Boston University student activists say proposed restrictions banning most overnight guests in campus dormitories could displace low-income families from the area surrounding the university,.
Some students have said they intend to move off-campus to escape the proposed guidelines, which would prohibit guests between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. on weeknights and between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. on weekend nights. Prospective students or family members of the same sex would be the only exceptions to the guidelines.
The rules were formulated by controversial B.U. President John R. Silber and were originally scheduled to take effect next semester. But at a public forum Thursday night, Silber said no changes would take place until the start of the next academic year. In a conciliatory move, Silber also announced plans for the creation of a student-faculty task force to review the proposals.
Nearly three-fifths of the students present at Thursday's forum raised their hands to indicate that they intended to move off campus because of the new rules.
Some students and Boston city officials fear, though, that even a partial exodus of undergraduates could raise rents in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston, where many off-campus B.U. students live. Such an increase in living expenses would force low-income families out of the area.
Members of Active Concerned and Together (ACT), a student group formed to oppose the proposed guest policy, say they are looking into the effects of a rise in off-campus students on low-income families in the area.
Students hope that pressure from community groups will force the university to moderate the proposed guidelines.
"We're hoping the pressure they put on B.U. will be quite an uproar," says Susheel Srikonda, one of the founders of ACT.
Don Gillis, the director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services, says that one of the university's primary goals should be to keep students on campus.
"I think that [the guest policy is] something that has to be viewed not only in terms of the university, but also the community," Gillis says.
When students at Thursday's meeting asked Silber about the concerns for surrounding neighborhoods, he blamed the city of Boston for the large numbers of off-campus B.U. students. The president said the city had forcefully dissuaded B.U. from converting buildings it owns into student housing.
"It is the city of Boston...that has stood in the way of Boston University having over 2400 additional dorm rooms," Silber said.
In addition to possible community discontent with the guest rules, Silber's dream of a sex-free campus late at night may be damaged by the reluctance of resident assistants (RA's) to enforce the rules. RA's are usually undergraduates, and they are supposed to enforce college policy in the residential halls.
"My door is closed after 11, so I won't see any guests. That's my attitude," says one RA, who asked not to be identified. Because B.U. last spring adopted rules that allow it wide discretionary powers to dismiss RA's, some student assistants say they will avoid criticism for fear of being fired.
"If I were expected to go from apartment to apartment checking, I would have a problem with that, and I would resign," says another RA, who also declined to be named.