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What Price Gracious Living?


For some time now President Pusey has been speaking of the crowding in the Houses as if it were an unmitigated evil. He has voiced a desire to return to pre-war housing standards, by eliminating the double bed and giving every undergraduate a private bedroom. In order to impliment this program he has announced that the College will spend ten million dollars to build two new houses.

One aspect of this otherwise laudable program seems to have gone more or less unnoticed. Both the President and everybody else recognize that a return to gracious living will be expensive, but they have publicly assumed that this expense will be met by the alumni and friends of the College who supply the ten million for new construction. The facts are beginning to emerge somewhat differently. It now appears that a large proportion of the expense will be born by the undergraduate, or his parents.

The admission of an unusually small freshman class in September will eliminate some of the most congested conditions in the Houses next fall. A few of the double beds will disappear, and a few more students will have private bedrooms. For this privilege they will pay higher room rents. As crowding is further decreased, rents will rise even more precipitously. The cost of maintaining the House is not substantially decreased by reducing its population, but as the number of people who divide the expense diminishes, we will find ourselves paying more for our rooms.

This would be perfectly satisfactory if student economics demanded more luxurious quarters. But they do not. On the contrary, the demand for the smaller, more crowded, rooms has already outstripped the supply. Students who want to live in rooms costing less than $170 a term must make special applications to the Financial Aid Offices. And even under present conditions the acceptance of this petition does not guarantee that they will find the cheap room they seek. What, we wonder, is going to happen to the scholarship student if we return to gracious living?

Part of the answer lies in the new Houses, which will meet part of the demand for cheap housing. But will this mean that all those who want cheap rooms will flock to the new houses, resurrecting the old Gold Coast situation? We hope not. Somehow the University must find a way to spread the savings evenly through the whole House system. Yet this means that students who live in the new Houses will be paying more than their rooms are worth to subsidize the residents of other Houses, which will hardly make the new houses very attractive.

In truth, the College is stuck with seven Houses which it cannot affort to support. They are too luxurious to meet the demands of undergraduates. But the current method of reducing their cost-crowding leads to inferior education as well as discomfort. The new Houses will meet educational requirements by having private studies but eliminate the Common Rooms, private baths, fireplaces, and individual entries which we can no longer afford. But if this means that only the well to do will live in the old Houses, then the College and the President should reconsider their program. Gracious living is very nice, but if gracious living means social stratification, the price is too high.

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