More than 700 students have signed a student-created petition on Facebook calling to repeal the university’s new housing policy that denies housing lottery access to students studying abroad in fall. The policy was issued on Feb. 6, 2014.
The petition, titled “Student Against Restrictive Housing Policy (2015),” was created Jan. 25 as an event page by Declan Kelly (COL ’17) and Will Simons (COL ’16).
“It’s the freshmen and the sophomores that are at stake here, so naturally, we thought a sophomore should lead the charge and that’s what I’m doing,” Kelly said.
According to Georgetown’s Selection Handbook, a student who confirms their fall study-abroad plans with the Office of Residential Living will forfeit their eligibility to go through the housing selection process during the fall semester.
Fall study-abroad students will be assigned to a random roommate or fill in for a student studying abroad in the spring through a direct swap when they return to campus. Students studying abroad in fall 2015 will be notified while they are abroad about applying for spring semester housing. There is no guarantee that students will receive specific housing on campus.
Study-abroad applications for the fall semester are due in February while applications for the spring are due in October. Approximately 57 percent of Georgetown students study abroad, which totals to about 900 students a year.
“Students who study abroad [are] making a decision to not have a ‘typical’ junior year on campus. … However, by deciding to study abroad, there are payoffs. One of those is not having the exact housing experience one might have had if they did not go abroad,” Executive Director of Residential Services Patrick Killilee said.
According to Killilee, dissuading students from studying abroad in the fall was not a consideration when changing the selection timeline.
“Students are asked to provide their top five choices for housing,” Killilee said. “They can request roommates and to fill an anticipated vacancy. Our priority is to assign to the requested vacancy if possible, house students in roommate pairs and then by requested building. We know it is often more important to students to live with someone they know over where the actual room is located.”
This policy change was previously scheduled to go into effect during the fall 2014 semester, but was rescheduled to start during the fall 2015 semester after students voiced concern about the rule through a similar Facebook petition. The petition garnered over 500 signatures and encouraged the housing office to delay the implementation of this policy.
In addition, students in the class of 2016 will receive priority in selecting housing for next year after a university policy shift in February gave priority to rising seniors over rising juniors.
“They just tried to dump it on the next class and that is something that everyone that’s in the Class of 2017 and any class after that has a perfectly legitimate beef with,” Kelly said. “We’re students of this university, we pay — some would consider — a whopping amount, to go here. If that doesn’t afford you the right to a voice when it comes to where you live and with whom you live, then I’m not sure what we’re doing here.”
Last year, Simons worked with Killilee to voice concerns about the changed policy. As a result the policy was pushed back one year, and Simons was able to study abroad in Buenos Aires and return this spring to live in a Nevils apartment with friends.
“[Study abroad is] something so unique and Georgetown pushes it so heavily,” Simons said. “If you look at it from marketing materials they really like to push that over 50 percent of students study abroad, we have all these programs, we have these two great villas. … [The policy change] just seems to go contradictory to them trying to focus on study abroad.”
Simons and Kelly plan to post an IdeaScale petition online this week to help demonstrate student support. They hope to get a strong backing from the freshmen and sophomore classes before planning to meet with housing administrators a couple of weeks into February.
Killilee said he was unaware of the petition that went online Sunday and that no changes will be made to the implementation of the new housing rules.
“We made the announcement that this change would go into effect for the 2015-2016 selection process last February. We will not be changing the procedure or delaying its implementation,” Killilee said.
However, Simons and Kelly said they plan to have the policy fixed by March 17, the study abroad decision deadline. Kelly said it is possible that administration will change the policy.
“It depends on how loud Georgetown can shout,” Kelly said.
Timothy Paul Shaker (COL ’17) said that this policy makes studying abroad far less attractive.
“I actually have considered not studying abroad because of the new restrictions. But honestly it just seems like such a wasted opportunity especially with how great Georgetown’s study abroad program is,” Shaker said.
Addie Lancianese (SFS ’17) said that the new policy dissuaded her from studying abroad in the fall.
“My roommate and I both wanted to go abroad this coming fall. But we’re not willing to risk an amazing semester for a possibly miserable one,” Lancianese wrote in a post on the petition’s Facebook event. “I’ve seen and heard too many horror stories to be placed in a random placement with someone I might not get along with. I shouldn’t be punished for expanding my horizons by going abroad.”