Housing overflow pushes students off campus

Campus Living urges students eager to participate in Lewis & Clark life to commute, find own residences

Illustration of student looking at eviction notice from campus living
Emma Ford / The Mossy Log

To the Lewis & Clark Office of Campus Living — I bring attention to the words still posted on your webpage on our college website.

“Lewis & Clark College is a residential campus with a four semester on-campus residency requirement that begins with your first semester. While we hope you continue to live on-campus after completion of the residency requirement, we recognize that you have a choice about where you are going to live and may wish to find off-campus housing.”

Residential campus? Check. Four semester on-campus residency requirement? Well, wait a minute. I remember another communique from you this summer. In fact, I remember several. 

The Residency Requirement Release Form. You sent that to my inbox, and I would imagine the inboxes of every incoming student with the lclark.edu Gmail domain. The students who agreed to come here under the impression that part of the LC experience was going to be two years on this beautiful campus. While I can hardly accuse you of kicking us off, I would like to ask why, all of a sudden, we are being encouraged to skip this requirement. 

In Portland, the average apartment (around 756 square feet) costs $1,746, or $2.31 per square foot per month. That’s for a one-bedroom apartment, which the average student is unlikely to try and pay for. Your dorms (at an average of 165 square feet for a double-occupancy room) cost $4,093 a semester, making the cost about $1,000 a month, or $6.23 per square foot, not including common spaces. 

The city landlords have you beat on price per square foot, but there is no beating a uniform security deposit, no credit checks and no maintenance costs. There is no beating all-inclusive utilities and furnished rooms. As much as we students may whine about the dorms, they are the best option for a young population of students who have likely never lived outside their parents’ homes and are in a new city. 

Let us consider another factor, which admittedly is not your department. It is no secret that commuting to campus via car right now is incredibly difficult from a parking perspective, not to mention the high, often-fluctuating cost of gas and the insurance premiums of young drivers. Bus routes are hard-pressed to travel up Palatine Hill, and the Pioneer Express, which we do love and support, can only reach so much of the city and is not without a history of occasional breakdowns. I personally have been stranded downtown, and missed commitments because of ill-communicated problems. For students who have to commute every day, the struggle is a real issue to be considered.

Returning to the issue at hand, I do not have any way to know who affirmed the project, but two dorms are being shut down on a campus already facing housing shortages. Last year’s large freshman class, which I myself am a part of, was nearly matched this year, and the “forced triples” interrupted student housing plans and established roommate pairs. They were cramped, and while I believe my friends in those situations bore them with grace, it was not what was promised to us. We understand you did what you had to do, but did you have to greenlight a project that would make this problem exponentially worse?

Stewart and Odell halls are old. I personally thought they had a lot of charm, but I also did not live in either full-time. I am sure there are legitimate complaints and issues to be addressed – But is now really when you want to be addressing them? You have nowhere to put people, and we were promised a campus that was going to be our home for two years, or even more. Instead, we are packed wherever you can jam us and encouraged to jump with limited resources into an unstable, renter-hostile housing market in a major city. That was not the deal, so what happened?

I am personally lucky to have a wonderful roommate and my ideal living situation on campus. It would be lying to pretend otherwise. However, my friends and peers who have not been so lucky are struggling. Poor housing situations impact social lives, academic success and mental health. What was supposed to be our safety net, our first home away from home (cheap furniture, communal bathrooms and all) has become an uncertainty that feels like we are unwelcome guests in your house. Campus Living and the administration of LC need to remember that it may be your house, but we are paying to live here..

Please remember, you asked us to come. As you say on your website, “We hope you continue to live on-campus after completion of the residency requirement.” It hurts that you want us gone, especially for your own choices and not something we had any say in. Give us the space to figure things out, and we will, but we need that little extra time we were promised.

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