Majzoub: Don’t Take North Park Away From Graduate Students
The administration’s decision to take North Park graduate housing away from graduate students is rash, shortsighted and insulting.
On Nov. 6, the Office of the Provost notified the Graduate Student Council via email that North Park graduate housing, a collection of apartments on North Park Street east of College Park and one of the only on-campus housing community for graduate and medical students, will be exclusively occupied by undergraduates for the 2022-2023 academic year. This change is the College’s way of making up for the shortage of undergraduate housing that will arise from the renovation of Andres Hall and Zimmerman Hall beginning in summer 2022. Notably, this is the second time in less than five years that the College has stripped North Park from graduate students. To make matters worse, this appalling decision was taken without first consulting the Graduate Student Council. Dartmouth should immediately reverse this decision, or risk an even worse graduate student housing crisis than the one it faced this year.
The removal of North Park from the menu of housing options for graduate students has been a striking blow given that, according to a recent report published by the GSC in August 2021, around 23% of graduate students were not able to find housing this fall term. The aftermath of this decision was worsened by the College’s relative indifference and lack of consideration. GSC president Keighley Rockcliffe told me in an interview that she was “not aware of any graduate or professional student who was included in whatever discussions precluded the decision to remove our community from North Park and from Hanover.”
Rockcliffe also highlighted the Dartmouth administration’s unresponsiveness to GSC concerns, which she attributed to the hope they seem to be placing in the new Summit on Juniper apartment complex that will be completed in August 2022. This hope, however, seems misguided: Students surveyed by the GSC reported high prices, distance from campus and a lack of student-exclusive housing as some of their main concerns in the GSC housing report — and the Summit on Jupiter apartments will fail to address any of these.
One room in a 4-bedroom/2-bathroom apartment in the Summit on Juniper apartments is listed at $1076 per month, excluding electricity and water, which would amount to 63.5% of my stipend as a comparative literature graduate student. The apartments are also more than three miles away from campus. This distance puts a large majority of international students, who disproportionately lack cars and driving licenses, at a huge disadvantage. Lastly, the Summit on Juniper apartments are, incredibly, not guaranteed to be rented to graduate students, according to Rockcliffe. Rockcliffe also said that while graduate students will be granted priority to apply, the pool will be open to all members of the Dartmouth and Upper Valley community, thus favoring wealthy applicants. The College’s hail mary solution, then, will not come close to solving the problems graduate students face.
Rather than striving for concrete solutions, the College seems adamant about plastering over the housing wounds affecting the entirety of the Dartmouth community. Earlier this fall, the College tried to incentivize undergraduate students to give up on-campus fall housing entirely by offering them a spot in a $5,000 lottery. Not only does this lump sum barely cover the ridiculously expensive living expenses in the Upper Valley, but it also overlooks the overwhelmed Upper Valley real estate market, which simply does not have the present capacity to keep up with Dartmouth’s growth. The demand for on-campus undergraduate housing has routinely outstripped the supply, which has not been expanded in years. Furthermore, a recent article in The Dartmouth also noted the College’s “sheer neglect of most dorms,” with “students routinely voice[ing] problems with basic livability issues.”
The Graduate Student Council, undergraduate groups and parent groups have all brought forth a multitude of solutions for the housing shortages, but the College has disregarded all tangible initiatives. Proposals by parents of undergraduates to construct modular housing have been rejected or indefinitely placed on hold. The Dartmouth’s Editorial Board wrote in July that Dartmouth should make building new dorms a top priority, but little has changed in the intervening months. The August GSC housing report also outlined short-term and long-term solutions, including building more housing units, expanding transportation options and providing more generous housing stipends. So far, these proposals have been ignored.
Rockcliffe noted that the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies administration has been proactive in advocating on behalf of graduate students for stipend increases to combat inflated housing prices. She stressed, however, that “if Dartmouth College wants to help its underfunded graduate student community in this housing crisis in an equitable way — that is, including its students who are here without a stipend — they would provide housing subsidies.”
Due to the administration’s inaction, the GSC bore the brunt of helping graduate students locate the few available housing options. As a new member of the GSC, I can personally attest that the logistical and emotional burden of helping our peers secure housing for the next term took a toll on other members, distracting them from their studies and research.
While other Ivy League institutions are acquiring affordable, high-quality residential buildings for their students, Dartmouth continues to overlook serious proposals while only deepening the crisis with their short-term “solutions.” This crisis has forced me, along with many of my friends and colleagues, to live in expensive, remote and potentially unsafe apartments and then move every term — if we can secure housing at all. This reality has prompted many of us to consider opting out of our dream academic endeavors at this school. Housing anxieties should not have to jeopardize our mental wellbeing and academic performance.
I was not fortunate enough to score on-campus housing, and I believe it to be a moral imperative to make sure the next first-year graduate students do not go through the housing crisis I am currently experiencing. At the end of the day, North Park is but a small part of the broader systemic housing crisis that has been plaguing the College for fifty years. The College must find proper solutions instead of beating around the bush. Do not take away North Park from graduates.
Tala Majzoub is a member of the Graduate Student Council.