At 163 ½ Oak St., a group picture of last fall’s national qualifying team just joined the growing collection of pictures of the men’s cross country team from the last fifteen years that litter the kitchen walls. You’ll also find Coach Lundberg clearing a steeplechase water jump in a Kansas uniform, an autographed cutout of world record holder Henry Rono, and an assortment of plaques and trophies (some of which are so old that no current member knows what they are from).
The men’s cross country team called this house their home for the last seven years — and for the last two years, so did I. Known around campus as the “Three-Way,” due to its location by the three-way stop at the old elementary school, this secluded seven-bedroom house became an integral part of the community for the men’s and women’s teams. The foundation leans from weight of the tradition this home represents. Due to college policy, however, this tradition died.
The house always counted on more teammates climbing up the ranks to fill its rooms. Moving into the Three-Way became a rite of passage similar to moving into a Greek house. Due to the off-campus policy of the college, however, none of our teammates received permission to move out of the dorms. Because over half of the house graduates this May, there are not enough people to fill it, forcing our landlord’s hand. She offered the house to a competing group with the numbers she needs. Just like that, we lost our home. I know other people feel this pain, too.
Hillsdale’s policy needs to change. Instead of requiring students to get permission to move off before they can sign a lease, they should have to show a lease in order to get permission to move off campus. Most landlords look to get contracts finalized early in the year, and they constantly struggle with the college’s late release of the off-campus list. My sophomore year, Central Hall granted me off-campus permission in the middle of the summer, making it impossible for me to find housing. It is much more practical to grant off-campus permission to those who can show they will actually have a place to move into the next semester.
This would ease relations with the landlords in the community, decrease the overall stress of rushing to find a house for students, and the number of people who actually left campus probably would not differ too much from the current trends. The college could still even limit the amount of people they let off, but the difference would be that everyone with permission would truly live off campus; many students who receive permission opt to stay on campus anyway.
Moving off campus is an excellent buffer for transitioning into the real world. You know, the world in which you spray down your own bathroom and vacuum your own floor. Smaller meal plans are also available, so you can learn to cook for yourself. Ever wonder what happens to those dishes after the conveyor belt rolls them out of view? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not fun. Hillsdale should be taking measures to promote individualism and self-starting. Instead they are promoting a nanny state on campus.
Easing the off-campus policy also has implications for alumni relations. In the case of the Three-Way, a lot of alumni come back to visit. These alumni could potentially donate to the college and help to further promote Hillsdale’s outreach. What happens when they find out that college policy forced the team to abandon their beloved home? It leaves a bad taste.
Now, I understand the justification for the current policy — the college needs to fill dormitories. But why should Central Hall force the students to pay for their operational shortcomings? Many students move off campus to save thousands of dollars. By using their resources and power to buy up off-campus houses and demolish them and cap the number of students that can move off, Hillsdale College is limiting free-market competition. How can an institution that rebukes crony capitalism practice exactly that on its own front porch?
The current policy wrecks community and tradition. The college should make serious changes to promote the off-campus culture that already exists. Each home has its own character, and the Three-Way is no different. Some of my best college memories took place right within those walls. In a few months, I will be an alumni of this college, and it fills me with sadness that I will never return to 163 ½ Oak St.