Letter to the Editor: Director of The FP Program

I am writing in response to the Op-Ed article in the March 8, 2018 edition entitled, “In light of new housing lottery, are Frances Perkins Scholars really considered equal to their peers?” As the director of the FP Program, I am compelled to answer the question and, in so doing, to correct some of the inaccuracies contained in the original article.

I want to first state very plainly that I am pleased with the new living options available to Frances Perkins Scholars beginning in the fall of 2018. The FP apartments on offer, each adjacent to campus, not only have more space, but reflect an option more likely aligned with the housing experiences that FPs, as independent adults, have recently experienced. One significant upside to the change is that each apartment will have a kitchen and afford Frances Perkins students the option to cook for themselves or to elect a full or partial board plan. I want to point out that this is not a privilege/option that traditional students enjoy. While it is true that students will have to leave their building to access laundry machines on campus, it is not true that wifi will not be available in the apartments. As always, any concerns about accessibility as it relates to FP students will be addressed on a case-by-case basis and the location of community gatherings will always take accessibility issues into account.

I would point out that there are only five Frances Perkins students living in Dickinson who will be back next fall — a number indicative of the steady decline in demand for on-campus housing by FPs. There is a financial concern at play here, but more importantly, the Office of Residential Life must responsibly manage the resources of the College and maximize housing opportunities for the entire student body. I can confirm that the unique needs of the FP community were kept in mind in the newly announced housing arrangement, under which current on-campus FPs will be able to choose between staying on in a single in Dickinson next year or to moving to one of three, shared residential apartment units adjacent to campus that the College has reserved for them. To be clear, returning FPs will not be forced “to move out of their current house, Dickinson Hall, to non-residential apartments,” but will instead have increased alternatives for housing.  Recruiting new FPs will not be more difficult and I predict that there will be many candidates who prefer an alternative to a residence hall environment.

It has been an honor to oversee the Frances Perkins Program for many years and I am always mindful of the challenges inherent to being a non-traditional student at a residential college established to serve traditional-age students. That said policies around issues like housing are always subject to revision, and I am grateful to my cross-campus colleagues for consulting with me around the needs of the FP community and treating this issue in particular with great sensitivity.  

We need to remember that the College’s commitment to providing many full-tuition scholarships to our non-traditional students is unrivaled and demonstrates how much this institution deeply values the diversity our FP students add to the student body.   This housing shift — one of many successfully weathered in the program’s history — is a necessary response to unforeseen changes to the applicant pool for the FP Program. As someone who strives to advocate for FP students, I believe that the new arrangements in no way undermine the College’s commitment to the FP Program or constitute unfair treatment of a cherished population.

– Carolyn Dietel, Director of The FP Program