Northwestern Doesn't Care About its Students

Evanston, Illinois, which is where I go to school, has a stupid housing ordinance that states that no more than three unrelated people may live together in a house or apartment. It’s intended to ensure proper upkeep because, apparently, people who aren’t related to each other don’t care about the state of their housing, whereas people who are related do. (???)

Anyway, up until now, Evanston has not been enforcing the rule. But now it’s going to. Hundreds of Northwestern students will be evicted this summer because they live in houses or apartments with more than three unrelated people.

And today, the Daily Northwestern reports that the Northwestern administration will not attempt to lobby Evanston’s city government regarding this issue despite the fact that it directly affects so many students.

The Assistant Dean of Students’ response? Students should move farther away from campus.

Let me give you some background on Evanston. Although it’s obviously safer than some Chicago neighborhoods, there were eight homicides in Evanston in 2010 compared to just one in 2009–something that the University and the city police don’t seem to be too concerned about. Every couple of weeks, the entire University community receives an email alert regarding a crime that has just been committed on or near campus–muggings, assaults, break-ins, you name it. Last year, a man attempted to assault a woman in one of our academic buildings.

And with all this, the University administration thinks students should move even farther away from campus, risk even longer walks home in the dark, and live even further apart from other students–all to avoid getting off of its ass and lobbying against an outdated and useless rule.

Landlords, too, will be hurt by the enforcement of this law. The first Daily article I linked to mentions the fact that many of these houses and apartments really aren’t of the quality that families moving to a supposedly wealthy place like Evanston would be looking for. Many of the houses for rent near campus used to be for sale–until their owners realized that nobody’s going to buy them. Without students to fill these houses and apartments, many of them would probably be left empty.

Furthermore, Evanston officials have stated that the reason they’re starting to enforce the ordinance is to crack down on student parties. First of all, that won’t work–the number of people living in an apartment doesn’t determine whether or not those students have a party; that’s preposterous. In fact, if people have to live with fewer roommates, they may be more likely to throw parties so that more people come over.

Also, as the Daily article mentions, having students live in concentrated areas makes it easier for the police to patrol those areas. If students start living miles away from campus and having parties there, not only will that piss off even more Evanston residents who otherwise wouldn’t have had to deal with it, but it will also make it harder for the police to stop the parties.

But, most importantly–at least, to me–the hope of stopping college students from partying (something that’s never going to happen anyway) is not worth jeopardizing their safety. Evanston isn’t a small town in Ohio. It’s a city that’s located close to a major metropolitan area. It has very real crime issues. I am shocked that for how much money I’m paying to go here, the Northwestern administration won’t stick up for its students and battle this ridiculous ordinance. Instead, it’s asking us to move farther away from campus, dilute the sense of community that is already so fragile at this school, and expose ourselves to a greater risk of becoming the victims of crime.

I should’ve invested my $200,000 wiser.

[Update] Several of my friends have pointed out that this ordinance was probably originally enacted in order to prevent minorities (who ostensibly have lower incomes and would benefit from being able to share houses or apartments with other people) from moving into Evanston. I’m still looking for a credible source confirming this, but if it’s true–and it probably is–then that’s just one more reason to repeal the law. If the city of Evanston is using a racist law to attempt to control student partying, that is ridiculous. Not to mention that the law probably does disproportionately affect minorities.

Northwestern Doesn't Care About its Students

3 thoughts on “Northwestern Doesn't Care About its Students

  1. 1

    From what students have said from attending the Town Hall meeting last night, it seems that the reason Evanston has decided to start enforcing the “Brothel Rule” is in response to (and as “retaliation,” for partying incidents that have gotten out of hand. I just wonder why Evanston thinks that this is the best way to deal with the problem. Why not new legislation making landlords or residents more responsible to controlling noise levels and density in their apartment buildings… or something more directly and appropriately related to the issue at hand?? As you’ve suggested, they really are abusing this ordinance that may have been put in place for poor reasons in the first place.

    Well written, Miriam.

    1. 1.1

      Thanks for commenting!

      Yeah, I went to the meeting last night, and that was the impression I got as well–though despite numerous questions such as “Why is this being enforced now?”, the city representative didn’t have the guts to actually say so. Instead, he gave several reasons that the students at the meeting quickly refuted (for instance, if it’s a safety concern, why can’t four students live in a four-bedroom apartment? If it’s a garbage problem, why not implement stronger penalties for allowing garbage to pile up?).

      The truth is that this is collective punishment, plain and simple. And collective punishment, especially when based on an outdated, discriminatory law, is wrong.

  2. 2

    The city I used to go to school in had a rule like that too. It was that there couldn’t be more than 4 unrelated women living together in a house. I’m not really sure how much it was enforced, but I know that they changed it to be any 4 unrelated people, not just women. They claimed then that it was because they didn’t want the streets clogged up with cars. Even though related people can all have separate cars too. And if those people have to commute to school, the streets will be clogged up anyway. Same if they live on campus, because they still have to park their car somewhere.

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