Increased student mobilization against restrictive housing policy gets attention of administration

Mobilization against the current housing policy for study abroad students has continued to gain momentum through increased participation and advocacy, especially with the usage of online forums. This policy, which was issued in Feb. 2014, excludes Fall 2015 study abroad students from the upcoming housing selection process, meaning they will have to wait to be contacted while abroad to apply for spring housing without the guarantee of specific housing upon their return to campus.

According to two key student organizers of this movement, Will Simons (COL ’16) and Declan Kelly (COL ’17), the student engagement on the IdeaScale group titled Change the Study Abroad Housing Policy 2015 has been crucial in successfully demonstrating the severity of this issue to the University. Created only a month ago, the group currently has received 539 up-votes in support of a policy change.

“Both Dr. Todd Olson and Executive Director Patrick Killilee have remarked to us about how the IdeaScale campaign demonstrates how much students care about this issue and worry about the new selection timeline,” Simons and Kelly told Vox over email. “We are in a much stronger position because of the incredible student support and engagement through IdeaScale.”

Last week, the two met with Killilee for a preliminary discussion on potential solutions for the current housing dilemma. Although no concrete changes were confirmed, Killilee agreed with Simons and Kelly on numerous key principles. These include ensuring that housing selection does not dissuade students from studying abroad, that apartments and townhouses are available first and foremost to all juniors and seniors, and that all students should have the ability to live with whomever they choose.

“By agreeing on these presuppositions, we have set ourselves up for productive, working discussions in the near future,” Simons and Kelly said. “Some ideas have been discussed to take into account the 160 person imbalance between fall and spring study abroad. We are working hard, and the entire student body will soon receive news of upcoming changes to housing policy that will hopefully benefit all.”

In addition to IdeaScale, Simons and Kelly believe that social media presence has been extremely successful in engaging students.

“Despite the overwhelming nature of GUSA campaigns, the number of likes on Facebook and up-votes on IdeaScale continue to grow, and many students seem to be informed about the changes to the housing selection process,” they wrote. “Additionally, several former GUSA candidates and well-known student leaders have helped us spread the word over Facebook by sharing the event.”

To continue student advocacy for a housing policy change, a working group composed of both students and administrators from the Office of Residential Living has materialized to develop possible solutions for not only the Class of 2017, but also for future students in years to come. The group will meet multiple times over the next few weeks in order to devise a tangible plan before housing selection begins in late March.

Simons and Kelly also plan to continue their outreach through Facebook and make current sophomores more aware about their options to effectively organize for the upcoming housing selection.

“I said about a month ago that our ability to get this issue fixed would depend on how loud Georgetown can shout,” Kelly said. “Well, Georgetown proved it can shout pretty loud. We wouldn’t have gotten this far without this level of student engagement…and I’m proud of how the community responded to this pressing issue.”

Photo: Andrew Sullivan/The Georgetown Voice via flickr

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