A Plan to Compensate Formerly Displaced Students

Over winter break, I was really impressed by an article that Julie Durbin, a sophomore at St. Mary’s, wrote for The Washington Post College-Inc blog. For those of you who didn’t have a chance to read it, Julie discusses why residents of the Sea Voyager were not compensated, either financially or through artificial GPA inflation, because of the impracticality of both proposed solutions. Julie ends the article by saying, “the experience may bring its own reward.” Students who were relocated to the Sea Voyager (and all others that were displaced) dealt with an exceedingly tough semester, so school life should be a breeze when these students don’t have to move multiple times, live in hotels 45 minutes from campus, and finally settle on a cruise ship.

Julie is absolutely correct. Those students who were displaced, especially those students who lived on the Sea Voyager, went through a unique learning experience, and I think it’s about time they got credit for the class in Applied Hard Knocks they took last semester. The proposal I brought to the administration was a housing credit bump given solely to students who lived on the Sea Voyager, valid only for this spring’s round of housing selection; the number of credits we all finally settled on was four.

Why should this four credit bump apply only to students who lived aboard the Sea Voyager? Students who were displaced but remained on campus fell into two different groups: those who have already been compensated financially, and those who moved into empty beds. Those who have been financially compensated have already gotten a bite of the apple by getting a money transfer to their account. Those students who were displaced into an existing vacancy certainly went through a difficult experience, but it was certainly a much difference experience than those who moved to the Sea Voyager.

The next question is two-pronged: for those who would receive the credit, “how much will this help me?” and for those who won’t, “how much will this hurt me?” I sat down with Assistant Director of Residence Life Kelly Smolinsky and Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater and looked at the effect these credits would have. Four credits will be just enough to give the former Sea Voyager residents a boost in their order in choosing their housing. This means rising juniors would get their second choice in suites instead of their third or fourth, and rising sophomores would get some of the best rooms in PG and Caroline, or if they play their cards right, possibly a suite. These credits will not have the same disproportionate effect as the 15 credits given to juniors who were moved out of the Crescents for mold last year.

Four credits are not enough to blow the remaining rising juniors and rising seniors out of the water — we will not see the Greens dominated by juniors who got these credits. Due to the sheer number of credits accumulated as students progress, the effect of these four credits diminishes as the housing options improve. This could also pose a problem for first years living in Queen Anne, Calvert, and Dorchester. Since the number of credits they apply towards housing is smaller, there was a concern these students might be stuck in the non-air-conditioned residence halls for another year. To help mitigate this problem, Residence Life has agreed to block out fewer rooms for next year’s first years in Caroline and PG, opening up more spots for rising sophomores.

There are certain things a tight-knit, compassionate community does when we see our classmates, our teammates, or our friends struggling: we show love, support, and give what we can. The students of PG and Caroline went through something I couldn’t imagine. As a community, we can all agree we would never want to go through what those seafaring students did, and for those of you who did spend much of the semester at sea, I’m sure none of you would want to relive the whole experience. This compromise acknowledges we sympathize with what the Sea Voyager students went through last semester, and that as a compassionate community we’re willing to give others a leg up in room draw because of the extremely raw deal they got; but most importantly it signals that we’re willing to pay more than lip service to our beliefs.

We keep talking about how we want a tighter community, one that is built on trust, respect, and compassion; this is our opportunity to take one step closer toward that goal.

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