Curse the whole damn flawed system (housing at University of Maryland)

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

I was an opinion columnist for University of Maryland’s student newspaper The Diamondback for three semesters before I graduated. The columns I wrote are still up on the web archive, but I’d rather not depend on The Diamondback to host them indefinitely. Thus, I have decided to repost them on this blog, not only to archive them in a place under my control, but also so you readers here can have an idea of my writing in college. Here is my 17th published opinion column, Curse the whole system, originally published April 6, 2007.

On Tuesday, 556 rising seniors and 86 current seniors were told that they could not continue living on the campus in any of the dorms next year (only South Campus Commons and The Courtyards are immune). Next year will mark the first in Maryland’s history that no seniors, except resident assistants, will be living on the campus. To what or whom do we owe this massive failure of planning?

The university actually has, in recent years, tried to secure funding to build a new high-rise dorm on North Campus. But the funding request was quickly shot down by the Board of Regents, citing a priority toward academic buildings. But one wonders why the priority is focused so exclusively on academic buildings; surely if the housing crunch had been this bad during all of the university’s previous growth, its academics wouldn’t be near where they are today either. Sorry Board of Regents, but you definitely deserve some of the blame for this, as does the Maryland State Assembly, who has seen fit to not give us the necessary funding.

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University of Maryland to lighten some of its housing penalties

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

It looks like the University of Maryland, College Park is finally going to lighten up some of the penalties for violating dorm rules. For too long ResLife has used a nonsensical system that has two, and only two, severity levels of penalties. A-level penalties, which include arson, rape, assault, and somehow marijuana use, generally lead to immediate and irrevocable loss of on-campus housing. B-level penalties on the other hand, which include underage drinking and minor vandalism, just lead to citations or housing probation. While I was living in the dorms, four people I knew got kicked out on a first offense of smoking weed. It was totally unfair that they were treated the same as arsonists, and it was much more harsh than students caught drinking underage (which is also illegal, of course).

The new system is going to do away with the separate levels of penalties and just treat everything on a case-by-case basis. Arson and assault will thus still be grounds for immediate loss of housing, but marijuana usage will probably be somewhere in between them and underage drinking, leading to probation but not loss of housing on the first violation. And of course, it’s about damn time. During the 2006 Student Government Association elections, the student body overwhelming supported a referendum proposed by Students for Sensible Drug Policy calling for a reduction in the severity of marijuana use penalties. It looked like the University wasn’t going to act on it, but a year and a half later, we learn that the gears were simply grinding slowly rather than not at all. Is the university looking to preserve their highly coveted ranking as #1 Counterculture School by High Times Magazine?

Housing crisis at University of Maryland

Friday, April 6th, 2007

The University of Maryland is facing a serious housing crisis. Just two days ago, the Department of Resident Life announced that all rising seniors who had planned to live on campus in the dorms (nearly 600 of them) would instead be denied housing and told to find off-campus housing on their own. This was two weeks after the deadline for applications to live in all of the on-campus and near-campus apartments and suite-style living affiliated with the University. The housing market around here is already harsh anyway, and the city of College Park has made it quite clear that they don’t like all of these students living in their midst.

There is no short term solution, so many students are simply going to have to find housing somewhere within driving distance of University of Maryland and commute. Housing prices on all of the nearby walkable houses are going to go through the roof, and I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. Just get a house in Hyattsville and buy a used car with the money you’d be saving. Long term solutions, like the construction of new on-campus dormitories, have actually been denied in recent years, though hopefully, after the outcry out of this, whoever holds the power of the purse will reconsider and grant funding to alleviate Maryland’s desperate housing crisis.

Here’s some more background information as published in The Diamondback, University of Maryland’s #1 student newspaper.

April 5, 2007

April 6, 2007

As you can see, this is a huge issue on-campus and it has been covered in extreme depth by The Diamondback. The timing of this was actually rather lucky (at least for me, not for the people being evicted from housing). On Tuesday I had written a column recommending a student-run system for exchanging used textbooks as a way to bypass the exorbitant fees sliced off the top by commercial resellers like the university’s bookstore. I sent it in to my editor, and he gets back to me by Wednesday saying, “Look at this opinion column from Monday and tell me how your idea differs from his …”

Well, wouldn’t you know it, someone had basically written the exact same damn idea I wanted to write about, but two days earlier, and what’s worse, I missed it. So I was scrambling around on Thursday looking for another idea to write about when the housing crisis unfolded, giving me the perfect subject to write about.