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summer housing

A call to increase summer housing and funding for students

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

Each year, many students receive summer funding from the Lang Center and many more request summer housing to conduct an internship or community service project near campus. They do so to pursue on-campus jobs or research, or to take advantage of opportunities in the Greater Philadelphia area.

While the Lang Center was able to give out more funding this year than last year, the school as a whole still could not meet everyone’s needs. Isaiah Thomas sent an email to those who applied for summer housing saying that Swarthmore had more applications than they had expected and would likely not be able to meet everyone’s housing requests. While funding is limited and not all housing is available during the summer, we at The Phoenix believe that the college should put more resources into making sure that students, particularly those with financial need, can pursue summer opportunities both on and off-campus.

Internships and research are important for students to gain experience and figure out what they want to do with their lives after Swarthmore. Internships tend to be clustered in cities with high costs of living, like New York and Washington, D.C. This places an increased burden on students from low-income backgrounds, especially if they are not able to get summer funding. However, since Swarthmore is located so close to Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the United States, low-income students who work with Philadelphia organizations could benefit greatly from on-campus summer housing, as the cost of living would be significantly reduced. If the college is to properly serve its low-income students, then it must do more to make sure that these students are able to take the same kinds of summer opportunities as their more privileged, affluent peers.

This could easily be addressed by making more dorms accessible for summer housing. While this will not directly help every single student, it will greatly help students on campus for the summer and those who pursue internships in the greater Philadelphia area.

Swarthmore clearly has the resources to provide more summer housing. Each summer, only one or two dorms are chosen to house all students. However, since there is a clear demand for more student housing, the school could easily accommodate this demand by increasing the number of dorms opened for summer housing. In doing so, more students would be able to take advantage of jobs and research on campus without worrying about the high cost of living in the borough of Swarthmore. In addition, students would be supported in finding internships in the and around Philadelphia, which upholds Swarthmore’s mission to provide students with opportunities that “support personal development, encourage interaction with off-campus communities, and build interpersonal and leadership skills.”

Increasing summer funding would also provide more equitable access to opportunities. The reality is that low-income students and students who live far from major metropolitan areas have the least access to internships. For many students, internships require paying for housing, food, travel, and other extraneous expenses. Given that many summer opportunities are unpaid or not paid enough to keep up with living expenses, funding from the college is necessary for opportunities to be equitable for all students.  

Students should also be made aware of outside funding sources that are available to them. Scholarships, grants, and other awards should be advertised to students by departments, Career Services, and the Lang Center. By making students more aware of funding available to them, it will help the student body as a whole take advantage of all potential resources. This is an easy step the college can and should take. While the college might not be able to increase its support of students directly through more funding, it can use the resources already available on campus to increase housing options and make summer opportunities more equitable.

Summer Housing, Hot Mess

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

As the semester begins to wrap up, students are swamped with a variety of emotions. Some seniors are feeling nostalgic toward leaving Swarthmore, yet excited for what lies ahead. Other students are drowning in final papers but relieved that this semester is finally coming to a close. They are ready for a chance to refresh and new opportunities around the corner. Yet, for many Swatties staying on campus this year, this summer may not look as promising or be as well-organized as they had hoped. Instead, these Swatties are dreading the one option for summer housing and many are unsure if they will have housing at all.

We at the Phoenix find the housing situation for this summer particularly problematic and unfair to the students staying at Swarthmore. All students will be housed in Mary Lyons Dormitory, which is the furthest dorm from campus as well as one of the furthest dorms from the train station. Considering that students will either be doing research with professors on campus, helping with summer camps around campus, working on campus, or completing an internship that requires public transportation to Philadelphia or Chester, ML is the least practical option for students staying on campus. Instead, it provides the most inconvenience and offers the most difficulty for students working at Swat this summer.

We at the Phoenix acknowledge that it would make sense to place students in ML if they had no other dorms available, if the dorm provided housing to the largest amount of students, or if the dorm offered some practical benefits that other dorms can’t. However, ML possesses none of these qualities. Swarthmore obviously has plenty of other dorms on campus for housing students. Even given that Swarthmore hosts many summer camps that require lodging for prospective or incoming students, these camps will not require all of the rooms in Wharton, Willets, Alice Paul, David Kemp, Parrish, Dana, Hallowell, and Danawell. Besides, while many prospective and incoming student camps may take place for two to six weeks, most of the students conducting research, interning, or working on campus will be here all summer, meaning they deserve convenient housing options, considering their stay at Swarthmore for the summer is much more permanent.

ML is also the dorm with the largest amount of singles. While this may sound like a benefit, since ML would offer more students the opportunity to live alone, this means that it houses fewer students. With fewer rooms to offer, more students are left on the summer housing waitlist, potentially without any housing at all this summer. For low-income students or students relying on living at Swat for the summer, this situation is extremely stressful and problematic. Rose See ’19, a student placed on the summer housing waitlist, upon finding out she would most likely not have housing for the summer, stated that she was terrified that she would not be able to carry out her campus job for the summer. She describes how “she had nowhere else to go” and “summer housing at Swarthmore was how she expected to have a place to live until the end of the summer.” When See mentioned this to Residential Life, their response was that they simply could not offer a room because they give priority to students conducting research and only have a limited number of rooms to offer. This situation means that not only are students left to stress about where to live, but they are also made to feel less valued at the college because it is as if they are not seen as worthwhile to the college if they are not serving a research purpose. Luckily, See was able to find housing in the Barn for the entirety of summer and will keep her summer job working in the Peace Collection library, but many students on the waitlist may not be as lucky.

