Grace Kitayama is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
University Housing has plans to require all second years to live on campus within the next 15 years. While only 30 percent of Cal Poly students live on campus, according to executive director of University Housing Jo Campbell, the goal is for 65 percent of students to live on campus in order to accommodate the expected increase in the student body to come in the next few years. Plans include replacing parking lots with housing and multi-use rooms. Obviously, living on campus as a second year is not for everyone, but as someone who lives on campus as a second year, I would be opposed to the rule.
Living on campus was important to me as a freshman. I became close with the people on my floor, and I got to know people I would not have met otherwise had we not been forced to live together. Additionally, as a new student who was learning how to navigate campus, it was helpful to live in a residence hall so I wouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of getting to school by bus or car in a new city. I could just walk.
However, as a second year, those benefits are not as necessary. The honeymoon phase of freshman friendliness fades as people find their own groups and though I appreciate the effort RAs put into them, I don’t feel the need for housing-sponsored bonding events in order to make connections. By now, I know the campus well enough that I don’t need to carve out extra time to find my classes.
There are many reasons a student would want to live on campus. Personally, I chose to live on campus as a second year simply because it was the easiest option. All I had to do was fill out the application on my portal and submit the $500 down payment. Had it been easier for me to live off campus, I would have happily done it. Yet, I was fortunate enough to make that choice without the same stress that many other students face. Many students cannot afford the $10,000 a year price tag that comes with living on campus and it would be unreasonable to force students to pay so much for housing at a public university.
Currently, it is not possible for all second year students to live on campus at the current cost of the housing. If the university was serious about forcing its students to live on campus for their first two years at Cal Poly, it would have to significantly lower the cost of housing, as well as provide parking spots and garbage facilities to accommodate not only the parking lot that they plan on replacing with new housing but also to account for the extra students who would live on campus.
The plan to have more students house on campus was first introduced in 2014 with Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey, who argued that living on campus helps students become more invested in the Cal Poly experience. However, living off of campus could be the very change that encourages students to be more involved in school. If a student’s housing was off campus, they would be inclined to spend more time on campus during the day rather than leaving to take a nap between classes (something I often do). This time on campus could be spent studying, socializing or zoning out. Whatever it is, I find that I am always more productive when I am on main campus, than I do in my room, where I spend the majority of the time watching TV. If anything, I feel more isolated living on campus than I think I would off campus. Though Poly Canyon Village is very well equipped with our own grocery store, workout facility, package center and Jamba Juice, there is very little motivation for me to go to main campus, especially since I am at least a 20 minute walk from my closest class. As a result, I have gone to class less this year than any quarter of last year.
If the university really wanted to improve academic performance like Humphrey originally stated, rather than blindly forcing students to stay for an extra year, they could start by only holding class between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., provide mental health counselors for students and stop over-enrolling. Currently, the university’s reasoning for forcing students to live on campus for a second year just looks like a poorly constructed excuse, resulting from push back from the city to discourage students from moving into SLO and overpopulating the city. Both the university and its students have bigger issues to worry about than academic performance. However, if that truly was the university’s priority, I believe whatever money being put toward construction to expand housing could just as easily be put toward funding student interests in order to meet that goal.