Sophomore Slump: Housing leases puts young students at risk

PAIGE LISTON | | Opinion Columnist

Around this time of the school year at Butler, senior house leases get signed quickly. Contrary to what some may think, juniors aren’t the only ones signing for these houses. Instead, sophomores are feeling pressured to sign years in advance.

Butler students are required to live on-campus for the first three years of their schooling. Only commuters, seniors and graduate students are allowed to live off-campus.

When I first heard most students sign for their senior houses by October of their sophomore year, I did not believe it. I thought people only made a commitment that early if they wanted a specific house, but I soon learned that nearly all sophomores start looking around that time.

In my opinion, Butler students should not have to make these kinds of decisions so early. Sophomore students who commit themselves to a lease are putting themselves at risk.

The classic case is when friends sign for senior houses as sophomores but eventually drift apart by move-in day. In other cases, people decide to study abroad, which forces the signees to find a new person to fill the empty spot.

Or, in the case of Liz Burnell, one of the roommates could suddenly decide he or she wanted to transfer.

She and three friends signed for a senior house their sophomore year, but one of the girls decided to transfer during her junior year.

Burnell said it was too difficult to find someone to sublease the house, so her friend was forced to continue to pay rent for the house, even though she does not live in it.

Burnell said if they had waited just one more year, they wouldn’t have run into this problem.

“There shouldn’t be as much pressure on having to sign so soon,” Burnell said. “There are so many houses to choose from, and senior year will be fun no matter where you live.”

Doug Howell, Butler’s associate director of resident life, said sophomore year is too early to sign for senior living.

“Landlords are business people, so they have created a model where they want to lock in clients as early as possible,” Howell said. “Living in a house senior year is a great transition into the real world, but we see so many problems with sophomores signing too early. You haven’t even thought about where you are living junior year, so it doesn’t make any sense.”

Making sophomores feel as though there will not be any houses available if they wait too long is a nerve-wracking experience.

Howell said if everyone waited to sign, everyone would be placed on the same time scale, and it would be much more appropriate.

“Students need to realize they don’t have it all planned out yet. Take what is available when the time is right,” he said. “Students need to do what’s right for them, not what’s right for the landlord.”

Although Butler does not have a policy stating you must sign for senior housing during your sophomore year, it certainly feels that way for sophomore students, such as myself.

In my particular case, it has been extremely stressful looking for a house that I like. Every house I show an interest in seems to be taken off the market the very next day.

If all sophomores waited to sign when the time was best for them, houses wouldn’t be disappearing so quickly, and hopefully students could avoid running into unforeseen problems with their future homes.

On Oct. 13, there will be a panel presentation in the ResCo dining room discussing this problem and how the process of signing for senior housing could be improved.

In my opinion, all students should attend this workshop, especially sophomores who are feeling pressured to sign right away. Administration needs to know if students have a problem with this process.