Simone development warrants second look

We were surprised this week when we read that the College is not endorsing a plan by Simone Realty, Inc., to build apartments about two miles from campus. The proposed apartments could host 600 students from the College and nearby Rider University, who has publicly supported the plan.

According to Curt Heuring, vice president for Facilities Management, Construction and Campus Safety, the reason the College isn’t endorsing the plan is because the apartments don’t “further or support the mission of (the College).” In other words, the building won’t have Community Advisors (CA), Community Coordinators (CC) or Housing Assistants (HA) because it won’t be owned by the College.

The lack of such staff should not stop the College from endorsing a logical solution to an obvious and troublesome problem here. More than 2,000 students don’t get on-campus housing and with enrollment numbers growing with each new class, that number is sure to increase. The current building plan may create about 250 more beds at some point in the future, but that clearly isn’t enough. By the time those 250 beds are added, enrollment at the College may shoot up by much more than 250 students.

The most important of the above-mentioned department of Residential Education and Housing (ResEd) staff is probably the CA, who genuinely does make a huge impact on freshmen. When you’re a freshman, it’s that CA whom you turn to with questions, fears, triumphs and concerns. And it’s that freshman floor that shapes at least part of the rest of your stay at the College.

But beyond that point, ResEd staff are less needful and less visible. Many sophomores don’t know their CAs. It would be absolutely shocking to learn of even one junior or senior who can name their CC or HA.

That’s not to say these jobs aren’t important. There is occasional need for these staffers for a multitude of reasons. But students really and truly could live without them and be just fine off-campus somewhere. If the housing situation doesn’t change, they’ll have to live off campus anyway. To not recognize these apartments as a reasonable solution because of something like having HAs in the building simply doesn’t make sense.

The living situation in the planned development seems like it would be comparable to that of the Country Club Apartments, a housing complex formerly owned by the College. The apartments were problematic because of their distance from the College and their proximity to a mental institution, but there were beds there. Ultimately, the Country Club Apartments didn’t fit the College’s “mission” either.

Unfortunately, the window is closing on the College. Norsworthy and Centennial halls are aging and need to be demolished. While the College plans to restart construction on the Metzger Drive Apartments, there are clearly no guarantees as to when they will actually be completed, as we have seen before.

We hope the College will rethink endorsing the planned apartments, which could help some of those 2,000 students who don’t make the cut in the housing lottery. Even if they don’t to the school, the apartments still look promising to us. They won’t completely solve the problem, but they have the potential to make a big impact.