The Housing Policy Built on Discussion
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 01:02
On Jan. 27, as students began to pack into Verizon Center to watch Georgetown take on Villanova, the Office of Residential Living sent an email informing eligible students that the housing selection process was about to begin.
The email listed the dates and times of upcoming housing information sessions and included some useful links detailing housing policy. What most students did not realize, however, was that a change in the selection timeline would alter an informal housing process used by students who study abroad in the fall of their junior and senior years.
With only a few weeks until the application deadline for study-abroad programs, the change in policy caught many students off guard, and they scrambled to determine its implications. To avoid this type of problem in the future, the university administration and Georgetown University Student Association should work together to consult with students before new policy is determined and inform them of all the possible implications.
While the change might have gone unnoticed, luckily, one of our fellow students, Carl Yedor (COL ’16), was conscientious enough to read through the policy change and share his interpretation of the changes with us. As we now know, the new policy would have left fall study-abroad students “abroad and abandoned” — to quote last week’s editorial (The Hoya, A2, Jan. 31, 2014) — when it comes to spring semester housing. To make matters worse, students who were working through their study-abroad applications had only two weeks to re-evaluate their plans and determine if studying abroad in the fall would be worth the possibility of returning to a room in Village C East or LXR in the spring.
Fortunately, efforts to begin dialogue with university administration received strong popular support through Facebook and IdeaScale. GUSA senators were then able to negotiate a compromise with administration officials that satisfied most of the affected parties. While the new policy will not be repealed, a one-year delay of its implementation will give the Office of Residential Living the opportunity to talk to students.
It is our imperative to engage in this dialogue to determine how to build a selection process that is equitable to all and encourages studying abroad, but also one that fits within the new timeline and policy. Dialogue, although it takes time, is a necessary part of policymaking and can save the administration and students the time wasted in correcting a hurried or unpopular policy.
However, the dialogue must be meaningful and take into account a variety of viewpoints. On this particular issue, the Office of Residential Living went to substantial lengths to poll students’ opinions. In fact, a vast majority of students supported moving the selection period from October to March, which is the most significant change accompanying the new policy. Unfortunately, there was a lack of communication regarding the implications of this policy change.
It is very possible that the administration officials did not fully understand how the informal process of “filling” an apartment for a semester works, since the process is not recognized by the Office of Residential Living.
Furthermore, students did not realize that housing eligibility has traditionally been cancelled once a student has been accepted to a study-abroad program since housing selection used to occur in October; neither the administration nor the student had the full story. A process of inclusive, comprehensive dialogue could have helped both sides learn of these rules and processes, which would have yielded an initial policy that fit everyone’s needs.
It is obviously impractical for the university to try to get every individual student’s opinion on every matter. However, open dialogue between the administration, GUSA and Georgetown’s student body yields favorable results for all parties involved.
Instances like this, as well as this fall’s discussion of the plans for the new Northeast Triangle Residence Hall, should serve as models for the kind of cooperation that will be needed in the next 10 years as our university continues to grow and develop. Every student has a different opinion and every policy impacts each individual differently. The administration, on the other hand, has a very difficult task and will see things differently from most students.
In short, everyone has a different story. In order to make good policy, aspects of as many perspectives as possible should be included in the decision-making process.
WILL SIMONS and PHILIP COFFIN are sophomores in the College.