Denying off-campus living stunts student growth


Author: Arielle Laub

Occidental College prides itself on being a
residential campus. Though there has been recent debate over dorm quality and Residential Education and Housing Services’ (ResEd) efficiency, the residential component is intrinsic to the atmosphere on
campus. But to force students to live on campus until their senior year is
unnecessarily inhibitive.

College is a transitional period between adolescence and adulthood. When a student enters college, the provision of a place to live and food to eat cushions the immense emotional transition from being family-dependent to independent. The student is challenged to navigate life on their own, but without worrying about cooking, paying bills or cleaning the bathroom. At some point, though, it is just as important for a student to be able to know how to navigate the “real world,” as it is for them to be able to finish academic work on time.

There is a sense of unity that pervades Occidental, which would not be possible if students were not made to co-exist with one another. Residential life enables student activism, community support and an overall tenor of kindness. Yet students continuously vocalize their discontent about being forced to live on-campus until their senior year. This dissatisfaction is not only problematic for students, but for the college as well. Because of logistic miscalculations, ResEd crunched hundreds of students into triples this year. Juniors who had previously been denied off-campus housing received emails three weeks before classes started informing them that their applications had been reassessed and they could, in fact, move off.

The question must then be raised: what bureaucratic entanglement instigated the “no off-campus housing” rule?

The current seniors at Occidental applied to the college before the current off-campus policy was instituted. When students complain about this rule, adversaries respond with some variation of, “You knew when you came here that this was a residential school. Stop complaining.” But the class of 2014 did not know. Instead of sitting silently and watching underclassmen strain against this rule, it is important to question its very existence and its efficacy.

It is understandable for a college to require its students to live on-campus as first-years and sophomores. This is a time of swift personal growth that is aided by close proximity to peers and pre-ordained activities. And by the age of 20, most students are ready to craft lives for themselves independent of the college.

Many seniors who have finally moved off campus are struggling to maintain a household while accomplishing schoolwork. These struggles manifest themselves not because students are incapable or because the burden is too great, but because they are only now being allowed into this purportedly adult world. The ability to juggle not only the tasks required by jobs and professors but also the responsibilities of being a good tenant and housemate is absolutely imperative to being a successful adult. However much Occidental has prepared recent graduates for the work force is compromised by an underdeveloped sense of self-preservation, which has left them grappling with the difficulties of everyday responsibilities post-college.

If students were to be able to live off-campus earlier, they could improve time management skills during what are the most difficult years of college. People may say that being a year younger and moving into a home would be harder, but on the contrary, living in a home can be intrinsic to student health and happiness.

Living off-campus gives students the freedom to create a space that is their own, to be selective about those who enter their lives, to take care of their minds and bodies and to delve into creative projects. Living on-campus limits students’ social imagination. Every day, they are surrounded by the same people and the same activities, and their place within this finite and intimate social structure is quickly defined. However, by moving away from that, students get the opportunity to redefine themselves, to choose exactly what it is they find important.

The ability to live off-campus allows students to separate themselves from Occidental, if only for part of their day, and to define themselves. Though it takes time to balance this life with schoolwork, it can also be beneficial to academics. Living off-campus allows students to come onto campus excited to concentrate on their studies primarily because they are separated from the rest of their life.

Being able to compartmentalize work and play makes work-time more efficient and play-time that much more enjoyable. Living off-campus makes it possible to define oneself not only as a student, but as an individual. The school should be encouraging such positive growth in students, not inhibiting it at no apparent gain.

Ari Laub is a senior English and Comparative Literary Studies major. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @WklyALaub.

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