Last week, an opinion was published in this paper titled “UMass Boston is inadequate at providing housing,” which argued that “we need to take action and appeal to the administration for the construction of more residence halls.” I understand the author’s point, and it is true that UMass Boston doesn’t have a lot of student housing, but I think it’s important to remember that UMass Boston has always been a commuter-oriented campus. In fact, as was mentioned in last week’s piece, up until the residence halls opened in 2018, the university didn’t provide any housing at all. The limited housing on campus isn’t the result of an elaborate plan to deceive people and paint the university as something it’s not, as the author suggested, but rather part of the reality of going to a commuter school.
Now, before I continue, let me state that I am not opposed to more housing on-campus. However, I do think it would be misguided, to say the least, for us to prioritize the construction of new residence halls at this time. The financial problems currently facing UMass Boston are no secret. The university has spent millions upon millions for new construction in recent years, and commuters are already paying the price through exorbitant parking fees and this year’s cutbacks to the campus shuttle buses. Spending more on new residence halls would only put further financial strain on the university, and in some way or another, all of us. Every student—including the thousands of students who commute here and have no use for new residence halls—would have to pick up the tab.
Last week’s piece also spoke extensively about housing instability, arguing that the university’s first-come first-served policy for on-campus housing “is just an excuse to not take responsibility for disadvantaged students” and “discriminates against students who are lacking resources while under the guise of promoting equal treatment for all." I am having a hard time understanding how the first-come first-served system is inherently unfair to some students over others, but it is true that housing instability is a very real problem facing a lot of people, especially folks with “disadvantaged backgrounds,” like the author mentioned. Last week’s piece seemed to make the case that the university goes out of its way to make things more difficult for disadvantaged students. In reality, our Office of Urban and Off-Campus Support Services, also known as U-Access, was created specifically to help students who experience housing instability or come from these disadvantaged backgrounds. Yes, the university can always do more to provide support to students who need it most—I don’t think anyone out there would disagree with that—but as a commuter school, they are under no obligation to provide additional on-campus housing.
The truth is, many students here—myself included—chose UMass Boston specifically because it’s a commuter-oriented school. Many of us didn’t come here looking for the traditional college experience, but instead for a decent and relatively affordable public education with the added flexibility of living elsewhere. Again, I understand the author’s point, but there are three other main UMass campuses throughout the state, along with nine other state universities—each of which has considerable on-campus housing available. There is no shortage of options out there for those looking to live on-campus at state schools. For UMass Boston to make such a large investment in on-campus housing, we would be talking about diving the university deeper into financial trouble for a couple of new buildings that would provide little-to-no benefit for the majority of students here.
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