By Tim Alford
Off-campus housing has been a tough and controversial issue in the three years I have been at Ohio Wesleyan. However, last year the university continued going completely residential and did not have an off-campus lottery, as I have heard there has been in the past. We all came back to school this year to find many of the houses and apartments students lived in on Oak Hill Avenue, Spring Street, Park Avenue and Sandusky Street occupied by Delaware residents or left empty.
I am trying to find what the benefits of this policy actually are. Sure, “residential campus” may sound great on a pamphlet high school seniors receive when they are applying to schools. It gets the university more money out of room and board. I have heard many arguments that it is supposed to bring the campus together, as well. But is it what students really want?
This question was answered for me during the course of an interview I did for my profile story on Public Safety Officer Jay McCann that ran in the Transcript last week. McCann says he has talked to students from every culture, concept, clique, social group, “you name it,” and 80 percent of them say they want to live off-campus their junior and senior year.
Why should McCann’s word be taken in this situation? He has been with Ohio Wesleyan for eight years. He generally works the night shift, which naturally puts him in contact with students on the social side of campus, not the academic. McCann seems to make it a point to talk to students when he sees them on his shift. Students seem to trust McCann enough to talk to him about what their complaints are.
I think the common misconception is that students want off-campus housing just to hold parties. Of course, off-campus houses help give the university some aspect of a social life that is not a university-sponsored event.
But, according to McCann, the top reason students say they want to live off-campus is so they can rent and start learning how to be independent. I’m going to have to agree with McCann that it is definitely healthy to want to learn to be independent.
But that option seems to be off the table. So now we have to look for a solution. The university wants to make everyone live in the dorms. The social scene has been lacking probably because students don’t always want to attend university events or go through the hassles of registering one themselves. What now?
The solution McCann has offered, which he calls “the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about”, is an on-campus club. That’s not necessarily an on-campus bar, but an on-campus club. Chartwells would handle the limited amount of alcohol to be served – if any – and the club would be for students only. McCann thinks the perfect place for this would be in Pfeiffer Natatorium because there are no neighbors that would be bothered and it has direct access from the JAYwalk.
It would be much safer for students than going to the bars downtown to dance because students would not have to walk on Spring Street to get home and only OWU students would be allowed into the club.
Unfortunately, McCann has yet to find someone with money to listen to him about this idea.
I think this idea, or some form of it, needs to be talked about more. There has been something missing with the social life at Ohio Wesleyan in recent years. The community has not seemed to be there outside of everyone’s social group, fraternity, sorority, or SLU. This campus needs something get everyone excited and involved.
I hope the administration considers talking to students more about what they want to see improved on campus. We have had a lot of great improvements over my three years here. Stuyvesant Hall looks fantastic, the gym has never been better and the JAYwalk has received some nice renovations. But I still think there is work to be done.
I hope McCann’s ideas get heard by someone. He definitely has a different insight by the nature of the job he does. I encourage students to stop and talk to McCann when you see him riding around on duty. There was so much more conversation we had when I rode along with him that I did not have room for in one story.
I also encourage someone from the administration to ride along with Public Safety on a shift sometime to see what campus life is like after 5 p.m. and not at a basketball game or dining hall. The ride-along itself was interesting outside of all of the conversation we had.
Despite all of my critiques, I am still extremely happy and blessed to be at Ohio Wesleyan. I just want to see this university continue to grow and improve in ways the students can have more fun in safer environment after I graduate.