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Print Editions Thursday September 28th, 2023

Editorial: Housing policies for returning students

As fall term begins to wind down and students studying abroad plan for their return to Brown, many remain unsure of their housing situation on campus for the spring. Though the administration requires students arriving back from study abroad to live on campus, this edict is frequently waived as on-campus housing often becomes over-enrolled with the sudden influx of transfer and returning students. And while the purpose behind the school’s official policy is admirable — to reintegrate students to university life through on-campus housing — it can often lead to cramped living spaces on campus, last-minute leases off campus and bureaucratic nightmares for all parties involved. We recommend revising these rules to allow students to better prepare for alternative circumstances and the inevitable situation of having too few rooms on campus.

Returning students are placed in a housing lottery before the start of spring term to determine their rooms for the next semester. However, with few spots still available — and even fewer that are desirable — students can find themselves occupying a double with two other people or a dorm’s unused kitchen as the University attempts to make due with a lack of adequate housing. This housing uncertainty offers another disincentive to students studying abroad.

While the University often attempts to compensate for the lack of on-campus housing by allowing those returning to seek a lease elsewhere, they often inform students near the end of fall term, limiting the amount of time available to search for apartments nearby. And as most landlords prefer year-long leases, the opportunity to organize sublets with students studying abroad in the spring term would help improve some of the process. By adapting the policy to officially open up off-campus living to returning students, the University could minimize the annual pressure placed on the Office of Residential Life while ensuring that every student has adequate living arrangements.

These policies also apply to students returning from leaves of absence. While the requirement after taking a leave of absence promises greater University supervision to help ease a student’s transition back to Brown, it also fails to recognize the need to allow for a variety of approaches and conditions to aid in a student’s return. As discussions surrounding mental health on campus have led to a reconsideration of University guidelines surrounding medical leave, we believe that the range of accommodations available to returning students should include the opportunity to live outside of dorms. What may help one student return to Brown may hinder another’s recovery. Ultimately, we urge Residential Life to reexamine housing policies for returning students in order to better accommodate certain needs and to ease the process of finding housing for others.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: Emma Axelrod ’18, Eben Blake ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to



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