Off-Campus and off-base

By the

September 6, 2001

Once more the University has shown that it does not have the interests of students in mind. This time, proof came in the form of the mandatory off-campus life orientation presented by the Office of Off-Campus Student Life.

The orientation was less an orientation and more a waste of time. OSL presented a video that was merely an instruction book on how not to disturb the neighbors, while at the same time treating students like five-year olds by introducing them to the various neighborhoods in which they already reside, covering living skills they have already learned and threatening them with the same warnings they already heard when moving into first-year dorms several years earlier. But the University can say it is meeting the demands of the BZA and neighbors?at least someone will be happy.

The University needs to sincerely re-evaluate how it deals with off-campus affairs. First, it needs to stand up to those who claim it is liable for the actions of students who live off campus. The current system lacks due process; it is simply not fair that a neighbor can complain to the University through the Student Neighborhood Assistant Program and that as a result a student can face disciplinary action. Who do students get to call when their neighbors bother them? Can students call a neighbor’s place of employment and complain about his or her actions, causing him or her to face disciplinary action at work? Why are students’ rights violated in such a manner simply because they are affiliated with an institution that happens to be located in the neighborhood? Students have rights as private citizens, and the University should help protect these rights.

The University should use students’ tuition dollars to teach students how to effectively deal with landlords as well as to promote safety in and around campus?not, as it seems now, simply to appease neighbors’ demands. The “Tenant Survival Guide” is ineffective at accomplishing the former. It deals primarily with issues that arise before a lease is signed. Most students have already signed a lease and moved belongings into their new homes before attending the orientation. At that point it is too late for students to figure out whether their lease has all the necessary clauses and conditions or to investigate all the suggestions made in the guide. At the least, OSL should distribute the guide to students when they indicate that they will be living off campus, a decision usually made in November during the preference lottery. OSL should also have resources available for dealing with landlord-tenant issues, as students often run into problems and are left vulnerable because they have no support for their case and lack the time and resources to fight an effective battle.

OSL should do more to make safety a top priority for students. It should ensure that students are aware of crimes that have occurred recently by alerting them through e-mail or postal mail to the Community Alerts published by DPS. The orientation should offer information on how students can best protect themselves as potential victims, including common crimes against students and prevention tips. Finally, OSL should serve as an advocate for student safety towards groups such as Safe Rides and the Metropolitan Police Department in order to make sure that students’ problems and concerns are being met.

The Office of Off-Campus Student Life needs to realize its primary responsibility is to students and not to neighbor demands. Students seem to have little-to-no influence by themselves, and it would be nice if administrators used some of their power to show support for them.

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