Letters to the Editor: Three-year residency requirement
We received two letters to the editor on our article from “Calvin considers three-year on-campus residency requirement” by Ruthy Berends on Nov. 13.
Off campus housing vital for integration of Calvin students into Grand Rapids community
I don’t get it: Calvin College loves Grand Rapids. Calvin College admissions markets our location within a growing city as a tactic to attract prospective students — just go to the Calvin homepage or grab any of the Calvin promotional material and chances are you’ll see a photo of Calvin students smiling on the blue bridge downtown or riding bikes around Reeds Lake. Calvin senate has done an amazing job, providing the student body with discount cards to local Grand Rapids businesses. Calvin took pride in the GR Walks app, an app for smartphones that gives information and history about the neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, that was developed by a Calvin Alum and Calvin students, in partnership with the Service-Learning Center. As an orientation leader, I saw how much the incoming freshmen are encouraged to love and get involved in the city they now call their home, especially through their experience in Streetfest. The Service-Learning Center exists on campus to allow students to get involved in the greater Grand Rapids community.
As a senior who has lived off campus for two years, I can say that I never truly experienced this love for GR until I moved off campus. Sure, there were floor outings to Celebration on the Grand and ArtPrize, but the on-campus living options are isolated, nestled safe in the heart of Calvin. The SAO does a great job of offering movies and concerts, and the Buck Friday and NiteLife teams are always coming up with innovative weekend programs. However, many (not all, I realize) of these events are on campus, which means that on-campus students can be quite content not leaving campus at all until winter or summer breaks. Living off campus forced me out of my comfort zone — out of my “Calvin bubble.” It forced me to learn the names of surrounding streets and find local restaurants to eat at when I didn’t have the money or time to go shopping at my local grocery store. Living off campus made me the student Calvin wanted me to be all along — one who is invested in her local community, one who looks outward instead of inward and one who sees God’s love and creativity throughout my city.
If Calvin truly cares for Grand Rapids and wants its students to care for the city as well, they will not require a three-year residency.
Elena Buis, ‘14
Three-year residency requirement would be unjust
Six years ago, when the college was in a fit of construction, Vice President Hoogstra shared her vision of on-campus townhouses for upperclassmen with the Calvin community. Her proposition was met by broad opposition from students, faculty and staff, and it was ultimately shelved. I am disheartened to hear that she’s dusted it off.
Student housing, unlike large athletic facilities, is generally a profitable construction. But on whose backs is that profit made? Students — whose collective debt utterly dwarfs that of Calvin College.
We are told that on-campus housing is in short supply, so it makes sense to build more. This appears logical enough, but why then enact a policy that would increase demand? Because it eliminates risk for the college by making students into a reserve army of consumers.
What if enrollment declines after the housing is built (as it did the year after Hoogstra first made her case for construction)? If students are required to live on campus an additional year, the housing can be filled. And if it instead increases? There will be plenty of opportunity for exceptions to the 3-year residency requirement, Dean Witte reassures us.
Meanwhile, students are forced to pay whatever rent is demanded of them rather than the market rate for Grand Rapids housing, without choice about what kind of community they wish to live in.
There are many reasons to oppose a 3-year residency requirement. One of them is that it would be an economic injustice. It’s sad that Calvin’s recent financial investments turned out as they did — but it would be wrong to offload the risk of the next round of investments onto students.
Emma Slager, ’10