TU focuses on the wrong housing issues


photo by Amani Canada

I finally started to read the Campus Master Plan this weekend. Fifty-six pages in, I am humbled by the obvious time and energy the Campus Master Plan Committee put into this document. As it is, Trinity University is a beautiful campus “” green, lush and busy. Many of Trinity’s buildings are just as inviting.

Take, for example, the Center for Science and Innovation building. Glass windows are everywhere, and while they provide an enormous amount of natural sunlight, they also make almost every lab and classroom visible to people in the halls. With so much transparency “” literally “” learning feels open yet still organized, and the rooms seem clean and modern without feeling sterile like they would if the glass were replaced with white walls.

So I understand and agree with Danny Anderson and the Campus Master Plan Committee’s desire to make all of Trinity just as inviting and accessible for everyone visiting, learning or working on campus. But, at the same time, I am confused by the Master Plan’s approach to rectifying housing issues.

In the short time I have attended Trinity, I have heard numerous problems with different dorms around Campus. Last year, I had friends living in Herndon who reported that a water pipe had burst, causing my friends’ floor to get wet and smell for several days afterwards. Half of Herndon had its water shut off for the whole day to fix the pipe, but my friends still had issues with their shower afterwards. Even in Witt-Winn,  a newly-renovated dorm, I heard that some girls down the hall from where I was had part of their ceiling fall down and they needed to be relocated while it was fixed. And just the other week, South had a sewage pipe burst and waste got into some of the rooms, forcing their inhabitants to be relocated while the rooms are being fixed and cleaned.

As it is, the Master Plan document says Master Plan Committee’s research indicates that 54 percent of juniors are dissatisfied by their housing, but that many students seem open to the idea of having a room to themselves. As a result, the Master Plan Committee is considering making more single rooms.

However, this would be costly, both for Trinity to make the rooms and for the students who have to pay for the singles rooms. And trying to keep students on campus by considering building apartments when there issues with current housing, from older dorms to the newly-renovated ones, feels like it could problematic in the future. It seems to me that the 54 percent of juniors unhappy with their living arrangement on campus want more independence and space which might be more cheaply resolved if they were allowed to live off campus.

As of right now, the City Vista apartments are the only alternative housing option for juniors who want to live off campus. To be clear, I think that the City Vista apartments are gorgeous. Kathryn Millar, a junior who currently lives in City Vista, feels the same way.

“The rooms are amazing! And they’re right next to campus, which is nice. If you live far away from campus, it would be a pain driving to class everyday. But, I’m still in walking distance. I think the only thing that would make it an unattractive option is if it cost a lot more than some of the options off campus,” Millar said.

Living in a beautiful apartment close to campus, having a pool and workout room available and being able to live independently and cook for herself, especially with a gluten allergy, are huge reasons why Millar loves City Vista. According to Millar, “The last sign up slot for a room in City Vista required your suite to have a minimum average of 65 hours to apply. But they still had rooms at the end of the first day, so they lowered the average and we managed to get in with 58.” Prior to purchasing City Vista, Trinity’s policy was that “all unmarried undergraduate students are required to live on campus for three years.” But juniors are allowed to live in City Vista because the apartments are Trinity property, so juniors are technically living on campus “” even though they’re really off campus.

As wonderful as City Vista is, rooms are limited, and there’s really no guarantee in getting a room. For the juniors that the Master Plan Committee surveyed who wanted more independence and space and are not living in City Vista, why not just let them live off campus so Trinity can focus on fixing electrical and plumbing issues in current housing? I do think that it is important for Trinity students to live on campus for at least the first year of college. Being forced to live on campus as a first-year made me go out, meet new people and check out the clubs and organizations around campus.

But I think Trinity does such a wonderful job at encouraging students to create long-lasting memories and ties on campus that giving juniors the option to live off campus won’t hurt the community. After all, some of them are basically living off-campus already anyway, and I don’t see how they are any less part of Trinity’s community. In the meantime, current housing could get improved for incoming first-years and sophomores so that when they are juniors, they might not be as unhappy with their housing arrangements.