Housing Accommodations. They are more than just requesting a roommate and a certain dorm. As a first-year student, I am aware there is a world of applications and paperwork I cannot even begin to comprehend. That being said, through meeting, talking, and complaining to new peers in my life, there is a world of pain I discovered that is a very commonplace.
While I do not have any disability accommodations, I do have first-hand experience in applying for All-Gender Housing. According to Wooster’s housing page, “Gender Inclusive housing means that anyone can live in a room with anyone else, regardless of their gender identity.” This living style is available in all upper-class halls and houses, however for first-year students, it is only available on the third floor of Andrews Hall. While the thirteen rooms provide a safe-haven for students uncomfortable on gendered floors, allowing them to live among others with shared experiences, not all have the luxury of making their way into this elite group. For example, numerous students have to make a decision between All-Gender housing and living in a single dorm. Single-living can be better for numerous people and their individual needs, yet there are only doubles on the floor. In addition to this, the third floor requirement can prevent some from partaking due to health and mobility issues. One student who originally applied for All-Gender, but after a mix-up, was put into a single with proper accommodations, explains how it ended up being for the best. “This room is more physically accessible to me since it’s on the first floor and some of my health conditions have been flaring up since I got here,” they said. Residence Life has proven that they can handle situations and in the end, help students live how they need to live. However living in a place like All-Gender housing can be crucial to some student’s mental wellbeing. Thus, the idea that sometimes one must choose between their physical and mental health on campus is something that needs to be reevaluated.
In addition to this, another accommodation that I have found many experience pain and exhaustion pursuing is applying to bring along an Emotional Support Animal. According to the American Disability Act (ADA), “Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias.” Wooster provides all the necessary paperwork for students to apply to bring their ESAs to campus; nevertheless, many express the long and difficult process this can often be. These applications require a lot of information from professional opinions, the lack thereof forcing students to apply over and over again. “The school’s process gives the student marginal agency in the process as the questionnaires, reports and review process are reliant on outside perceptions rather than a student’s accessibility needs,” one student recounts. By creating a process that is complex and strict, the College is able to properly monitor animals being brought to campus; however, simultaneously, they are creating red-tape obstacles that often stand in the way of students properly having the living accommodations necessary for fostering their academic success.
Well into the beginning of the school year, an ongoing headache and stressor for students is making sure their living experience on campus is adequate. The fact that a student cannot confidently move onto campus, feeling sure that their living requirements and specific needs are going to be met is, in my opinion, utterly preposterous. Residence Life has proven that they do care about the students and work tirelessly to do what they can, yet I cannot help but be concerned for those slipping through the cracks.