Our View: UA students deserve better when it comes to housing

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Our View: UA students deserve better when it comes to housing

CW Editorial Board

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Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still cited by many psychologists as indicative of what every human needs to not just actualize their potential, but also to live. At the very bottom of the hierarchy, nestled cozily amongst such items as food, air and water, is shelter. Shelter is more than just a basic human need, though; it is a right, a right necessary to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as our forefathers intended for us. So why do the University and the city of Tuscaloosa writ large believe otherwise? Simply because they can.

When the Hub on Campus opened last year and became a debacle that everyone not living there could laugh at, who was punished? Who was held accountable for the multiple shootings, break-ins and violent altercations constantly on display at Campus Evolution? Or better yet, who was responsible for the dilapidated conditions in pre-renovation Paty Hall, the same conditions that many complain of to this day in Tutwiler? The answer to those three questions: not a single solitary soul was held responsible. 

Time and again, the University has washed its hands of responsibility. The seemingly “freshman only” policy of university housing ensures that students are gone by the time they wisen up to the sometimes less-than-stellar conditions they are in. So things must get better after freshman year, right? That’s right, or at least it would be if the city of Tuscaloosa was willing to enforce any sort of meaningful regulation. One only has to look in the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange group on Facebook to see the horrible living conditions that the city of Tuscaloosa is allowing students to live in.

Now all of this is quite obviously a problem. We, however, would be no less of a problem than our city and university leaders if we did not offer solutions. 

The very first issue that must be addressed is the lack of quality control in construction. When construction companies find themselves too heavily pressured by budget and scheduling constraints, quality falls to the wayside. Legislation must be enacted to ensure that the safety and the quality of the buildings in question is of utmost concern. Especially given Tuscaloosa’s tendency to be a hub for tornadoes, these complexes must at least work to be disaster-proof. 

After this, which will be no simple task due to the sheer amount of bureaucracy involved, rent prices must be addressed. This is not something that government regulation can fix, at least not efficiently. Whenever apartments across the city realize that they are forced to compete with an immensely more convenient option, our very own University of Alabama, they will be forced to both lower their prices and raise the quality of the housing offered. The same logic applies to the University, who will realize that the thousands of dollars in rent students pay to live in Presidential Village is too much to pay when the students are receiving a room in a building that can’t keep its elevators vomit free for any substantial amount of time. 

What should we do as students in the meantime? Boycotts seem to have a long history of affecting change in this state, but much like all of you, we prefer to have a roof above our heads, so that is not particularly viable. What is viable though, is making our voices heard. Students can inform their peers of the conditions at various housing options. They can spread the word through social media, or better yet, students can write a letter to the opinions editor of their favorite University of Alabama student newspaper (letters@cw.ua.edu). If we as students stand up against these institutions hell-bent on denying us our right to safe, affordable housing while we pursue higher education, we can create the change our city so desperately needs.