Campus residency requirement confines students
October 24, 2013
The Department of Residence Life at UW-River Falls enforces the UW System two-year live on campus residency requirement according to the UWRF website.
While living in residence halls may provide students with more opportunities to participate in campus events or create friendships, many students do not have access to basic living amenities.
As winter approaches, residence hall students may notice their room temperatures drop dramatically as well. There are adjustable heating devices in every room, however they are mostly ineffective. Having lived in three separate dorm rooms and visited multiple friends’ rooms, I have noticed that many rooms fail to heat past 60 degrees during the winter, even after turning temperature settings to maximum heat. While space heaters are allowed in dorm rooms, they are an inconvenience and an additional cost.
Residence hall students are not allowed to bring their own refrigerators because each room is equipped with a standard mini-fridge. However, most of the provided refrigerators are not capable of maintaining safe temperatures. In all of the dorm rooms I have been in, ice cream placed in the freezer compartment melts within hours and ice trays take weeks to freeze or do not freeze at all. Many of my friends and I have suffered from food poisoning due to the ineffective refrigerating compartment.
Residence halls do offer larger, functioning refrigerators in community kitchens. However, food placed in these refrigerators risk theft.
The community kitchens provide students with the ability to bake or cook their own food, but still do not completely fulfill student needs. There are only a few kitchens in each residence hall. According to the UWRF website, Stratton Hall houses 200 students but only has two full kitchens. Many students are unable to cook during typical mealtime hours due to high-demand for the space.
There are ways to correct the kitchen availability ineffective refrigerator issues. Basic remodeling of current kitchens as well as residence hall basements may provide students with more stoves, sinks and space to work with. The inoperable mini-refrigerators must be replaced as soon as possible to prevent food spoiling and food poisoning.
Students also need utensils to cook with. At the beginning of the school year, students may purchase a social fee card with which they can rent a variety of equipment from the hall front desk. Since room space is limited, many rely on checking out kitchen utensils with their social fee card. The front desk, however, is only open from 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Unless rented the previous day, the hall’s kitchen utensils are inaccessible during lunchtime, or for students who work late. Staffing the front desk 24 hours a day is not necessarily a viable option. However, if students are forced to make residence halls their homes for two years, they deserve to have access to cooking utensils or at least rooms large enough to store their own cooking utensils.
The primary reason most students attend UWRF is academics. While promoting the concept of community, many residence halls also distract students from studying. Students in residence halls do not have access to a basic amenity: silence. While many students try to study, several others run up and down the hallways, yell and scream across the hall to neighbors, and violate respectful noise volumes with loud music or movies.
Additionally, many volleyball courts and recreation fields are poorly located near residence halls. Often, screams and cheers waft up to dorm rooms, distracting dedicated students from schoolwork. While studying in the library is an option, not all students thrive on a library-like atmosphere. Personally, I feel uncomfortable and distracted when studying in libraries. Similarly, it is not necessarily fair to force silence on socializing students through daily quiet hours, especially the 23-hour quiet hours during finals week.
In all, residence halls are not necessarily ideal locations for either studious or social students.
One reason many students choose to attend UWRF is cost.
One semester is roughly three and a half months and residence hall housing costs about $1,900. This equates to nearly $600 per month, not including the mandatory meal plans all resident hall students must purchase. Other University of Wisconsin schools, such as UW-Parkside, permit students to live off campus alone or with roommates as freshmen. Off-campus students have the opportunity to pay much less per month. During the summer, I paid less than $300 a month for a larger room, Internet, better access to a kitchen and a working refrigerator.
To be considered exempt from living on campus for the first two years, students must have junior standing, be 21 or older, or commute from the home of a legal parent or guardian. Juniors should not have to wait four semesters before being permitted to make their own living choices.
Exempting students older than 20 may decrease underage drinking, however, it does not completely eliminate alcohol in the residence halls. There would probably be even less alcohol in residence halls if students younger than 21 were permitted to live off campus. Students commuting from the nearby home of a parent or guardian have an unfair monetary advantage over students who are forced to live on campus. Some students are hours away from their homes and are therefore required to pay $600 a month to live in resident halls. Most freshman students are 18 and legally adults, however, they are barred from the adult choice of finding their own living arrangements and saving money.
The Department of Residence Life at UWRF has good intentions. Residence halls provide students with opportunities to become involved, meet new friends and have access to campus events. Unfortunately, the overpriced residence halls fail to provide many basic living amenities and confine freshmen and sophomore students to two years of unfair conditions.
Hannah Timm is a sophomore majoring in professional writing and minoring in creative writing. When she graduates from UWRF, she intends to work as an editor.