I share a double room which is 176 square feet. One of the walls is not exactly connected to the others, the paint is completely peeling off and the window will not shut completely. Trust me, it was like this when my roommate and I moved in.
I’m really not trying to complain. I’m actually lucky enough to have one of the largest double rooms a freshman can qualify for. Doubles in Northwest are usually 152.16 square feet. Also, I really don’t mind sharing a room or dealing with the mild annoyances of living in an older, less maintained dorm. What I mind is paying over a thousand dollars monthly for this privilege.
According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the UConn administration made $20 million in revenue from room fees alone in the financial year of 2018. According to US News, 65% of 19,133 undergraduates live in campus-owned housing. Not taking into consideration any grad students who live on campus, in 2018 UConn made approximately $1500 in housing revenue from each student. This money is what the university collected above and beyond all dorm custodial cleaning, maintenance and repairs: It is unnecessary. The administration is our landlord.
In perfect markets, the prices of goods and services are determined according to their respective supply and demand. However, any logic normally applied to perfect market commodity pricing is inapplicable here because UConn has a monopoly over housing. Not to mention that UConn owns most land and housing closest to campus, they literally force freshmen to purchase on-campus housing in addition to meal plans. I completely appreciate the benefits of these ideas to campus culture and our social lives and development, but I do not appreciate the university taking advantage of this circumstance to maximize revenue at our expense.
In UConn’s defense one might discuss how university housing revenue goes toward other important programs and really has little to do with our housing, but we know this to be untrue. The administration says explicitly that the millions in housing revenue will go to future residence hall expansions. Spoiler alert: Future students will still be charged in accordance with revenue generation. Most of our dorms were constructed and paid for decades ago. Did the revenue collected from students back then pay for the construction of our dorms now? No. we still pay rent over and above the maintenance of our dorms because housing is a perpetual revenue generation scheme for the administration.
Whether or not we want to live in a society where landlords and rent are tolerated and even promoted is a different, important question. But we have concrete evidence as to how this negatively impacts our quality of life on campus. Many students are already going tens of thousands of dollars into debt for an education here — debt made obviously worse by the high cost of room and board.
As we know well, the administration doesn’t need a justification for directing all of its efforts towards revenue collection. However, it is convenient for them that our economic system commodifies every last object, interaction and relationship in our lives. Education and housing are not considered human rights in which we should share, they are considered accessible according to a market and an established hierarchy of wealth. UConn is taking advantage of our expectation that housing and education should be very expensive to justify its antisocial practices. Rent is not an inevitable fact of life, it is something that landlords extort out of tenants who cannot afford to own property on which to exist.
There is a more important cause of the university’s behavior, however. The administration charges rent because, like all of its other selfish and unjustified behavior, there is nobody standing in its way. The University of Connecticut is a powerful institution which attempts to maintain and maximize its power. We must remember that we are only helpless in the face of this power to the extent that we fail to organize and sustain mass resistance.
Harrison Raskin is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.