For many Stanford students, winter break is a time of relaxation and decompression from the year’s academic exploits. Gone are the days of midterms and finals; here is the time for 24-hour naps and visits to old high school friends who are now really into recreational drugs. However, for countless others, these pastimes are a long stretch from reality.
Winter break presents undue financial stress on the students of Stanford who simply cannot afford the ticket home or have no other place to stay. There is an assumption that students have someone to look after them and ensure their safety during this time, but this is not always the case. Many students live and act independently from their family. Such students are pressured to find a place to stay in an environment that, for many of them, is foreign and new. The University’s safety net for this eventuality is convoluted and inadequate.
Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises suggests that students stay somewhere local or with a friend in the area, but this is not a suitable option for the many students who do not know the area well. They place themselves and their welfare at some risk by casting a decision in a situation where they do not completely understand their options.
The Stanford Guest House is the first option offered to students by the University, yet it’s closed for most of winter break and comes at a significant cost. R&D Enterprises offers housing for students who require housing for all three weeks of winter break, but only by reservation at least a month in advance. Space is limited, clearly, and this option, too, comes with a bill. All present options for displaced students are accompanied by substantial costs and risks, making none convenient or preferable.
It would be unfair to present all of these criticisms without providing some solution: Local students and alums could offer their residences as potential housing for displaced students with difficulties returning home. Then, students who require a place to stay over winter break would be housed and the students who house them would be compensated by the University. Besides the obvious benefits to both the displaced students and the students housing them, the program could manifest bonds amongst classmates and between students and alums, thereby strengthening the unity of the University as a whole. Such a program would eliminate some of the risk of searching for a safe place to stay in the area and the cost of doing so.
In promoting this potential program and criticizing the conditions that require it, I speak from a place of personal experience. I know firsthand that finding a place to stay in a new area can be scary, especially when money is tight and your first home isn’t an option (for emotional or financial reasons). I know it is not the University’s obligation to make that transition easier for its students, but I feel that it is within the University’s belief system to do so. It’s no secret that they want to help their students. If we allow students to learn in a secure environment, not only will they be better for it, but their future will be brighter for it, as well.
Contact Ari Pefley at apefley ‘at’ stanford.edu.