HOO Horror Story

(GREENWICH) The HOO is one of the least “Hampshire-y” offices on Hampshire’s campus. What their system lacks in compassion, it makes up for in bureaucracy; despite the clarity of the job description (running campus housing operations), even the simplest task: switching rooms with a mod-mate can take an entire week – if you have time to advocate for yourselves. And you had better not miss one of the seemingly random and difficult deadlines, which always happen to coincide with finals or Add/Drop. Sure, it would be ideal if students could anticipate needing or wanting to move before break, but spontaneity and unexpected changes are the very nature of living anywhere with other people. Instead of facilitating this reality, the HOO makes moving during the middle of a semester or right at the beginning of the spring nigh on impossible.

But we have to have deadlines! We have to keep some semblance of order! You need to be approved to move! So, have deadlines. And make exceptions to those deadlines in such a way that they do not inconvenience the very people those deadlines supposedly serve!

My HOO horror story doesn’t even begin to describe the difficulties of transfer students, students with disability accommodations, survivors of on-campus assault, or people who cannot afford to live on-campus for a multitude of reasons. I’ve been told stories by people who felt that they needed to “use” their mental illness or disability, or threaten an “official” doctor’s note of some kind in order to be heard and believed by the HOO. Feeling like you need to prove as a young adult that you can make a decision about changing your housing placement puts unnecessary stress on anyone and contributes to a feeling of mutual disrespect between students and staff. In a culture held captive by the allure of cut-and-dry official reports, only people who are able to or feel comfortable filing reports or filing for disability are accommodated with adequate attention and care. This leaves out a lot of people and doesn’t account for human circumstances and the simple matter of trust.

In my own experience, when I played along and jumped through all the bureaucratic hoops, the HOO’s approval of my move was still delayed for a week. During that time I could have been starting my new semester in a space in which I was comfortable; instead I was needlessly worried, uncomfortable in my living space, and swamped in homework. Once, the HOO told a friend of mine that they were not allowed to sign a lease to move off-campus, probably due to a much-discussed push to limit off-campus housing requests. Later in the summer, a week before school, the HOO approved my friend’s move and seemed shocked to discover that there was not enough time to find a new lease and adjust their plans. In fact, the HOO told them there might not be housing for them on-campus because it was “last minute.”

After I moved, I was told by a staff member to make sure that my old room was locked, “for [my] safety.” The bookshelves and recycling bin in that room are definitively the property of Hampshire – to think that I’d feel “safer” with those items protected by a locked door suggests that I feel a sense of community ownership for and responsibility to my campus home. But instead I feel at risk of being slapped with a non-negotiable fine for any missing component. That threat might get the job done – I plan to lock my old room – but it doesn’t make me feel more at home, or more grateful, or more “in touch” with how Hampshire provides for me.

And what about empty rooms? Spring transfer students were placed in the dorms this semester, and many of them would prefer to move into mods despite the HOO’s cautioning about “isolation” and their insistence that the dorms are the best place to adjust to going to Hampshire. Supposing that the dorms are preferable for some, there would still be open rooms on campus. This throws the administration and the admissions office into a frenzy to think about filling those rooms with new students or enticing off-campus students to return. But what if temporarily, mod-mates had keys to (and thus a responsibility for) those rooms and could use them as work spaces? The shortage of art studios is keenly felt at Hampshire, as is the general lack of intimate and comfortable spaces for friendly group work. Housing would still be the primary function of those spaces, and if a room was needed, the keys could be collected and the room returned to its “pristine” original condition. The HOO will only tell you it’s impossible.

Can we as students pressure the HOO to reevaluate their policies and collaborate actively with students to create a policy that works for the entire community? The current policies don’t invite any dialogue. This is overall a problem with complicated systems and offices that could institute more compassionate and fluid policies to work with and for students at Hampshire. This is not a single-student issue or a single-staff-member issue. This is a community issue. These are needs we can address; I’d like to see us address them. Godspeed in the lottery!!!!

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