Undergraduate Student Government Association President Kevin Murray stated in an email Feb. 12 that he supports Drexel University’s controversial project to restrict off-campus living, which The Triangle reported Feb. 6. “The ultimate goal of University housing and a campus with a residential focus is to create a community and a culture that spurs social interaction and academic excellence. The idea that President [John A.] Fry has laid out for the future of Drexel student housing is one that will create a culture and a community in and around our campus that is not only beneficial to our students but also to the greater Powelton Village and Philadelphia community,” Murray wrote in response to an inquiry.
Murray was also asked whether the topic will be discussed at the next USGA meeting Feb. 18, and whether the organization was previously aware of the recently revealed commitments Fry made to the Powelton Village Civic Association to limit off-campus housing in exchange for PVCA’s lack of opposition to construction of The Summit, but Murray did not respond to those questions. The student representative indicated the statement represented his own thoughts.
“I wholeheartedly agree that every attempt must be made to provide lower priced housing to students, but that should never come at the cost of safety. Local buildings and houses do need to fit a certain code, and our students should not be living in houses that don’t follow code,” he added.
The latter statement is apparently in reference to the ongoing lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court, Sheldon v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, over a city ordinance that prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in buildings not approved as “rooming houses.” Opponents of the law are chiefly Powelton Village area property owners, who rent to Drexel students. The University, however, is siding with the PVCA in defending the law, which would make it harder for students to live off-campus if enforced. It should be noted that the dispute is over the zoning and planning code, which deals with land use, rather than the building construction code, which deals with safety.
Students are typically driven to off-campus housing through the cost of on-campus living, a perennial complaint at Drexel, which has the highest cost of living among Pennsylvania universities. As a resident assistant in Caneris Hall, Murray himself receives free housing. He shares more than an opinion with the University president; Fry recently told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he was a resident assistant for two years at Lafayette College.
An anonymous commenter on The Triangle website noted that it “seems strange that the University would meddle with zoning requirements as all they’d have to do is simply require all students to live in University housing.”
Per Fry’s commitment to the PVCA, the University will be considering doing just that, exempting only seniors.