Myers Hall will not be missed for its physical attributes. By all accounts this “temporary” dormitory far exceeded its recommended lifespan. But its impending demolition represents the gradual death of an idea: affordable housing on the Drexel University campus.
“Traditional” dorms like Myers were conceived to house large numbers of students efficiently. Multiple students share a bedroom and multiple bedrooms share common cooking and bathroom facilities. The traditional residence hall is now emblematic of the college experience, but the roots are very utilitarian. The inconvenience of shared living was a small price to pay for a greatly reduced cost of living. Indeed, traditional living is still the best choice among the dorms for students who have trouble making ends meet — and with Drexel’s tuition rates, who doesn’t?
It’s hard to understand, therefore, why the university keeps trying to shift away from traditional dorms. Room and board at Drexel is already the most expensive in the state, and it’s high up on the national charts. Myers will be replaced by a park, which the campus surely needs, but that will be of little use to students who can’t afford to attend. This replacement goes entirely against the university’s professed goal of attracting (and retaining) a diverse student body.
In the past, one often paid a premium for the luxury of moving off-campus into a single room or apartment. Today it’s the opposite, where the dorms are far above market rates.
For the 2017-18 academic year, freshmen can pay $1138 a month ($3,415 per quarter) for the privilege of sharing a suite with five other students. They also have to deal with restrictive university housing policies. With only a glance at the off-campus housing website, upperclassmen can go off-campus and pay $700 plus utilities for a studio apartment or $500 with all included to get a bedroom to themselves.
The distance to campus is negligible, the difference in price is absurd.
Of course, the only way that Drexel can afford to provide substandard conditions above market rates is to simply force students to live on campus their first year. The practice of requiring “approved” housing for sophomores tends to bring them to the high-priced places which can make backroom deals with Drexel, like Chestnut Square or The Summit.
And Drexel has previously made a secret agreement with the Powelton Village Civic Association to make it harder for students to live off-campus. These policies are directly responsible for many thousands of dollars in added student loan debt. This is the essence of the venerable Drexel Shaft.
To be sure, it is good for the community when students live on campus. It makes it easier to participate in student organizations, reduces the burden on Powelton Village and fosters a good college spirit. The university should therefore seek to compete on price to make the residence halls actually an attractive option, instead of a two-year financial hazing.
Although the power lies with the administration, we have a responsibility as students to lobby for change. Current students have already paid the price, but it would be an injustice to let future students be deprived in the same way.
The demolition of Myers Hall cannot pass by unnoticed and we must demand affordable options to replace it.