“Homies 4 Housing,” a group organized by seniors Annika Alderfer Fisher and Brielle Agnew, and juniors Virginia Jimenez and Arleth Martinez-Vargas, launched their campaign last week by distributing posters across campus.“The group formed as a result of a class,” Martinez-Vargas said. Agnew described the initial purpose for the group, stating: “[We] needed to pick a policy or policies on campus and come up with a campaign to get those policies changed for the better of the students.”
The group’s work is inspired by the conflicts that arose over housing last spring when 33 students were waitlisted for the Romero Student Apartments, albeit with some key considerations in mind.
“We do not have the exact same demands as the students who were protesting last semester, but we’re picking up the movement that started in the spring. …We are not trying to get GC to revoke the on-campus residency requirement, rather, we are trying to make it feel better on the students’ end. We are hoping for some changes that will make the four-year requirement feel more fair,” Alderfer Fisher said.
Chandler Buchfeller, director of residence life and housing, gave his thoughts.
“I haven’t had the chance to talk with anyone in the new campaign yet,” he said, “so it’s a little early for me to speak to that, but in terms of planning for next year, Gilberto [Pérez Jr.] and I have been looking ahead.”
There are many moving parts when it comes to housing, including the possibility for transfer students to and from Goshen College, students who might go on Study-Service Term, and incoming freshman.
“We’re beginning to ask questions about how many students will be on campus and what our housing needs will look like,” Buchfeller said. “We’re still early, but it’s something that we’re working on.”
The class that the students are involved in is Social Justice and Social Change offered through the Mennonite Sociology Collaborative, a program launched in 2015 to assist colleges in bolstering their sociology programs.
The Collaborative is between GC, Bluffton University of Bluffton, Ohio, and Eastern Mennonite University of Harrisonburg, Virginia. The class is taught by Chris Morrissey, assistant professor of sociology at BU and includes students from GC, BU and EMU who get to launch campaigns on their respective campuses.
At the beginning of the campaign, the group had to come up with a list of demands.
“Our goals include decreasing the apartment deposit to under $100,” Agnew said, “ensure housing for all upperclassmen on campus that is not a dorm, and create a scholarship for undocumented students or students who don’t receive aid specifically for on-campus housing.”
“We only think it is fair to ask us to live on campus as upperclassmen if there is space for us,” Alderfer Fisher said. “To ask us not to live in local off-campus housing options and then offer the dorms as a solution is unacceptable. If GC wants more people in the dorms, they should recruit more underclassmen.”
The group is already getting a positive response from students.
“I have had people talk to me about the poster, but we have not really started recruiting yet. The aim for the poster was to start to get our name out there,” Alderfer Fisher said.
For “Homies 4 Housing,” there is more to look ahead at.
“Our informal kickoff event is planned for Wednesday Nov. 1 at 7:30 p.m.,” Alderfer Fisher said. “We will be gathering in Java and inviting students to come and share their opinion about the housing policy. We will be collecting students’ stories and collecting information from students who would like to join our campaign.”