Finally, we at the Phoenix emphasize that ML offers no practical benefits to students that makes it a viable option to house students. The dorm only has one small kitchen in the basement, meaning it will be difficult for more than a few students to consistently cook meals for themselves despite the fact that Sharples is only open for limited hours. The dorm also does not provide air conditioning except in the main lounge, promising an uncomfortable and humid experience for summer students.

Ultimately, we at the Phoenix are disappointed by the summer housing situation offered by the college and believe that Swarthmore should take into consideration both the practical problems of living in ML as well as the concerns and difficulties that the dorm will impose for the students. Students staying at Swarthmore for the summer clearly care for the college and want to dedicate their time toward contributing to the community. The housing situation should provide the same support and concern for the students as well.

Mary Lyons to be site for summer housing despite student concerns

in Around Campus/News by

The Mary Lyons residence hall has been designated to be the summer residence hall for all students who will be staying on campus this summer. Many students expressed concerns or questions over this decision by the administration since Mary Lyons neither on campus nor air-conditioned.

“Historically, Mary Lyons was used as summer housing in large part due to the number of students it can hold (100+), the building’s proximity to a parking lot, and the large breakfast room.  A few years ago, in advance of a multi-year summer renovation project, summer housing was transitioned to temporary locations in Parrish, Mertz, and Willets,” said the Assistant Dean and Director for Student Engagement Rachel Head.

Alexandra Ye ’19, who will be working in Philadelphia in the upcoming summer, expressed her concern for living in Mary Lyons.

“I’m actually working in Philly, but I think I’m hoping to live near or on campus for the ease of finding a place and being around friends,” said Ye.

Her main concern is that Mary Lyons is too far away from the SEPTA station in addition to being so far from main campus.

“I’m not sure how I feel about living in ML — I’ve heard many negative things about the meal plan, and it’s less conveniently located than other apartments in the Ville for catching the train,” said Ye.

Daniel Lai ’17, a current senior who stayed on campus for the past two summers, also expressed concern in terms of the meal plan.

“I wasn’t really able to use it because the hours were limited, and I would always leave campus for work before meals could be used and would come back on campus after Sharples had already closed. I was able to use the Points by going to the coffee bar before work every day,” Lai said.

Mary Lyons has a kitchen, but living there is not going to make Sharples more accessible to students. However, a better meal plan will be available this summer, according to Head.

“Isaiah has been working closely with Dining Services to identify a partial meal plan that can better meet the needs of students who participate in campus employment, summer research, and off-campus opportunities.  I believe the new plan is a combination of scheduled meals and off-campus Ville points. More information on that plan will be shared by Dining Services in the near future,” said Head.

Lai also expressed that he did not understand the administration’s decision this year. For the past two years, he stayed in Mertz and Willets. Mertz has air-conditioning in each individual room. Willets, while it does not have air-conditioning in the rooms, had two kitchens that were available for the students to use as well as an air-conditioned lounge.

“I really don’t understand why the administration would choose to use ML as the summer dorm this year and in years previous to 2015. It’s incredibly inconvenient for people working on-campus as well as off-campus. It’s also frustrating for move-in / out and moving things in and out of storage. Not to mention further from groceries [at] Giant and Target,” said Lai.

Assistant Director of Residential Community Isaiah Thomas explained that this decision was made collaboratively by the Office of Student Engagement and Facilities Management.

“Every year, the Office of Student Engagement works closely with Facilities to assess the dorms that are available for summer housing,” said Thomas.

He then further explained Facilities’ role in the decision-making process.

“The summer period is when Facilities completes renovations of the various dorms on campus while they are unoccupied. One of the reasons Mary Lyons was chosen was due to the fact that Facilities completed a two-year renovation over the summer[s] of 2015 and 2016. Prior to the renovation, Mary Lyons was traditionally used for Summer Housing,” wrote Thomas.

Thomas also indicated there are other factors that are taken into consideration, such as dorms with the fewest numbers of seniors, the housing needs for Alumni Weekend, student feedbacks, and so on.

The current distribution of the senior class is important when determining which residence hall will be used for summer housing.  In order to get the most time in Swarthmore during the summer, almost all students wish to move directly into their summer rooms from their spring rooms.  In order to accommodate this, we cannot use a dorm space that has a high [percentage] of seniors nor can we use locations that house alums during Alumni Weekend [or] summer camps or are due for summer renovations,” said Head.

Head explained that Mary Lyons is the most suitable place in order to accommodate as many students as possible for faculty research, off-campus employment, and other individual student experiences.

“[We] need to use a building that has the capacity to meet a number of different needs and has relatively flexible space.  Mary Lyons offers spaces with gendered and gender-neutral bathrooms, has a low number of seniors, which allows for early move-in, has parking close to the building, has recently been renovated, includes tile floors, and has a large kitchen space that can help supplement the summer meal plan,” said Head.

Finally, Thomas explained the future plans for summer housing next year.

“Set to open in Fall 2017, we feel that the [new] PPR Apartments will be an ideal location for summer housing in the future with the suite style set-up, kitchens in the suites, air conditioning, and large shared lounge space,” wrote Thomas.

There are a lot of restrictions in the choosing process of summer housing. According to the administration, Mary Lyons, while being far away from the campus, is the most suitable residence hall for the students who are staying on campus for the summer. Meanwhile, the administration hopes a change in the summer meal plan will improve the experience of the summer experience at Swarthmore.

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