I am writing in response to the recent Op-Ed article, “In Light of New Housing Lottery, Are Frances Perkins Scholars Really Considered Equal to Their Peers?” that was featured in your March 8, 2018 edition. As a current Frances Perkins Scholar (FP), I would like the opportunity to not only respond, but to also help clear up some inaccurate information that was included in this article.
While I respect the author’s feelings and understand how disappointing and difficult change can be, I believe it is important to recognize that some things are out of one’s control and we must work together to find the best possible solutions. As for the article, I not only disagree with the author’s viewpoint, but I am sad that the article was written in a way that represented the Frances Perkins community as a whole. This article does not represent my feelings nor the feelings of many other FPs, and unfortunately contains incorrect information as well.
Contrary to what the article states, concerns around future housing for FPs has been taken very seriously and the administration has empathized with how difficult change can sometimes be. Over the last few months, there have been meetings between Residential Life, leaders of the Frances Perkins Program and FPs themselves to address these changes with careful consideration as to how to go about making them. However, decisions around housing are informed by demand and there just isn’t a way to predict what those demands will be from year to year. Recently, the demand for on-campus housing has plummeted and it is just not possible to keep Dickinson as an FP dorm. Last year, Residential Life opened Dickinson to traditional students who were 21 years and older to keep it as an “older student” dorm while also helping to ease some of the housing shortages across campus. However, with only five full-time, FP residents living in Dickinson, it became evident that more changes needed to happen.
The author states that administration breached trust, but I have to disagree with this claim. Administration brought to the table a preliminary plan — something to get things started and have since worked from there to make adjustments through feedback from our community. The author’s comments about receiving crumbs, being discriminated against based on age and being treated unfairly but expected to be grateful for being a student here have left me in shock. If anything, I believe we have received more privileges simply because of our age! Moreover, I feel that absolutely, we should feel grateful to be students here! Where else is there a scholarship program for older adults, that pays for their entire tuition? With that said, do I feel we should keep silent when something truly needs to be addressed? No, but let’s make sure we have our facts straight and take a long hard look at what we plan to complain about within the bigger picture.
To clear up some of the inaccuracies in the article, I will share with you the most recent information we have. No current FP will be forced out of Dickinson. All current, FP residents will be grandfathered to stay in their current room at Dickinson, if they so desire. In the future, although apartment housing will be preferred by the college, FPs can participate in the housing lottery if they want to live in traditional dorms. Additionally, it is promised that any accessibility issues will be addressed, and a solution will be found. Residential Life is currently working on Wifi for the apartments. Although there will be no laundry facilities in the apartments, FPs can access laundry directly across the street from each of the three apartment locations — in Abbey, Buckland and Torrey. Because the apartments have kitchens, there are also new choices in meal plans. FPs will be able to choose full or partial meal plans, or opt out of them.
As I contemplate the changes that will be happening with housing, I feel that the apartments will not only be more compatible with how we, as older adults live, but the college is going to great lengths in keeping our best interests in mind and have been respectful and thoughtful to our feelings while working with the FP community.
Personally, my experience at Mount Holyoke is one that I am so thankful for, from professors and administration to traditional and non-traditional students. I have felt included, respected and supported every step of the way. The Frances Perkins Scholars Program is a unique and very special program that has allowed me to be part of an inclusive and academically challenging environment. We, as non-traditional aged students, who for whatever reason, have not been able to complete our education until now, have received an unparalleled opportunity based on our merit! With that said, although I realize that we each bring with us our own histories and challenges, I believe Mount Holyoke College provides an equal opportunity to rise above them and leave ready to take on challenges and create new paths, whether we are traditional-aged students or non-traditional Frances Perkins Scholars.
– Susan Cooper-Daigneault, FP