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Leah Temple Lang / Gavel Media

The Problem with BC’s Off-Campus Housing Overreach

Here we go again. Now that we’re all fully acquainted with the new realities of the new year, the Boston College sophomores, with only three years of guaranteed housing, have to face the music and figure out where they’re living for junior year. The stress, the intrigue, and the drama of this song and dance could warrant its own article, but we’re here to discuss an overlooked component of the whole ordeal. As groups are formed, leases are signed, and information is gathered, we second-years are becoming increasingly familiar with the nightmare that is Boston College's off-campus housing policies—and their infamous central figure, Steve Montgomery.

Steve Montgomery is officially a "Student Community Liaison," according to the university’s Office of Governmental and Community Affairs website, a title vague and innocuous enough to mask his true role: driving around the main off-campus streets trolling for parties to bust and students to write up. According to widespread legend, Mr. Montgomery used to do this by himself before BC saw the potential and gave him an official title and salary for his righteous work.

If you still have more questions than answers, you’re not the only one. Little is known about Mr. Montgomery, his role, and his hiring. Despite the fact that BC acknowledges his existence in a brief and hardly mandatory meeting for off-campus juniors and seniors, only a handful of articles and interviews have been published since the early 2010s (he did not reply to a request for an interview for this piece, unfortunately).

But if there’s one thing I do know, it is that Steve Montgomery’s job should not exist. It does not appear that any other Boston-area school employs an official for this purpose. I spoke to friends at Northeastern and Harvard, who both not only confirmed that, but expressed sincere surprise that BC dedicates valuable resources to the high crime of playing music too loud. Additionally, Mr. Montgomery's history as a neighborhood watchman and self-appointed arbiter of justice indicates that he has no concern about BC students' wellbeing and instead has a personal grudge against noisy college students.

Mr. Montgomery’s position in the BC community holds no practical purpose either. While his primary endowed power, writing students up for minor infractions, tends to be his favored route, he also frequently offers off-campus residents to the Boston Police Department for potential legal action. Seeing as how the BPD already patrols off-campus neighborhoods and responds to noise complaints, he only serves as an ineffective middleman and a redundancy. Boston taxpayers already subsidize the Boston Police Department to meet this need; we don't need an unidentifiable, unaccountable, and untrained administrative servant to make their job significantly worse.

In one of the three published Q&As I could find online (others found here and here), he states that the Community Liaison’s purpose is to "enhance the relationship between students and the wider community." I do not understand how Mr. Montgomery’s role in the BC community betters anyone’s relationship, other than between students who bond over their mutual contempt for his actions. I believe Mr. Montgomery’s presence off-campus only sows discord and resentment against the BC administration. If Boston College sought to enhance that relationship, greater involvement in the community (civic engagement with local government, volunteer work, etc.) would be a great place to start, not instituting an extended, redundant police force.

But of course, as with most things, there’s a larger problem at play here. Steve Montgomery’s role off-campus is a problem in its own right, but it is also indicative of how BC treats off-campus students. The BC administration’s policies concerning off-campus housing are unnecessarily invasive and overreaching. I, along with many other BC students, am continually shocked by how insistent the school is in encroaching on the day-to-day lives of off-campus juniors and seniors. And in case it should come as any surprise, my friends at Northeastern and Harvard were also astonished to hear that the university would be so interested in the off-campus lives of what are effectively commuter students.

I don’t mean that hyperbolically; if a student opted to commute to school and happened to live in Brighton, Newton, or any other nearby municipality, their actions in their home would be of no concern to BC (with the exception of extreme circumstances, not the loud music and partying in question here), and rightfully so. Yet, BC bizarrely demands to watch over the shoulders of students living on Gerald or Algonquin, using Mr. Montgomery or the Boston College Police Department as their instruments of infiltration.

Furthermore, it is disagreeable that BC cannot ensure on-campus housing for all undergraduate students, which can already have unacceptable implications for socio-economically marginalized students, yet arbitrarily expects those same off-campus residents to follow strict guidelines and remain under the confines of the administration’s housing authority. Much like Lake, it’s a one-way street, with rent being paid to two landlords with two sets of policies, while only one actually provides housing. This must change.

I must recognize, however, that we live in an era of BC administrative leadership that has historically not been inclined to respond to calls for larger reform. Thus, I’ve pre-packaged smaller, more digestible bits of change that might be more realistic for a stubborn university: Mr. Montgomery’s role off-campus should be reduced to only including responding to neighbors' calls, as opposed to simply driving through BC student-rented homes in search of someone’s night to ruin, and dedicate a greater share of resources to listening to the concerns of off-campus undergraduates. Communication is integral in any landlord-tenant relationship, and if we’re going to be subject to BC’s housing authority with no tangible benefit, we should at least be able to raise concerns about it. With these changes, we can begin to improve this tense situation and ameliorate the problems with BC's off-campus housing overreach.

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