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Self-proclaimed gadfly: College system strains university bond

By Evan Mintz     3/13/08 7:00pm

Ideally, the college system is a great system. Students leaving their homes, often for the first time, can find a nurturing new community within their colleges. But one cannot live in the nursery forever. However, the Rice housing scheme seems to disagree - Rice does not provide housing for students who wish to leave the confines of the college system.It may seem inconceivable to many students that their peers would want to leave the alma mater they love so dearly, but all it takes is a few minutes in the Rice Memorial Center to find students who want to graduate from their colleges but still attend the university as a whole.

Breakdown between students and the college system is almost inevitable. During freshman and sophomore years, students run for college government positions, yell along with their college cheers and generally continue the spirit of Orientation Week. But as the semesters progress, students peel off as they dedicate themselves to research, clubs and, yes, even jobs - the sorts of activities that reach beyond the hedges. A university education is supposed to last four years, but a college experience can be finished in just a few semesters. Those stepping-stones to the real world replace the summer camp activities of the college system, with Rice, not the colleges, providing students with the skills and interests that will fit them for the rest of their lives.

The scenario does not end with the shift from college towards greater activities. Just as the dissipation of O-Week spirit leads to students seeking out activities that fit their personal interest rather than geographic location, the interpersonal relationships built on assigned O-Week groups inevitably give way to friendships built on actual personal characteristics. As students join clubs, they will find people with personalities and interests similar to their own, leaving behind oft-awkward head-nods of O-Week friendships. These students deserve a place at Rice to call their own, where they can live with their friends in a collegiate setting. But at Rice, the housing philosophy is "Love it, or leave it."

Even students who love their colleges - the ones who chugged at every Beer-Bike, voted at every Diet, worked security at every party - may find themselves growing weary by junior or senior year, longing for the quiet and solitude of a single bedroom or an apartment. But the college system does not provide, and instead drives these students off campus and loses those who could serve as leaders.

The current situation finds college beds filled with students who do not necessarily want to be part of the colleges, but live there out of convenience and an attachment to the university as a whole. It is quite understandable that some more collegiately dedicated students would view these people as leeches on the college system - they gain all the benefits without contributing anything - which of course may lead to reciprocated hatred. Alternate housing would not only prevent this mutual animosity, but could even lead to stronger colleges. Like pre-graduated alumni, students who leave the college system may find themselves returning for big-name events like parties and Beer-Bike with hearts grown fonder by absence.

Rice is an anomaly among universities by not providing housing for students outside the college system. As part of ongoing Committee for the Rice Undergraduate Program investigations, Rice should seriously consider the creation of alternate housing. The obvious choice would be the purchase or construction of an apartment complex immediately off campus, but this option may be financially restrictive. One of the two new colleges could also be used as housing for students who wish to leave their colleges. Also, the process for transferring between colleges could be eased, placing fewer restrictions on students who want to or need to live on campus, but not at their own college.

No matter what changes are made, Rice needs to recognize that the college system is an excellent cradle, but as students grow up, a crib can feel like a trap.

Evan Mintz is a Hanszen College senior and backpage editor.

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