University should provide more off-campus living information
I met my current roommates last year while living in Targhee Hall, a residence hall annexed this academic year by the University of Idaho’s College of Education.
We left the dorms after our freshman year and occupied a two-bedroom apartment, despite having a lack of information about leasing, rental applications and bills.
Don’t worry, we figured it out. It was somehow possible without much guidance from UI — not because we didn’t want the help, but because it wasn’t readily offered at the time.
Living off campus is a valuable tool for students looking for privacy, independence and responsibility. Yet, if a student is not careful, off-campus housing can result in being taken advantage of which can lead to legal issues. UI does not provide enough guidance and education for students to avoid these problems.
Although there are some recent student-led efforts addressing off-campus housing issues, there needs to be more educational programs and resources available to students so they can safely integrate into off-campus living arrangements.
In the past, ASUI offered Vandal Trading Post, an aggregate of off-campus apartment listings, but in recent years they’ve discontinued the service. Now students must find listings on Craigslist and property management websites.
UI’s website is full of pages with step-by-step guides about how to become a member of University Housing, Greek Life and Steel House. The live-on campus requirement for freshmen is clearly outlined in the Dean of Students Office portion of UI’s website.
Unlike Washington State University’s Dean of Students Office website, UI does not clearly provide a guide for safely transitioning and living off-campus.
WSU provides online legal information, city regulations, leasing information, rental insurance information and other useful tools for their students, many of which may be transitioning into their first residence without supervision from their parents, or university staff.
ASUI acknowledged the potentially unfair treatment of students by rental agencies within the community through Sen. Stetson Holman’s recent resolution. According to Holman’s resolution, the Fair and Affordable Housing Commission should look into exploring city ordinances to provide student renters protection against unfair housing practices.
Holman also has plans to provide residence hall students with an educational program about off-campus living to give them tips on how to protect themselves legally.
The UI College of Law offers a general clinic for clients who cannot otherwise afford a lawyer. Landlord-tenant disputes are among the cases they typically handle.
Moscow Mayor Bill Lambert even named April as Fair Housing Month last year.
ASUI, the law school and the City of Moscow are all on board to address off-campus housing issues. It’s time for UI administration to step up and provide students with the resources they need.
These initial steps by Lambert and Holman are promising, and will likely heighten the amount of public discussion around the topic.
UI administration is the most apt to help students, but it is still sitting on the sideline.
The Dean of Students Office should work harder to correct the scarce amount of information provided to students transitioning from on-campus to off-campus living arrangements. These students, who were once a part of tightly-knit organizations that capitalize on community, should be educated more thoroughly on these topics.
Students are now leading by example in better educating their peers, and UI administration should follow in suit.
Jake Smith can be reached at email@example.com