The E.O. Bull Center for the Arts is bustling with students. All kinds of art hangs from the walls and is displayed all around us, creating an inviting and inspiring environment.
Sydney meets me outside and invites me into the studio she’s been working in, where she is cleaning up her latest project. As she finishes cleaning, and we look for a quiet place to talk, she remarks that this room is where you can find her when she isn’t in Main Hall, taking journalism classes.
Sydney Pike is a third year student at West Chester. She genuinely loves the University and is very involved around campus. Her passion shines through, especially when she talks about her involvement with the Miss WCU pageant.
Despite her love of West Chester, she was very nearly forced to leave. On December 9, 2022, just like hundreds of other Golden Rams, Sydney received the email informing her that she was not accepted to the second phase of the housing application process. Essentially, she was denied on-campus traditional housing. “I kind of freaked out because it was just, like, a shock.”
She had never been without housing like this before. “It was so out of left field [that] I did not get housing. So I’m like, ‘Okay, how am I gonna figure out my senior year?’ I only have one year left, I’m a junior, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ because I don’t have the resources just to find a place to live, you know?”
Sydney was especially scared because she struggles with a disability. In high school, she pushed herself in all her classes. She was an honors student. However, around Christmas when she was 18, Sydney experienced an episode of stress-induced cardiomyopathy. “It changed everything. I had to slow down because I was trying to do so much, I was trying to be an adult way too soon and way too fast.” She has to be careful, as she can have another episode if she is under high amounts of stress.
Because of her health issues, she needs on-campus housing in order to attend college. “I don’t have the resources [or] the funds to find a place to live.” Because she wants to ensure she doesn’t experience another cardiomyopathy episode, it is difficult for her to work. She is also not able to drive. Off-campus living would not be an option for her, given her disability.
Sydney attempted to get accommodations for housing with her disability. After finding out she would not receive housing, she recalled an RA who told her that there was a form online to fill out in order to get accommodations. However, when she searched online for it, she was unable to find it. She jokes, “I was like, ‘It’s not even real!'” After laughing, she adds, “Maybe it’s real, but it’s not easy to find. I could not find it on the housing website or on the university website. I scrubbed that website and I could not find anything.”
Sydney’s mother also advocated for her. She visited the housing office and told them directly about Sydney’s disability, unfortunately to no avail. The woman her mother spoke to was not able to help them. “She was nice about it, she understood, but she was like, yeah, that’s not going to change your case at all.”
Regardless of her housing struggles, Sydney notes that she is very lucky. She was able to secure a spot in Affiliated housing for the 2023–2024 school year. Due to her disability, it is necessary that she lives on North Campus, so that she is close to E.O. Bull and the rest of her classes.
Sydney is also eligible to receive the $2,000 stipend offered to students denied traditional housing. “I’m one of those people who will be getting a stipend, but I guess I don’t think it’s enough. I just feel like it’s nice, it’s very nice that we have that money, but that’s not going to cover much.”
Despite her love of West Chester, it is hard for Sydney not to be disappointed in the way they’ve handled the situation. As someone who has devoted much of her time to University activities, she feels especially hurt.
“You know me as someone, publicly, who makes a lot of TikToks and social media posts about West Chester and Miss WCU, and other organizations like the Swift Society on campus, so people know me. You know? They know who I am. And they know that I love it here a lot, and this whole experience kind of just makes me feel unwanted, because I don’t feel like they’re putting the right amount of time on this.” She adds, “I don’t know, I just feel used.”
Sydney notes the time she has spent participating in University programs and events, and that if she can lose housing given all of the time she has devoted to the University, then anyone can. “Anyone can lose housing. It’s not a pick-and-choose.” She continues, “There’s no favoritism.”
Sydney’s story is not unlike many others. Hundreds of West Chester University students were denied housing in December 2022 and found themselves scrambling to find a housing situation that would be manageable. As she stated: if she can lose housing, despite her disability and her devotion to the University, then anyone can.
Denying a student housing is also denying them the full opportunity to thrive and succeed. Sydney urges, “I love my university, but do better, please.”
RJ Jacobson is a fourth-year political science major with minors in English and journalism. RJ923931@wcupa.edu.