PCP-Live and let live together
Two years ago, the Boston Zoning Commission, with strong support from the Boston City Council, Mayor’s Office and many college officials, limited the number of college students who could live together off-campus. University of Massachusetts and Amherst College students need to speak up, to overturn the same kind of limit in the town of Amherst. This is just another case of town residents picking on college students who respect their property, pay rent on time and are not responsible for out of hand parties.
Moving off campus usually makes college cheaper. By forcing students back to dorms, the effect will be two-fold. First, housing choices will be even further limited – are there even any upper classmen left in Southwest? Second, it will continue to put a dent in too many students’ wallets. Living off campus is cheaper, by far. For myself and my five other housemates (don’t try to rat us out – we technically have two apartments), paying a 12-month rent along with the costs of cable, electricity and heat, is much cheaper than having to live on campus and having to pay to use the Dining Commons.
The main reason why students agree to cram into poorly constructed and old college houses is that the cost of rent is already too high. What used to be seven of us paying a $2000 a month rent was a great deal – we made out. Try forcing that onto just five or even fewer students. Utilities will obviously cost more as a result, as there are fewer residents to spread the damage around. This is the other glaring problem with trying to dictate the number of students who can live in one house. If students agree to live in a newly-refurbished house in the center of town and pay over $2000 a month, that is their choice to make. The vast majority of us, however, end up in older houses with more problems and which are farther from town and our classes.
The determining factor for Boston to legislate the hard limit of four students to a house was that the powers-that-be decided that all houses with many residents must be party houses. In Amherst, we can laugh at that because we know that all houses are Party Houses. It is obvious that quiet students are punished unfairly and lumped in with the rest of the guilty partiers. The town’s ability to declare problem houses is a fair one – as much as many of us may hate it – but this rule should not be mistaken for the ability to summarily declare everyone guilty. Sure, houses with many residents like to throw parties, but so do houses with just a few. And that works in reverse as well. There are too many innocent UMass students who are guilty of nothing but being superb students.
If there is no way to overturn such a law (and unlike Boston, enforced), then the town of Amherst needs to throw a couple of bones to the college students who allow it to thrive and grow. Amherst would not be nationally recognized without UMass and Amherst College. In fact, who would know the first thing about Amherst without these two marvelous institutions, except that it wants the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to move in, probably to replace us students.
So first, I ask the town of Amherst, a law must be passed that all walls in all off-campus college houses be more than quarter-inch drywall. When mice can literally raise their paw and punch (and I have seen this happen) a hole in the side of a house, there’s a problem. When insulation is dirt cheap, there’s a problem. When baseboard heaters are entirely exposed, there’s a problem. Having been to my fair share of houses in the area, this list could continue to grow indefinitely. My housemates and I are lucky to have a good house whose maintenance crew responds as soon as possible – is everyone this lucky?
The town of Amherst was able to pass a housing restriction because it is surely popular among its residents. Who would want to live next door to punk, dirty, loud and annoying college students when a nice quiet family with two children and a cute dog can move in? There are few ways for students to fight for equal rights. We may be invited to the town meetings, but this fact is not advertised. This problem could be rectified by bringing town discussions either to UMass or to social-networking tools, but until then, students have very little voice.
If Boston’s housing limit is not even being enforced in such an overcrowded city, there is no place for it in the incredibly vibrant college town of Amherst. Sure, in the quaint Amherst of too many people’s fantasies, there is no place for college students, but we students are not going anywhere. Without concessions from every single landlord in this town, inflicting such an unnecessary and ill-founded law upon us was unfair, an abuse of power and senseless.
Nick Milano is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.