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More students may be permitted to live off campus next fall

Students disgruntled with Eastern’s mandatory campus residence policy will be happy to learn they might have a chance to live off campus next fall.

Students interested in living off campus next year can put their names on a waiting list by e-mailing Housing Director Leah Mulhearn at lmulhearn@eastern.edu. Permission will be granted to students on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president of student development.

As of right now, the university’s official policy is that “All full-time, undergraduate, Arts & Sciences students who entered AFTER Spring of 2006 are required to maintain residency as long as space is available.” Exceptions are made for students who are over 23 years old, serve in the military or choose to live at home with their parents.

According to the Princton Review, Eastern’s College of Arts and Sciences admits about 2,000 undergraduates every four years. The university only has the capacity to house 1,190 students.

The number of students living off campus is made up largely of seniors who came to Eastern before the mandatory campus residency policy was implemented. With that class graduating and a new class entering next fall, it is questionable whether the university will be able to house all undergraduates.

“We’re going to be cautious about saying yes to people commuting,” Brigham said.

One of the university’s major concerns is that rooms on campus are filled in order to cover costs. Uncertainties about the economy, student retention and the incoming class size also factor into the administration’s decision to act cautiously, Brigham said.

The waiting list system was created to fix the problem, but it has not solved everything for students. Junior Thea Lamberson said she applied for commuter status at the beginning of this spring semester, but has been told a decision will not be made on the request until the summer. As a result, she will have no choice but to pay a non-refundable housing deposit.

“The whole situation just makes me really anxious and frustrated,” Lamberson said. “I want to have some freedom and pay the same price or lower for a nicer space and eat food that I enjoy.”

Since its announcement, which coincided with the construction of Eagle Hall, the mandatory campus residence policy has evoked mixed feelings among the student body.

One student, a junior, chose to remain anonymous because he only obtained permission to live off campus by telling the administration that he was commuting from his parents’ home in another state. In actuality, he is renting an apartment not far from campus.

He is glad to be out of the dorms this year and values the “peace and quiet” of his own off-campus apartment after spending two years in Kea-Guffin. Though he is glad to be living on his own now, he still looks back fondly on the time he spent on campus, particularly the friendships he was able to form with his hall- mates.

Brigham stressed that the university would like to consider itself a residential community: “We believe the research that shows that students who live in community have a different college experience … students living in community together on a college campus contribute significantly to their personal and spiritual growth and development.”

To this point, the university has given no indication regarding possible further housing policy changes.

Additional reporting by Alexander Keith Long, Chris Nelson and Pat Martin.

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