in campaigning to get the Gile Tract article passed. We feel that this issue is at the moment of incomparable importance to our community. I am confident that any student who takes a moment to step outside the Dartmouth bubble will agree.

Mr. Moscata's proclamation that this should be a rally cause that students take up and address with the administration with drive is well-acknowledged yet short-sighted. Thank you, Chris, for your willingness to lead the campaign for additional student housing. I hope that your new awareness of the connection between student and community housing needs and newfound appreciation of the issue will be further incentive to action.