Ramapo’s winter housing policies are not practical for all students

The Office of Residence Life announced to students its plan for this year’s winter housing through an emailed link. Students requesting winter housing were asked to fill out a Google Form, where additional information on the housing policies were included.

One of the most notable policies was the duration of winter housing. Winter housing runs from Jan. 2 through Jan. 22, and no housing is provided for students from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1. The form states, “Residents who need assistance with finding an alternate place to stay during winter break (December 21, 2023 – January 1, 2024) are encouraged to contact the Office of Residence Life for a list of nearby hotels.” 

For many on-campus residents, such as students who are at risk for homelessness and students fleeing abusive home environments, this accommodation — providing a list of nearby hotels — is inadequate and potentially harmful. 

Social work major Carina Musanti expressed strong disapproval of the policy in an interview with The Ramapo News. “WHAT THE HELL?” they stated. “I did not see that coming from Ramapo.” 

Concerned local resident Christopher Popp referenced the exorbitant cost of local hotels, stating, “Staying in a hotel for ten days would be mad expensive. That’s easily 1000 or 2000 dollars.” 

An additional barrier to students staying in hotels during this period is that many hotels require guests to be over 21 years old and to have a credit card to put on file. Many students simply don’t meet these requirements by no fault of their own.

For the students who need housing during winter break the most, staying in a hotel is inaccessible. This decision is forcing some students to search for alternative places to stay, with these students considering staying with friends through less ideal options, like sleeping in a car or risking fines to remain on campus during this time. 

Other comparable state schools in New Jersey are providing more comprehensive housing accommodations for their own students during the entire winter break. Rowan University is providing free housing to students, provided they were a full-time student who resided on-campus during the fall semester and are registered to continue this status for the spring semester. Montclair State University is offering housing for students at a fee, with some additional conditions. William Paterson University students in a 9-month housing contract are also provided housing during this period. 

Associate Director of Residence Life Stephanie Barlow and Director of Residence Life Lisa Gonsisko oversee winter semester housing at Ramapo. Barlow confirmed all residence halls will be officially closed between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1, and stated, “Due to staffing levels, Public Safety [will be] unable to provide students with access.” 

Barlow stated students are placed in apartments to ensure they have access to a kitchen because no on-campus dining options will be available during winter break. 

Barlow also stated that Ramapo has “not established any discount agreements with local hotels.” 

When asked for comment, Dean of Students Melissa Van Der Wall denied that students with extenuating circumstances are unable to register for on-campus housing between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1. Van Der Wall stated no allegations of discrimination in the winter housing process have been reported to her office at this time. 

In a follow-up with Barlow, she confirmed Van Der Wall’s statement that if given special approval, students with extenuating circumstances are allowed to remain on campus during the entirety of winter break, stating “this has always been our practice.” 

If students are not informed about an accommodation or if it is hidden behind an excessive amount of red tape, the students who need those accommodations won’t know they are available. If students are given the impression this accommodation doesn’t exist, it makes sense that they wouldn’t ask for it and instead struggle on their own. 

How can someone say an accommodation is offered when the accommodation is intentionally hidden?



Featured photo courtesy of @ramapocollegenj, Instagram