Photo by Grace Zwierzyna
THE WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY HOUSING CRISIS AND THE FIGHT BACK
On Friday, Dec. 9, the Friday before Fall 2022 finals week, the West Chester University administration sent more than 800 students letters letting us know that our applications for university-owned housing for the Fall 2023/Spring 2024 semester was denied.
- $20,000 stipend for all students denied traditional housing, now and going forward.
- Revert USH-owned buildings back to WCU-owned.
- Develop new public dorm buildings by Fall 2027 and/or additions on existing WCU-owned buildings.
A STATEWIDE COALITION
Other students across the PASSHE system are also facing housing crises and crises stemming from budget cuts and mounting institutional debt. While we will continue to struggle for immediate relief at WCU, we acknowledge that the state system has ample financial resources and the legal authority to resolve the crisis gripping the whole state system.
We are therefore calling for a statewide coalition of students, staff and faculty to demand the governor’s office take responsibility for its state-owned system of higher education and not only fully fund it but take over the institutional debt used to hold students hostage to rising tuition and housing costs.
Reach us at:
- Instagram – instagram.com/wcu_housingcrisis and/or instagram.com/wcupasfsl
- Discord – https://discord.gg/EZHVschA
- Email – email@example.com
A TIMELINE OF EVENTS
When 800 of us were denied traditional housing on Dec. 9, 2022, we were told that as an alternative, we could move into USH, privatized or affiliated housing at double the cost!
Countless of us panicked as this huge spike in housing costs could mean inevitable houselessness or the end of our college career.
For many of us, this was the last straw. We mobilized two demonstrations on campus before the end of the Fall 2022 semester to demand fair housing for all because housing is a human right.
- We demanded that the privatized University Student Housing (USH) housing be made public and affordable.
- We demanded that all students have access to affordable, adequate public housing.
- We demanded that the university offer us stipends to make up the difference in housing costs.
- We demanded the university create more public dorms.
After our two rallies during finals week, we reached out to the president’s office to schedule a meeting to discuss our demands. We never got a response. We then wrote an open letter to WCU administration explaining the situation and restating our more than justified and reasonable demands. This letter was published in “The Quad,” the student newspaper.
Over the break we kept studying and learning about neoliberal policies causing the crisis. We planned a protest and occupation of the Student Housing Office for the fourth week of the semester, Feb. 15. We flooded the campus with fliers for our action and spoke to countless students about the situation and our campaign’s demands and actions.
On Feb. 10, the Friday before the protest, WCU President Fiorientino finally responded to our published open letter and our demands, point by point, in his own letter sent to the university community!
In that letter, Fiorentino gave some concessions to our demands. It was a partial victory that gave us energy and the optimism to keep fighting for all of our demands. We showed that when we fight, we can win.
In his Feb. 10 letter, Fiorentino states that there are plans to construct new public dorms once a site has been determined. Once administration decides on where to put these new dorm buildings, Fiorentino and the university administration must complete this plot selection and building construction by the start of the Fall 2027 semester. We plan to hold you accountable on this since we know that you have all the time in the world to decide on where this building will go.
But because it will take a minimum of 36 months for new university-owned housing, we need to demand that the university take over management of USH now, reduce prices and expand housing options everywhere it is possible.
Fiorentino also offered a stipend of $2,000 dollars. However, $2,000 for the year is not nearly enough when the average one bedroom apartment in West Chester costs $1,800 per month. The $2,000 was also only offered to those denied students who had filled out the supplemental housing application form a month later, which amounts to only about half of the roughly 800 students denied traditional housing.
With the action moving forward, Fiorentino sent out a second letter an hour before the Feb. 15 action extending the stipend to the 400 students denied in the first letter.
After a successful rally, march and two-hour occupation on Feb. 15, we are issuing a new list of demands.
When we fight, we win.
BETRAYING THE SPIRIT OF PASSHE
PASSHE was created to provide working people with an affordable, high-quality public higher education. West Chester University and other PASSHE schools have been betraying PASSHE’s own mission statement.
For example, in 2013, WCU administration penned a cooperation agreement with USH that, among other things, stipulated that WCU would “limit the use and growth” of the public dorms so that demand for housing would increase and justify increased supply of private housing.
The current housing crisis was therefore not inevitable but was consciously created to charge an already indebted student body twice as much for housing.