At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, a group of student leaders organized a demonstration during a presentation to the board by University Housing & Dining Services to request a 3% increase to room rates.

The student organizers assert that current rates for housing contracts and meal plans are cost-prohibitive and inflated well beyond the cost of living on campus. At the center of students' concerns is a requirement that precludes fist-year students from competitive housing and dining options in town. The organizers assert that the requirement and the risings costs of housing and dining are not congruent with the institution’s espoused commitment to serving first generation and low socio-economic students.

The vote is postponed until the next Board of Trustees meeting to allow for deliberation and to consider the students’ concerns with more time and sincerity. The Housing Team is defensive of the rate increase proposal. Housing leaders assert that the requirement relates to their commitment to student success, as assessment affirms that students who choose to live on campus their first year are 20% more likely to retain until their second year. Further, the rate increases reflect Housing & Dining’s commitment to providing quality living, learning and nutritional spaces. With further dialogue, several housing practitioners recognize and agree that the organization’s intentions for retention and a quality living experience are moot if students are ultimately not able to access services.

In preparation for the next board meeting, the housing team begins to design a new housing rate plan that provides more affordable living options throughout campus, as well as more affordable meal plans. They also commit to re-evaluate the appeals process for the on-campus housing requirement. The housing team also invites student activists who participated in the direct action to advise and consult in the development of a new proposal.

Key Take-Aways: 
  • The Issue: Housing & dining’s decision to increase rates unearths percolating accessibility issues for first generation and low-socioeconomic status students. Where Housing & Dining believes the on-campus housing requirement is in the best interest of student success, students contend that it is further marginalizing students with low resources.
  • The Deliberation: After students organize a direct action at a Board of Trustees meeting, housing leaders agree to post-pone a vote to better understand student concerns. In addition to opening dialogue, Housing & Dining forms a team to draft a new proposal and invites student organizers to serve as consultants in the process.
  • The Growth: Housing leaders and student activists are able to expand their understanding of socio-economic factors of student success and form a coalition to explore more nuanced and equitable housing and dining solutions.

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