Underground culture for leasing disrupts communication between college and students

Making the choice to move off campus in Geneseo generally has several stressful factors, including time constraints for finding a residence, how to find a residence and what to do next if one is secured. A recent survey not only reinforces these claims but has exposed some of the reasons why the process of moving off campus is stressful for many.

The editorial board of The Lamron distributed a survey on Nov. 15 to off-campus students, via social networking, to see how satisfied students were with the services provided by the college and local landlords.

In total, 213 students replied to the survey, and the results paint a picture about students’ perception of the college’s services for off-campus housing.

When asked whether or not Geneseo helped students in their search to find housing, 92 percent replied “no,” while only 5 percent and 3 percent said “yes” and “somewhat,” respectively. Students were prompted to supply ways the process could be improved, and many students wanted more information from the school regarding leases and available houses for rent, typically in the form of a forum or website.

The college, however, already provides many of the services that students are seeking.

Thus, the high percentage of “no” responses highlights a disconnect between students and the college, as there are Geneseo offices that offer services in line with what students would like to see.

Dean of Residential Living Celia Easton said that such a disconnect can be explained by the nature of moving off campus itself.

“We need to remind ourselves that new experiences, such as moving and living off campus, are scary,” she said. Easton explained that the competitive environment, combined with the many nuanced considerations and legal processes, can distract students from what the college is offering.

Dean of Students Leonard Sancilio said he believes the root of the problem lies with students’ desire to be educated.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “When we offer programs and info, students don’t go. Only when students need something do they seek information. So how do you educate those who don’t want to be educated yet or don’t know they need to be? Students don’t know what they don’t know [about living off campus].”

The Office for Off-Campus Services, in conjunction with Residence Life, offers sessions in the Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development program for signing leases and renter’s rights. Wendi Kinney, assistant dean of students for fraternal life and off-campus services is also available for appointment to discuss any off-campus related topic.

The college also hosts the Geneseo Housing Registry website; however, Easton said it is the responsibility of landlords to post vacancies and to keep their posts updated. Unfortunately, many landlords do not update their posts. As a result, only 19 percent of students found their housing online, while 56 percent found it via word of mouth.

The Office for Off-Campus Services currently has three intern community assistants who are working toward improving the website.

Sancilio said that, for a very long time, the process of moving off campus has been dominated by “an underground culture, where students find their housing through other students or friends, or houses are handed down. Today, Facebook and Twitter also play a large role.” Sixty-two percent of students found their houses in manners such as these.

Ultimately, only 26 percent of students found the process of moving off campus difficult, while 69 percent did not and 5 percent found it somewhat difficult. Further, 75 percent of students were aware of the high demand, while 23 percent were not aware and two percent were only somewhat aware.

These percentages suggest that, while students want more information from Geneseo, the college isn’t a necessary catalyst to finding off-campus housing.

Sancilio said that the college functions best when it works as a support structure for students in this capacity.

“How far do we go? … We walk a fine line for what we can do for off-campus students,” he said. Sancilio said he feels the college is in a tough spot when it comes to providing students information regarding landlords.

“The campus is unable, due to liability issues, to do a ‘Rate Your Professor’-type thing for landlords,” he said.

While the school would like to see an improved relationship, the deeply ingrained underground culture for finding housing has remained dominant for years, making it difficult for the school to act as more than simply a supportive resource.