The Office of Residential Living postponed the implementation of a new housing policy that would affect study-abroad students until fall 2015 after pressure from social media platforms and a Georgetown University Student Association resolution that advocated for recently affected students.
Once the policy goes into effect next year, students who go abroad in the fall will only be able to apply for spring housing.
Director of Overseas Studies Craig Rinker said he hopes the policy, once implemented, will not dissuade students from studying abroad in the fall semester.
“There are many factors which impact a student’s decision whether or not to study abroad,” Rinker wrote in an email. “Considerations for housing are not dissimilar to other factors such as finances, academics, campus life commitments, etc. My hope is that students will find that the benefits of study abroad outweigh opportunity costs.”
The policy, originally set to affect current sophomores, was pushed back after students responded negatively. GUSA passed a resolution challenging the policy, but according to GUSA Campus Living External Board Appointee Megan Murday (SFS ’15), who served as the intermediary between the Office of Residential Living and students, the organization did not have a role in the final decision.
“Truthfully, I wasn’t part of the discussion on this,” she wrote in an email. “There were housing sessions [Feb. 3-7], so my guess would be that Residential Living talked to students then and decided to reverse. The policy started and changed as an internal decision.”
Five students created a Facebook event called “Students Against Restrictive Housing Policy,” which attracted 700 people in less than two weeks. The same students also created a popular Georgetown Roundtables page with 379 agreements. Will Simons (COL ’16), who plans on studying abroad in the fall and helped create both social media pages, said that the original change in policy excluding fall study-abroad students from the housing selection process came as a shock to sophomores.
“We felt that the new policy was unfair to study-abroad students because it unfairly penalized them with housing, especially those who decided to study abroad in the fall,” Simons said. “And we were really uncomfortable with the timing of the release of the new policy … that left people who were completing fall study-abroad apps with only about two weeks to reshuffle their housing plans for next year. It didn’t give us any time to reflect on the implications of the new policy and try to reorganize ourselves accordingly.”
Simons said that the recent postponement accomplished the group’s original goal but that there is still work to do in the future to make more lasting changes.
“We are very happy with that compromise. We understood that it was going to be very difficult and probably unrealistic to get the policy 100 percent reversed and then repealed,” Simons said. “We hope that over the course of the next year before the policy gets implemented, students and the administration can come together and talk about how to make a policy that fits the specifications and the deadlines that the Office of Residential [Living] has set, but doesn’t unfairly penalize students who study abroad in the fall.”
Since the policy will be enacted next year, current freshmen will be the first class to experience the changes. Sara Carioscia (COL ’17) hopes to study abroad her junior fall, but said that she sees the new policy as unfair.
“It’s not fair that I’m being penalized for taking an opportunity that my parents are giving me and that this school is giving me … they’re making it so that you might as well not take advantage of those opportunities. That’s the point of studying abroad in college,” Carioscia said.
Carioscia said her primary concern is that housing is not ensured after sophomore year.
“I’m more concerned about having a place to live, period, since housing is not guaranteed,” Carioscia said. “It’s frustrating and feels unnecessary. I don’t understand the point of it. I am a little anxious about it, because I would like to have a place to live as a junior.”
Despite the fact that opinions like Carioscia’s have been voiced to the Office of Residential Living, Rinker said that the change in policy has not affected student demand for studying abroad.
“Traditionally, Georgetown students have understood the importance of study abroad and have embraced it as part of the campus culture (Georgetown University is one of the leading universities in the nation with regards to student participation),” Rinker wrote in an email. “Our office (the Office of International Programs) has not seen any change to the level of interest in Full Year and Semester study abroad as a result of the new housing application and selection process. On the contrary, student interest remains higher this year in comparison to this point in the semester last year.”
Executive Director of Residential Service Pat Killilee was unavailable for comment.