As a first-year student here at NC State, every day is a new experience to learn and reflect from. Last semester, it was adjusting to living on campus — finding the familiar in a dorm, a classroom and a campus that often felt alienating as a clueless freshman. Slowly over the fall semester, however, I began to envision NC State as home.
This semester, like many of my fellow first-years, I was able to experience the chaos that is the student housing application. My roommates and I, like many other students seeking on-campus apartments, placed our hopes on getting into places like Wolf Village or Wolf Ridge, only to barely enter an available place, get kicked out of the application due to website malfunctions or straight up lack the opportunity to choose a room. With problems like these landscaping a pandemonium of housing chaos, the university housing application system is clearly flawed, and it lacks the nuances to foster equity.
As of right now, University Housing stratifies room selection into seven timeslots, with first-year freshmen and any student with less than 61 credits having priority in choosing. The system prioritizes students with smaller credit sizes, with the intent that upperclassmen are more capable to live off-campus than first-years.
This is a system that makes sense on paper. Underclassmen are less likely to be experienced with leasing apartments, cooking meals and living on their own, so prioritizing them over upperclassmen appears logical. However, in practice this is a gross oversimplification of what students actually experience.
One theoretical system would be if student housing focused on equity. Equity is the process of providing resources and opportunities based on the needs, with the goal that this process levels out any disadvantages and equalizes the playing field for applicants. While stratifying the housing application based on credits seems like a step towards equity, solely basing the application on credits lacks the nuance to bring about true equity.
Credit inequality exists between students even before admission to NC State. Not every high school has access to the same AP curriculum. From the beginning, many freshmen have different credits at the start of college. The AP curriculum was created for students to save time and money on courses, but the current housing system punishes first-years who take advantage of this system. The current system also doesn’t account that not everyone is trying to graduate in four years. There are students taking heavier workloads to get out of school faster, and vice versa.
Nobody on campus shares the exact same privileges and disadvantages. We have students who rely on financial aid to afford tuition, international students without experiences with the US leasing or DMV system and even students who just can’t readily access a car. While a public transportation system exists in Raleigh, it’s nowhere near efficient nor timely to expect a bunch of students to use it daily.
The Wolfline bus system can only cover so much territory and apartments within walking distance to campus are insanely pricey. Ignoring the socioeconomic needs of students in a housing application reeks of classist bias, as it is assuming all college students can afford pricey apartments alongside parking spots.
Many of the problems the university housing application holds can be addressed through a more lengthy and nuanced application. Adding an online opt-in application system for students with financial and situational needs can help address some of the housing insecurities many students across campus can face. This can be as simple as having a separate online form students fill out, and faculty can review the needs of the student and make accommodations as needed. Details are important when we are bringing equity to a large student body, and our application system needs to reflect that.
With student government elections right around the corner, university housing has become a huge discussion. Many of our student government candidates have discussed improving housing during their campaigns, and we as students can take this discussion further once a candidate comes out as the winner. If these candidates are meant to be representing our interests, then we have the civic duty to advocate for our representatives to improve a system that affects a large portion of our peers.
While the task of managing thousands of students and their living situations is daunting for a single-campus partner, the fact remains that the process does not consider extenuating circumstances. This process, one that is barely different than last year, remains an issue students face each year. If the university wants to move forward and improve the experience of students, something must be done to improve this inequitable and unfair system.
Housing claims to prioritize underclassmen and those with fewer credit hours, but that is simply untrue. One of my future roommates has the least credit hours out of the four of us, yet he had the latest time slot compared to the other three of us. This shows the facade created by university housing in that they make us, the students, believe we all have a fair opportunity in regards to housing and that is unacceptable from a student perspective.
Housing is a primary element to any community, and housing insecurity and instability threatens the trust and belief in a community. Coming from someone who feels as part of the Wolfpack community, this critique of the housing system comes not from a place of disdain, but from a desire of actualization. We cannot improve without reflection, and I believe sparking a conversation in housing policy is the beginning step of a march towards equity.