Off the Grid: Students Find a Home Away from ResLife
While most students struggle every spring to find the best Low Rise or the nicest woodframe house, a small group of students doesn’t have to worry about the housing lottery or program house applications. These students are part of a selective few that Residential Life (ResLife) allows to live in off-campus housing in Middletown. Instead of Physical Plant and Public Safety, these students deal with landlords and Middletown neighbors. This year, 23 students were permitted to live off campus—one of the lowest numbers of students in off-campus housing in recent years.
“The main reason I wanted to live off-campus was general free¬dom to live how I want,” said Mica Taliaferro ’11 in an e-mail to The Argus. “I can decide where I want to live by walking around and looking at places instead of a lottery.”
Every February, students have the opportunity to apply for off-campus housing, and ResLife typically only sanctions less than a dozen students requests. In order to be automatically released, student must either be over 25, married or have children. Occasionally, students are also released because of medical reasons. Then the remaining students are put on a waiting list according to class standing, with rising seniors get¬ting priority.
“Because we added so many beds this summer, we tried to fore¬warn students that the number [of students released] would be lower this year,” said Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting.
Students living off-campus enjoy more freedom and responsibility to choose everything about their housing without restrictions on things such as animals, incense or tapestries. These students also chose this type of hous¬ing in order to become more integrat¬ed into the Middletown community.
“I was entirely alienated from the town around me,” said Paul Blasenheim ’12 in an e-mail to The Argus. “Now, I am meeting com¬munity members and engaging with my neighbors as a resident of Middletown, allowing me to throw off the loud-partying/insensitive/elit¬ist stigma put on Wesleyan students by many in Middletown.”
Ever since the Fauver residence hall and apartments were built five years ago, the University has enforced a policy to keep students living on campus. ResLife believes strongly in keeping most students on-campus be¬cause of the variety of housing options available and the intellectual culture in student housing.
“[The policy] speaks volumes about what Wesleyan feels happens outside the classroom that comple¬ments what’s happening inside the classroom,” Koerting said. “All those conversations that happen outside the classroom about academic mate¬rial—that’s so exciting to have that happening on a college campus and that wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have students living on campus.”
Students living in Middletown also save money by choosing their own apartments and figuring out rents that work for them.
“My family is saving almost $8,000 by my living off-campus,” Blasenheim said. “I will be spending a total of about $2,400 for rent and utilities for the whole year, most of which I can make with a campus job.”
Many students are not even aware of off-campus housing, since ResLife does not actively promote this
“It doesn’t make sense to talk about it and get people’s hopes up and then tell them ‘Sorry, we’re not going to release you,’” Koerting said.
Even though students living off-campus still must participate in a meal plan, they decide everything else about their housing on their own, and they do not need to report back to ResLife or the University.
“I like having my own land¬lord, dealing with my own utilities and figuring out my own rent,” Blasenheim wrote. “ResLife does not understand that some people do not like living with everything handed to them.”