As multitudes gripe about the stickiness of August in New York City, new students flock to the Upper West Side for orientation at Barnard College. Orientation leaders woo the students by dousing them in the sparkling promises of life in the city that never sleeps.
Meanwhile, a Barnard student who prefers to remain anonymous needs a place to spend the night because her plans to stay with a friend had fallen through. After emailing Barnard Residential Life requesting a place to stay due to the lack of housing and funds, she receives a reply with a list of hotels instead. In the midst of a decision by the Barnard Administration to close dorms over winter break, she is one of a growing number of students who are concerned about the school’s housing policies. The Barnard administration recently announced that this year all dorms will be closed over winter break.
This week, students posted flyers around campus and in faculty mailboxes to encourage others to advocate for Barnard to change the winter housing policy. Increased conversation about the new policy was the likely catalyst for an email sent to students on November 13 recognizing those “who expressed concern over the issue of winter break housing.”
In the email, Dean Avis Hinkson wrote, “We want to be sure that those of you whose plans for the winter break are still unresolved know that you may schedule an appointment to speak with Dean Michell Tollinchi-Michel as soon as possible. She will work with each of you to help resolve your individual situation.”
The Barnard College Student Coalition for Financially Insecure Students created a petition to call on the administration to change its winter housing policy and to recognize that homeless and housing insecure students attend Barnard College.
Toni Airaksinen, a sophomore and member of the coalition, said, “The administration in all of its emails about the housing has refused to say homeless students or students without homes . . . which is the reality of the situation.”
The other 10 students in the coalition who organized the petition preferred to stay anonymous. The demands of the petition include providing affordable or subsidized winter housing for all students who request it and funding for housing to students who say they need it. Within less than a day, they received over 500 signatures.
“It has been clearly documented that there is student homelessness . . . I think that people should sign it [the petition] so that they demonstrate that they care about this issue,” Airaksinen said.