Recently many students signed their housing contracts for next year, however they may not realize how difficult it is to break the contract should they decide to live off campus.
Every student who would like to live on campus for the next school year is required to sign a legally and financially binding housing agreement. A student has to petition in order to have the contract terminated, based on either psychological, medical, or other extenuating circumstances. If the student’s petition is granted, they’re allowed to move off campus without financial penalty and, in some cases, without a refund.
“It’s not an easy process,” said Director of Residential and Commuting Life Moiré Bruin, who decides whether to approve petitions. “The petition to be released from the housing contract depends on compelling and unforeseen circumstances and I follow strict guidelines.”
Sophomore Andrea Welles said she did not like living on campus, and complained of loud noise that disrupted her sleep and a faulty heating system that left her room cold and uncomfortable in the winter. Sophomore Alina Browne said she wanted to move closer to home to be available for her sick father.
Both were shocked when they were denied the termination of their housing contract so they ended up taking a leave of absence from school in order to move off campus.
“She wasn’t very understanding about my situation at all. She had already let a bunch of people out of their housing contract already so she hit the quota and couldn’t exceed it,” said Browne.
Bruin denied the allegation of a quota.
“The College does budget on a certain number, for obvious business reasons and it is very important to maintain those but there is not a quota that I must stand by,” she said.
“Students who made that financial commitment must know that it is a legal contract and we will hold you to it,” Bruin said.
Kerry Taylor, a sophomore, petitioned and was granted the ability to move off campus after the first semester. Despite her mother’s passing last semester, Taylor said she still was required to produce a doctor’s note.
“It wasn’t about personal circumstance, it was about paperwork,” she said, “someone going through such a tragic circumstance shouldn’t have to sign some paper saying: ‘Your mom is dead.’”
While the cases of Welles and Browne are extreme, there are a significant number of students who were also denied release from the contract but decided against going as far as taking a leave of absence from school.
Some wonder why it is so difficult to be released from the housing contract.
“I can’t believe that money is more important to Mills than allowing students to go to school,” said Browne.
Some students believe that the housing contract guidelines are acceptable.
“It seems pretty fair to me,” said sophomore Jessica Rios, “The housing contract is a legal binding document and if you sign it then you are obligated to fulfill those requirements and endure the consequences.”
“If 300 students with the proper documentation to support their reasons for needing to terminate their contract came to my office I would let all of them go but we want to keep the integrity of this process. The last thing we want to see is a student taking a leave of absence; it’s unfortunate,” said Bruin.