"My dorm and I have a love-hate relationship"
Heading into college as a trans student, my dorm situation was the greatest source of stress. Finding out Hofstra was offering a whole floor catered specifically to my needs – the Gender-Inclusive Themed Living Community – was ultimately what sold me on the school. My stress disappeared and instead I found myself excitedly counting down the days until move-in day. I knew that no dorm was going to be perfect, but the second I actually arrived whatever bright-eyed freshman excitement I had had was immediately extinguished.
Moving in was bound to be stressful, especially when you’re a disabled person that can’t lift anything over 10 pounds. I should’ve known from the first moment I stepped into the elevator and didn’t see the button for my floor that things were only going to keep going downhill from there. But I held onto that hopeful enthusiasm all the way up the narrow flight of stairs, the wheeled bin filled with all my things left at the bottom. I could deal with stairs, no problem. Never mind my bad back, my mom’s bad knee and the fact that neither of us could carry much up a flight of stairs, we’d figure something out!
Then I opened the door to my room and discovered I was paying a frankly obscene amount of money for a room the size of a shoebox. After countless trips up and down the stairs and about an hour of desperately trying to maximize storage space so I had enough space to turn around in – spoiler alert: I didn’t – I was moved in. I made my peace with living in a closet-sized dorm, and that was that. Surely it couldn’t get worse, right?
During the first few weeks of September, I discovered that the stairway would get so humid that the paint would bubble and peel, mold would grow in the corners and puddles would form on the steps that were so slimy that I slipped on the stairs at least once a day, no matter how careful I was. Others living on the floor found their windows leaked horribly and my air conditioning refused to work. Work orders for the window went unanswered. I was told my air conditioning unit was unfixable because it couldn’t be accessed because my room is too small to move the bed even six inches away from it – which, coincidentally, is a fire hazard with the heat on, as it blows hot air directly onto flammable bedding and there’s nothing I can do about it.
When people get locked out, Public Safety often takes more than an hour – and on occasion over two – to get to the floor, and one officer even remarked after an hour and twenty minutes of me waiting that he “had no idea people actually lived up here!” With no resident assistant (RA) on the floor – we’re double-booked with the 12th floor, which is unfair to both the RA and the residents of both floors – it’s concerning to think about what would happen in an emergency.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my floor. Everyone that put countless hours of work into making sure there was a space on campus where anyone could live comfortably, regardless of gender identity or expression, is a great thing. I wouldn’t dream of moving anywhere else on campus. I have an amazing RA who does an incredible job of making sure the needs of the floor are met and our voices heard, despite having her own floor on top of mine to manage. Our resident director has been amazingly involved as well, taking time out of his schedule to personally meet with us and do his best to address our concerns. The problem is larger than either of them – it’s neglect by Public Safety, management and Hofstra’s administration.
Whether my experiences this year have been the result of a tendency of Hofstra to neglect or outright ignore the needs of minority students like those living on my floor or are indicative of a larger problem with housing here in general, I don’t know. Either way, it’s clear that there’s a problem and it needs to be addressed.