The University administration and local officials are considering a number of proposals to reduce the number of students living off campus in downtown Lewisburg and to regulate parties in students’ downtown houses more tightly.
I agree that as a campus community, we need to address out-of-control parties in downtown houses. But I feel it’s time to speak up about some of the advantages for students who are enjoying “the downtown experience.”
Living downtown as a senior has been one of the most valuable experiences of my time at the University thus far, and I think that it should remain part of the University’s culture. I would urge the various governing authorities to consider these pros before they rush to crack down.
Living downtown, I’ve had to pay bills, deal with a landlord, and take care of keeping a house clean and maintained. I’ve obtained a checkbook and written my first check. Working with my two roommates, we set up a plan to put all of the bills (for electricity, water, and internet) in our names and make sure they’re paid on time every month. During the summer, we had a water leak that caused extensive damage to the kitchen before we moved in, so we had to stay in constant contact with our landlord, figuring out how to proceed with getting the damage fixed and the problem corrected.
This followed the summer where I lived alone in New York City, about 1500 miles from my family in Dallas, and both experiences were valuable. After living in a dorm for the past three years, I think the autonomy that we learn by living on our own is an invaluable part of our education and of the college experience.
College provides a gateway between dependence on our parents and total independence. Ideally, it eases us gradually into that independence. By taking this away through stricter rules and regulations, the University risks depriving students of a good “middle step” between dorm life and independent life. That’s only going to hurt students in the long run.
Living downtown, I’ve had to learn how to live communally in a way that a dorm doesn’t require. I share a bathroom, kitchen, and common living area with two roommates, and we are solely responsible for keeping it clean. My mom isn’t around to wipe the sink or empty the dishwasher when I’m too busy to keep it up myself. I can’t call on my dad to install my 60-pound A/C unit or kill the big bugs.
The beginning of my school year was a little rough, as my roommates and I have different ideas about how clean the house needs to be. For the first few weeks, the cleaner of the three of us harped on the dishes that were left out, the coasters we forgot to use, the toothpaste left in the sink, and the hair in the shower drain. But now, after a few arguments and a series of passive aggressive “reminder notes” (love you, Sarah!) we have learned to work with each other and resolve conflicts.
Isn’t that the point of a broad liberal arts education? I may not remember all of the formulas and facts that I learned in college, but I know that on a daily basis I will rely on the values and ideals that my time at the University taught me. I know I can work on a team at a job after living with roommates. I’m better prepared to make decisions for myself on my own after living in my own apartment.
Arguing that we should adopt certain rules just because other schools have done so doesn’t make sense. In fact, plenty of other universities give students much more autonomy for off-campus living, yet we rarely consider that approach.
Many of my high school friends at other schools haven’t lived in a dorm since their first year, and I think they’re growing up faster than many of my fellow students. When I tell them about some of our problems with binge drinking and sexual assault, they are appalled. Given the freedom to live on their own, they act more responsibly. They no longer feel the need to get as drunk or go as crazy.
More rules, I believe, might serve to make University students even more reckless, rather than giving them the chance to learn self-responsibility. And that’s a lesson many college students need to learn, just as I did. Many of us have already had helicopter parents growing up. We won’t learn if we have a “helicopter university” micromanaging our last year before adulthood.