For such a small campus, Northwestern has an unusually high number of engagements and marriages. Just this past fall break, at least four more couples got engaged. This comes at a time when NW has decided to eliminate its married student housing program.
Over the past couple years, NW has offered married students the opportunity to live on campus in the Courtyard Village Apartments located by the DeWitt Family Science Center. Students with one person in the couple enrolled at NW as a full-time student could apply for on-campus housing if they would be married within that school year.
Currently, there are five student apartment units that are being used as married student housing.
However, NW has decided to use 15 to 20 of its available apartments for the new master of science in physician assistant studies and master of science in athletic training programs that will start May 2020.
The students residing in the married student housing were informed of this decision on September 9 of this year. NW will honor their one-year lease agreements and has provided each couple with a list of local rental properties and landlords.
The residence life staff and NW administration have apologized for the potential inconvenience this may cause married or engaged students.
“While I am very grateful that we anticipate having a full campus next fall, I do wish we had more space on campus so that we could offer married housing in the Courtyard Village Apartments,” said Marlon Haverdink, the dean of residence life.
The campus catchphrase “ring by spring” is said with a laugh at campus couples and put on orientation staff signs. To counteract this culture, students have adopted an infamous October Rule that keeps freshman from dating anyone until October—or risk being pranked.
This hasn’t stopped students from getting engaged during their time at NW.
During Steggy Keggy, first north hung pictures of 16 couples who’ve gotten engaged before spring in the past few years, but this number does not account for all of them.
Current housing policies put NW under no obligation to provide this service to married students on campus. But for students like recently engaged Ally Petit and Joey Lohse, this puts them in a tough position.
“We are looking at places around town, and it is proving to be rather difficult,” Petit said.
Petit and Lohse got engaged December 2018 and contacted Haverdink soon after to ask about their married student housing policies. They were told there was availability and had been planning on this convenience for the 2020-2021 school year after their wedding this coming May. Now they, like many of the married and engaged students on campus, have less than a year to find a different housing option on or near campus.
“I would love if Northwestern accommodated married housing, but we know Northwestern is not obligated to provide married housing to students,” Lohse said.
This change is likely to be permanent as the MSAT and MSPAS programs continue to grow in number.
“Since making this decision, we have had a high number of graduate students indicate that they indeed want to live on campus in the Courtyard Village Apartments,” Haverdink said.
The new MSAT and MSPAS programs have received a positive response from those involved, but the transfer of residence in the midst of such a high married and engaged student rate on campus makes some students wonder where NW’s values lie.
“I am curious about why Northwestern thinks their new PA students are of higher priority than married undergrad students,” Petit said.
NW recognizes the inconvenience this may have put on married and engaged students but needs to make decisions based on a multitude of factors.
“Our policy on married housing has always been to offer it to our married students whenever we anticipate having enough space to do so,” Haverdink said.