The Portland State housing department is an interesting one, to say the least.
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The Portland State housing department is an interesting one, to say the least. Though PSU is one of the largest colleges in Oregon, it has roughly 40 percent the number of residents in college housing that most similarly sized Oregon universities have. And with numbers like that you’d think the housing department and residence buildings would be perhaps more laid back, easy going and, most importantly, concerned with the quality of life for their residents, considering their lesser burden. If this is what you were expecting from our college housing department, you’re probably terribly disappointed.
Recently the residents of the Broadway Building were given a notice to vacate their residence for building refurbishing. While the housing department plans to refurbish Broadway, at the same time they will be refurbishing the rental structure for the whole program.
Many residents are currently on a month-to-month plan with the housing department. But those people now face the option of signing a year lease, a term-to-term lease or getting out. Any resident unwilling to sign one of two new lease options will be forced out, and their room will be assigned to someone who is willing to sign a new lease.
The housing department could even be forgiven for forcing out loyal residents who don’t feel comfortable with a longer lease situation, but it’s their other policies that are most disconcerting.
Let’s say you find yourself locked out of your apartment, which happens to even the best of us from time to time, but luckily for you it’s during normal business hours. So, you walk yourself over to the nearest housing department office and check out a set of keys to let yourself back into your apartment. Seems fairly normal, right? But let’s say you hold onto those keys, due to some extenuating circumstances, for more than 30 minutes, and suddenly you’re subject to $50 charge. No other schools in Oregon have a similar policy.
Imagine again you’re locked out, but this time it is after the housing office has closed. You then will have to contact the RA in your building who is on call to let you into your room. But this time you will be charged a minimum of $10, and anywhere up to $50, according to the housing handbook.
The housing department claims that this after-hours lockout charge is due to the fact that the RA has to respond during sleep or study hours. But isn’t that part of the job of being an RA? Every other Oregon school thinks so. Oregon State University and University of Oregon don’t ever charge their residents for lockouts. University of Portland, however, does charge after five lockouts, but beginning at $1, and their housing director can even waive the charge if they see fit. Why is Portland State so different?
Perhaps if an after-hours lockout required the response of campus security, which it does at certain times of the day at Southern Oregon University (SOU), then perhaps a charge may be in order. If security were dispatched a charge would be reasonable, due to security personnel costs and the limitation of response time for more urgent calls while they assist your lockout. But not even in that instance does SOU charge their residents for lockouts.
The housing office not only has control over what you can have in your room, but they also have control of what you do outside your room and near campus.
Let’s say you order a moped or scooter, which is gasoline powered, through the mail. When it is delivered to the housing office and is signed for by one of the housing office employees, then they have the discretion whether or not to return the item to sender. This policy makes some sense since you are not allowed to keep motor vehicles, like mopeds, in your apartment due to fire hazards. Even if your mom sends you a toaster oven the housing office will refuse delivery and refuse you the right to obtain it.
But let’s say the department has been kind enough to allow you to receive the moped for which you’ve paid good money, and one day a housing department authority sees you riding said moped near campus. You could then face a fine or even eviction. When asked why, a housing department authority explained that they assume that if you are seen with this moped near your building, by their judgment you are, in fact, keeping the moped in your apartment illegally, and thereby violating your housing agreement.
They retain the right to refuse delivery of your expensive motorized vehicle, and then they can essentially prohibit you from using it? Why else would someone own a moped other than to use it? You can’t keep it in your apartment as decoration, nor can you use it as cheap transportation, all because you chose to live in college housing?
With relatively small residence numbers compared to large Oregon schools, Portland State has the opportunity to ensure a fair, safe and pleasurable atmosphere for their residents. Unfortunately for us, they’ve clearly opted rather for a strong, authoritative hand with high profits.
If you’re as bewildered by these vast differences between PSU’s housing policies and those of other Oregon schools, as you should be, then let’s do something about it. Let’s push for a reversal of these unfair and unparalleled practices.
College housing should not be another opportunity to exact further frivolous charges upon us. They’ve built a system that feels like it is the housing department against the residents, and it needs to change.