The disappointing results of the housing lottery last week stirred deep-rooted concerns about the nature of on-campus housing at Cornell. Even after $225 million were spent on the West Campus Residential Initiative, many students were left unhappy this past week. The University has rightly sought to ensure a meaningful and closely knit campus community, but as the situation stands now, it hasn’t pulled its weight to ensure student satisfaction.
The newest dorms on West Campus provide students with in-house dining halls and laundry facilities, as well as new furniture and convenient amenities, such as air conditioning. The money spent to re-do West Campus was not spent in vain. But that does not mean that all problems were solved by constructing brand spanking new buildings, for these dorms have not magically knit the communities that the University set out to weave.
Gothic dorms built 90 years ago stand in contrast to their counterparts on West Campus, and although the Gothics remain unparalleled in beauty, they lack many modern conveniences that the newer buildings provide. As it stands now, students pay the same rate to live in the Gothics as they do the newer dorms.
Yet even within the Gothics there remains discrepancies between quality of rooms, in size, shape and location. These differences can often greatly impact the living experience; for example, in a dorm with no elevator, a room on the first floor would be more valuable than one on the top.
In theory, students select to live on campus as sophomores and upperclassmen and have their choice of dorms. However, limited space that is high in demand all too often relegates students to their last choice dorms — pushing students as far as North Campus, isolating them from the community the University strives to build.
The Residential Student Congress and the Student Assembly have recently made moves to address the dissatisfaction of many students in regards to on-campus living. The RSC and the S.A. passed a resolution earlier this month that stipulates for payment plans to “reflect the difference in quality of residential facilities by creating scaled housing rates for the West Campus housing units.” Prorated fees would help to placate students’ concerns of unequal housing options.
Indeed, a prorated payment scale is not a big picture solution — it will not serve to better foster the West Campus or on-campus residential community that is still limiting in capacity. Yet, it is a proactive and necessary first step in making on-campus living more fair for many students.