VSG passes bill on Morgan and Lewis arrangements

The bill will serve as an “opportunity for conversation” between students and administration, according to the authors

Updated Feb. 8, 2018 at 10:25 a.m.

On Wednesday evening, Vanderbilt Student Government Senate passed a bill regarding the current Morgan and Lewis housing arrangements in which two bedroom apartments are being converted into doubles and triples.

VSG hopes this bill will spark conversation between the student body and Housing and Residential Education about accommodating students during the FutureVU constructions beginning in 2020 by increasing off-campus housing options or looking to increase the number of residents in other on-campus residences.

The Resolution to Ensure Acceptable Living Conditions for Residents of Morgan and Lewis states that VSG Undergraduate Senate supports the living and learning communities and philosophy. It recognizes that the new residence halls will not be completed until 2023, and in that time there will be five generations of students that Vanderbilt must accommodate until these residence halls are complete.

The bill states that the current arrangement in Morgan and Lewis is not fit to house four people and therefore urges the university to consider and evaluate other on-campus options that could better house more students or allow more students to live off-campus.

The goal of our bill was to start a conversation about opening up the possibility of having more on-campus options

This bill does not create or dissolve any current legislation and instead, serves as an “opportunity for conversation” about the issue, as authors Sean Swinford, Arts and Sciences Senator, and Frances Burton, Branscomb and Blakemore Senator, emphasized throughout the meeting.

“The goal of our bill was to start a conversation about opening up the possibility of having more on-campus options… VSG would like to be part of the conversation about where those other locations could be,” Burton said. “We wanted to keep [the suggestions] vague since we don’t know all the variables, but we think there should be a conversation that that students are involved in.”

Swinford and Burton also stated repeatedly throughout the meeting that including a push to look at other on-campus accommodations was an intentional effort to be more collaborative with ResEd and recognize their position.

Dean of Students Mark Bandas responded to the bill, saying he saw it as a part of ongoing conversations between administration and the student body.

“We always appreciate and consider student input,” Bandas said. “We will reflect on and respond to the bill as part of our continuing communications with students about our housing policies. Vanderbilt has long been a residential campus and the university is working to further enhance the undergraduate experience through the continued development of residential colleges. While the construction and subsequent openings of residential colleges has necessitated fluctuations in our housing capacity, our goal is always to accommodate as many students on campus as possible.”

Joshua Allen, Hank House Senator, was one of two senators who voted against the bill.

“I think the way housing set up now is not ideal and I think [the bill] definitely illustrated problems. However, I didn’t want to vote yes on a bill that didn’t address those problems or create solutions and just acknowledged the problem,” Allen said. “I think it’s a great step, I think it’s definitely something to have a conversation about, but I don’t think that’s what a bill is for. [Bills] are about providing specific solutions and invite specific policies that can have an effect.”

Speaker of the Senate Molly Gupta believes that due to ResEd and VSG’s “close relationship,” ResEd will engage and work with senate to create a better solution rather than completely discounting the possibility of increasing off-campus housing allotments.

“Usually, they’ll present us the barriers to making a decision, whether it be a budgetary issue or where the campus doesn’t have the space to do something like we’re recommending. In those scenarios, we work to brainstorm with them to move past those,” Gupta said. “VSG’s approach will not be to back off, it will always be to collectively brainstorm together on paths forward.”

The bill will be available on Anchorlink by the evening of February 8th if students would like to read the bill themselves.

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