Opinion: Underclassmen should not be allowed to live off – campus

By Mia Brounstein

From August until May of my freshman year, I was a proud (if sweaty) resident of Marian Hall. I experienced all the ups and downs of living in a dorm, from sharing a bathroom with over 50 women to lying on the ground at midnight, doubled over with laughter as I chatted with my best friends, who also happened to be my neighbors. 
My time in Marian was a formative part of both my freshman year and my initial venture into Franciscan society, and it’s just one reason why I believe Franciscan should continue to require underclassmen to live on campus. 
For starters, I should point out that this rule isn’t necessarily a norm across universities. I have more than once heard students argue that Franciscan should follow in the footsteps of these other schools and allow freshman and sophomores to skip the trials of dorm life entirely. 
There are certainly arguments to be made for this position, but one reason why I disagree is that living in a dorm forces the student to be in some kind of community. 
Speaking from personal experience and from conversation with others, many underclassmen (particularly freshman) struggle to find “their people.” The first months at college can be isolating and uncertain, and living in a dorm ensures that the student knows a few faces and names, even just from walking down the hallway or brushing teeth side by side. 
In addition, the residence life events offered in dorms are wonderful low-stress environments for students looking to get to know each other. Living off campus would minimize underclassmen’s opportunities to rub shoulders with their peers in this way. 
In addition, dorm life exposes students to a wide variety of personalities. We all have a tendency to settle into groups of a certain type of person, but I believe that much growth can come from spending time with those who are different from us. 
This is especially important for underclassmen, who are just stepping into the new world of university. College is an opportunity for young people to expand their horizons in countless ways, including by meeting, learning and living alongside people from a diverse range of backgrounds and personalities. 
Living in a dorm also allows underclassmen to encounter household life. Though not for everyone, household life has a significant presence at Franciscan because so many people have experienced spiritual growth through it. 
Households were originally created to provide community and formation for freshmen, and I believe that that mission is as important now as it ever was. Living in a dorm means being neighbors with household members and having the opportunity to learn about their spirituality and experience their brotherhood or sisterhood. 
Countless household members on this campus could assert that the household they ended up joining was the one they lived with early in their college career. Living off campus would limit underclassmen’s exposure to strong examples of household life. 
Finally, staying in a dorm teaches valuable lessons about communal living. From getting along with roommates to respectfully using common spaces (bathrooms, kitchens, common rooms, etc.), sharing a building with a few hundred people is a lesson in compromise, consideration and communication (reslife did not pay me to say that). 
Every well-formed adult should be practiced at these virtues, and living on campus as an underclassmen simply teaches these lessons from the get-go. 
In summary, I believe that there are plenty of strong reasons for Franciscan to continue in the cruel, unfair practice of condemning innocent underclassmen to residency on the hill.