“So, who are you rooming with next year?”
I’ve heard this question more times than I can count since returning to school from winter break. While the start of the second semester is supposed to signify a fresh start for many, the only question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is that of housing.
In theory, a process like housing should be easy, yet it has become much more complicated and time-consuming than necessary. For many students, including myself, the process is also overly confusing, with its many strange aspects including the lottery and pick times. Unfortunately, it is considered normal for students to spend several months before the selection process stressing over roommate situations. ResLife plays an active role in facilitating this toxic process, providing students with no resources to navigate housing selection.
In particular, for current freshmen, pressure to secure the ideal eight-man dorm scenario has definitely contributed to this, with many considering it the death of one’s social life if one fails to find the proper number of roommates necessary to complete the “perfect eight.” Not only does forming an eight-man come with some serious issues, but it is also an incredibly unrealistic standard. Many people do not even know eight people well enough to make the leap to agreeing to room together. This applies especially to freshmen, who have been on campus for less time than any other class year. In the case of most freshmen, it is nearly impossible to ask one to name seven other people off the top of their head they would consider living with.
To make matters seemingly worse, it is also well-known that the BC housing process is a stressful mess that ruins countless friendships, despite the fact that housing ironically should be a way to strengthen friendships by making the decision to live together. One major issue lies in the fact that most people come up just short of eight, six, or four, or struggle to pick a direct roommate, which is where the major drama starts to occur. Things can get even uglier when news comes through that an 8-man has not been secured, and the plans that had been in the works for months fall apart in a matter of minutes as groups make the difficult decision to cut someone off.
For those that do end up forming a desired group of any size, the problems don’t just disappear. Especially in larger groups, there are typically a few people within the group that may not know one another well, as is common when a group is formed at the last minute. Consequently, this has the potential to make a living situation quite uncomfortable and even result in conflict, given the fact that people who do not know each other's living habits well may quickly come to find out that they are not at all a good fit. To find out your sleep schedule is the opposite of that of your roommates, or more specifically your direct, is only a disaster waiting to happen.
While certain halls may require groups of eight or six, there are many other options for those that fail to find eight roommates. Traditional, quads, triples, and doubles are perfectly suitable living situations, yet we associate anything less than an eight-man as being inadequate. Even going random, which seems like the absolute last resort, maybe an excellent option for some. Living with your closest friends can often take a serious toll on these relationships, so it is not unusual at all to find friends who make the decision to live apart from one another.
For juniors, off-campus brings with it an entirely new set of issues. Approximately 65% of juniors live off-campus each year. Many students are only guaranteed three years of housing at BC, and therefore must find off-campus accommodations. However, as the center of student life on the weekends for juniors, many with four years of housing choose to live off-campus anyway. Leases and subletting quickly turn into a giant mess, especially when factoring study abroad into the equation. The occasional argument with a landlord does not help either, and sometimes off-campus apartments are not up to the best living standards. While BC understandably does not have enough housing for its entire student population, the least it can do is provide as much support as possible to its students living off-campus. Many different factors go into picking off-campus housing, yet BC does the bare minimum to assist students, which has become a repeated behavior on the part of the administration.
Back on campus, it doesn’t help that certain dorms are considered taboo. College Road, also known as CoRo, which has usually served as sophomore housing, has been considered infamous for its distant location from Lower Campus, which is the center of student life for sophomores and upperclassmen. This year, sophomore housing on CoRo has been restricted to Roncalli Hall, which has made the experience even more isolating for sophomores who live there, when 90% of their classmates are nearly a 15-minute walk away.
On the bright side for freshmen this year, as annual enrollment numbers continue to increase, the likelihood that CoRo will remain sophomore housing decreases. Just one year ago, all three CoRo dorms were primarily sophomores, while this year, only Roncalli is, indicating that perhaps all sophomores will be lucky enough to live on Lower Campus next year. Indeed, over these next few years, as a result of this enrollment phenomenon, we may witness some major shifts in housing that will impact all class years. Exactly what these changes will look like, however, remains to be seen.
For all those who are dreading the upcoming housing selection week, there is hope. Having never been through the selection process before, I find myself overwhelmed and afraid of what the future holds. While we may feel frightened throughout this process, it is crucial to remember that we are not in this alone. Though housing is a nightmare, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As a student body, we should encourage BC to reevaluate its flawed housing model. We also need to change the negative mindset that comes with living in non-ideal dorms or in smaller groups.
The most important factor is that everyone has a comfortable living scenario that serves as a safe space for them, which can look different for everybody. That, truly, is the only thing that matters.