As the Fall semester drags to a close, the phone calls from Housing Operations start to increase at an alarming rate, because more students are requesting to be released from their housing contracts. Without fail, each year around this time, I have a list of residents who have medical, financial, or personal excuses for not fulfilling their obligation to live in the halls. Some reasons are legit; I had one resident whose father refused to pay child support and the mother could no longer afford to pay for room and board. Another resident’s mother lost her job without notice two weeks after their student moved on-campus, and the unemployment checks were not stretching far enough.
However, there are also the lame excuses that are too pathetic to warrant my time. For example, I had a resident tell me she needed to be released, because she hated how her window faced the south side of the campus, yet refused to accept a room change. While some residents lack the creativity to manufacture good reasons for breaking their contract, others are too devious and dishonest for their own good. Sadly, plenty of my examples are lies fabricated, not by residents, rather by their parents who will not accept anything less than a contract break.
Last semester, after working with a mother for a week to build a solid case for a contract break, which was eventually denied, she called me up screaming as if it was my fault. Finally, when I told her there was nothing more I could do, she confessed that she was sending Housing Operations a letter from her daughter’s pediatrician that allegedly diagnosed her with anxiety and physical ailments as a result of a bedbug infestation. When I told her this was completely untrue, she threatened me with her lawyer and stated that she would do whatever was necessary to break the contract. What a great moral message to send your daughter, mom.
What frustrates me more than the conniving parents is how the Housing Operation office responds! In August, during training, Hall Directors are lectured on how stringent the rules are for granting contract breaks and that if a student fails to meet the limited requirements, no breaks will be issued. However, as December creeps closer, the office begins to reevaluate their available spaces for Spring transfers. Their eyes fill with dollar signs and the “student development” ideals are thrown out with the stale coffee grounds. No longer are they worried about holding residents accountable for sticking to a binding contract; they are more focused on how many people they can cram into any space big enough for a bed.
In the end, my peers and I try to teach residents that there are consequences for their decisions by upholding the very rules the Housing Operations office created. However, the sudden about-faces do nothing but inflate parents’ egos who believe throwing temper tantrums is the way to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes”, and enrage residents who were denied earlier in the semester simply because their space was not needed at the time they requested a change. I understand that college is a business now and that without 98% occupancy, my bosses job is at risk. However, at some point, we all need to take a united stand against parents who act like spoiled brats when they do not get their way. Too many parents threaten administrators, yet we continue to placate them. We need to stand up to the bullies and say NO!