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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Fulfilling our communal responsibility

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Opinions

In an effort to increase tuition revenue, the university has developed a plan to increase the student body by 400 students by the fall of 2014. To lessen the strain additional students might place on campus resources, the university has developed the Justice Brandeis Semester, which would require that students spend one semester away from campus. Per the present plan, JBS would remove 150 of the additional 400 students in the fall and spring semesters.

While JBS will lighten the load placed on campus proper, the increase in student population could potentially hit Waltham in its most vulnerable spot – low-income housing.

As it stands, nearly 500 students are either forced to live off campus or choose to do so rather than live in Charles River Apartments or the Foster Mods. These off-campus students directly compete with Waltham’s low-income population for housing. And according the 2007 Waltham Community Development Plan, the city is unable to meet the housing needs of its low-income population.

While the city is able to provide rent vouchers for those whom they cannot accommodate in Housing Authority dwellings, those residents are often passed over for students who are competing for housing in the same areas.

In other words, families who live in Waltham, raise their children in Waltham, and make their lives in Waltham are in danger of being passed over for those whose presence in the city is transient. Moreover, the displacement of this population will have dire effects on Waltham’s economic viability.

On the whole, it is evident that our university has failed to consider the economic impact of additional students on the Waltham housing market. More students competing for housing will raise rents for both locals and students – a scenario which hurts us and our neighbors.

Clearly, the addition of 400 students without the addition of 400 dorm beds is impractical. There is simply a lack of housing in the immediate vicinity of campus to accommodate additional off-campus students. And it would be detrimental to our community to have students live further and further away from 415 South Street.

But beyond what is practical, this university has a moral obligation to Waltham not to have upper middle class 18-year-olds displace low-income residents. We should enrich this community with our presence, not drain it.