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The Secret Life of a Scripps First-Year Living Off-Campus

By Madison Yardumian ‘21

It’s no secret that Scripps placed 40 of their first-year students in off-campus housing–that is to anyone beyond tour groups that are told “100% of students who wish to are living within our thriving on-campus community!” However, everyone else has heard the story of the now 28 Scripps first-years living off-campus, either from friends stressed about housing or articles from student publications. I figured it was about time this story was told from the perspective of someone actually living there. So here it goes, a story about life in the vast unknown that is the CGU apartments by a living and breathing Scripps “CGUer.”

In some ways, the CGU apartments are just like any other Scripps dorm. There’s the  same sense of sullen comradery expressed on shuttle rides back from late night study sessions as there would be during 3am fire alarms in Browning. But there’s some distinct differences. I live a few doors down from one of my closest friends, but also across the hall from a male graduate student and next door to a family of four. Unsurprisingly, there is a discrepancy between what residents living around CGUers think Collegiate Apartments should be and what college freshmen believe they should be. The realization of that truth combined with the red and tan color scheme of the apartment buildings (Scripps’ aesthetic could never!) and the pervasive smell of cigarette smoke wafting through the complex alerted me early on to the fact that my experience as a first-year was going to be vastly different from my peers.

And it’s not all bad. Many students originally in CGU housing moved on-campus, so some of the forced doubles Scripps first-years were living in have become quite spacious singles. Although for those still living in a double, it is pretty difficult to justify taking a bus to your cramped, dimly lit apartment with inadequate closet space and fickle A.C. However, the kitchen and bathrooms in CGU housing are extremely nice, and there is a private gym (albeit a very small gym that is pleasant to work out in alone, and almost unbearable to work out in when a sweaty male graduate student is grunting on the weight machine next to you). And as I watch little children playing with their moms while I walk to the shuttle in the morning, I remember that the world is so much larger than the 5Cs, and I’m very grateful for that perspective.

Now, let’s talk the pitfalls, of which there are many. Living with a bunch of older graduate students is weird, and the intermingling between grad students and first-year students has led to Scripps first-years experiencing various forms of misconduct from male students much their senior. And when the creepy older men stalking you doesn’t get to you, other predators will–one student recently reported that she was followed by a coyote as she walked to her apartment.

We have a shuttle that runs to campus from the apartments every 20 minutes, however, sometimes the shuttle goes off schedule altogether, leaving students forced to make the (advertised as 12 but actually 20) minute walk to campus across Foothill Boulevard. CGUers often rely on calling Campus Security for a ride when the shuttle stops running for the night (last call is 1:50), and have had extremely mixed experiences doing so. At the beginning of each semester especially, many CGUers were rejected from receiving an escort back to their apartment.

Further, it can be extremely isolating to live so far away from the majority of your peers. I always feel a twinge of guilt while asking my friends to push back our plans to accommodate the shuttle times. CGU apartments are also cheaper than Scripps housing, yet CGUers are forced to pay the same Room and Board expenses as everyone else. It is also important to note that while first-years living at CGU were chosen through a “random selection” process, the fact that multiple first-generation college students have been forced off-campus their first year of college is absolutely absurd. Scripps should not be making adjusting to college any more difficult for the first-generation students they claim to support.

Now, here comes the part where I pose the question all the students who were pushed down a slot in the housing draw are pondering: do CGUers really deserve first choice housing next year? My response is simple: whether or not our experiences “warrant” us to receive first pick on housing, that is what Scripps ResLife promised us. If you believe that the Scripps Administration needs to keep its word, then you should be supporting CGUers—period. CGUers have spent our entire first year feeling like an unwanted burden to Scripps, so when upperclassmen lash out against us, they only further alienate Scripps students who have spent our freshmen year quite literally isolated from the rest of our peers.

CGUers are not the problem; Scripps’ over enrollment is the problem. Moreover, for many CGUers, next year is going to be the first year we truly feel at home on our home campus (we’ve lived in an apartment before we’ve lived in a college dorm–just imagine that). We aren’t asking you to be happy that we are getting priority, we are just asking you to acknowledge that living off-campus as a first-year at a school where almost 100% of students live on-campus is an experience that extends beyond freshmen needing to “pay their dues” and live in less ideal housing.

So now you’re probably wondering…do I personally feel entitled to first choice housing after living at CGU? Not particularly. I would argue, excluding medical accommodations, no one needs to live in spaces as luxurious as Scripps’ suites or more coveted singles. However, since CGUers have been given the opportunity to do so, it would be illogical for us to not make the most of it. At this point, I believe questions about “deserving” are irrelevant, and it’s time for all of us to plan for our reality. I’ll start: next year I’m looking forward to inviting my friends over without asking them to take a bus, donning a backpack that weighs less than thirty pounds, and living closer to the school I attend than I do to Trader Joe’s. That’s really all I feel entitled to.

Image Credit to Scripps College

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