Dear Lou Anna,
In the excitement buzzing around campus with the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, I cannot wait to go home and spend time with my family. But, I got thinking…what happens to the students who cannot afford to, or simply do not want to, head home for the holidays?
I remember so long ago being a freshman athlete at Central Michigan University. I also remember how terrible it was to have to pack up my life to move in with someone over winter break because the dorms closed when most students went home. As an athlete whose sport required her to be on campus during the break, I found myself without a home for close to three weeks. The solution to this problem? Sleeping on the couch at an upperclassman’s apartment and living out of a few duffel bags. What a Merry Christmas that was.
I decided to do some investigating. Was Christmas at MSU as depressing as it was at Central? I thought optimistically that maybe MSU would give students a little more flexibility in holiday housing options. I heard that Butterfield Hall, in the Brody neighborhood, offers students who need or want to stay on campus during the holidays a place to stay through the grapevine. [rhi]
“I’m sorry. The Butterfield guest house is closed this year.” That was the first thing I was told when I called the Residence Life office. Apparently an 18-month renovation project is in the works for the guest house, but what I found odd was what came next.
“We’re not even sure if it will ever be opening again either.”
So why the renovations Lou Anna? Where do students turn when they face dilemmas similar to the one that I ran into as a freshman?
I think of how great MSU is and the endless options students face when they pick their classes, majors, roommates and even food choices at meal times. But what I don’t understand is why something so monumental, like a roof over someone’s head, isn’t considered when students need it the most.
I took my questions to the next obvious place, and a place I frequent: the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS). MSU has anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 International Students each semester. You cannot honestly tell me they all go home for four weeks in December.
So, I called. And I asked, “If I am a freshman student at MSU, living in the dorms, and I can’t afford to go home over Christmas, AND the Butterfield guest house is closed, AND I don’t feel like paying $60 a night to stay in the Kellogg Center, what are my options?”
[lights]You know what I got? A very honest, “You have no options.”
The student office secretary told me that students need to find their own housing over the break if they need to stay on campus. Most students usually set up house at the friend’s place off campus. The OISS even sends out a reminder e-mail to freshmen to let them know when they are being kicked out of their dorms – which they are paying dearly for, might I add – so students can prepare for alternative housing.
But why should students who pay quite a lot to live here be so inconvenienced and stressed out about who will take them in over Christmas, Lou Anna? Isn’t studying for finals, preparing for graduation in some cases, holding down a job or internship and having to spend the holidays without family enough on someone’s plate?
Next call: Brad Ledingham, the resident director at Butterfield Hall.
He had the same answers as the woman at residence life to whom I first spoke. “The guest house is being renovated, the house may not even open again, alternative housing is offered at the Kellogg Center,” yada yada yada.
Now, I was intrigued by the Kellogg Center option. I began to think there was hope for students wishing to have a Green and White Christmas. Ledingham explained that in lieu of the guest house being closed this season, students can go to the Kellogg Center, where sharing a room will run you $35.00 a night and a single can cost close to $60.00.
“Last year the guest house was full,” Ledingham said. “Even on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day people stayed there. Either they couldn’t go home, or they had a job that required them to stay here; either way people used the guest house.” [brad]
If so many people depend on the services offered at the guest house, why would renovations for the place be scheduled during the holiday season, and why would the building be closed following the renovations? It just don’t add up for me.
I called my friend on the diving team, Danielle Williams. She is an international student herself, so I figured maybe she had run into the same problem I did as a freshman at CMU.
“Were you allowed to stay in the dorms over Christmas Break?” I asked.
She told me that the week prior to school starting in the spring semester was when she and her teammates were allowed back into the dorm rooms. But of course there was a catch.
“I think that athletics had to pay for us to move in early, and it was close to $200 per day,” Williams said.
What student on campus has $200 per day to fork over in exchange for access to their dorm? A week alone at this rate would be $1400. That is double the rent that I pay for my two-bedroom, off-campus apartment. Need to stay in the dorms for two weeks? Better have $2800 in the bank because that is how much it will cost you. Even aside from this cost to stay in the dorms, $60 a night at the Kellogg Center is a little outrageous as well. A week alone would cost $420.
Now Lou Anna, I understand that there are probably liability issues, and then there’s the question of where students will eat if they do stay in the dorms over the holiday, but aren’t these things that can be accounted for if someone put in enough time and effort to do so? A lot of people work and travel over Christmas break and even on Christmas day itself, so why should the dorms shut down business? If it is a matter of not having resident assistants available, why are they even necessary? Can’t 18-year-olds be trusted to live safely on their own in the dorms? They’re allowed to do so over Thanksgiving and Spring breaks. What other housing option could make you sign a 9-month contract minus a random month in the middle?
I have so many questions, and not enough answers. And I’m not even one of the many MSU students sticking around campus for a green and white Christmas. Your students are being put out of their homes, Lou Anna. Hope you can see that from Cowles House this holiday season.
Dear Lou Anna,