Junior housing was a success, but would senior housing have the same impact?

Jamie Archie, Opinions Writer

One of the wonderful aspects of Washington and Lee is the connection between the school and Lexington. The integration between the town and the school remains key for a continued respect between the two. And while things do not always run smoothly, the fact that the entire community gets along so well speaks miles to the kinds of people that inhabit one or the other (if not both).

Let me preface this by noting that absolutely nothing has been announced at all; however, I have heard continued rumors that the possibility of Senior Housing on campus could be closer than we think. I write this now because, by time the university announces any plans on Senior Housing, it will be too late.

Third-Year Housing has ultimately been a grand slam for the school, bringing the community a little closer together and fostering inter-Greek life relationships that might have fizzled out. Nevertheless, after speaking with an employee of a local store in town a few weeks ago, she mentioned that she has seen a decline in students since Third-Year Housing’s implementation. And the possibility of Senior Housing would be a larger detriment to the community and hurt the relationship between the town and the school.

Seniors that live off-campus (either in town or in the country) are often forced to go through the town, increasing the likelihood of contact between the community and the students. Seniors also find themselves eating in town more often, and isolating them would split the community even more.

But the isolation of the seniors would also hurt the community economically. As I mentioned, the town would lose out on customers at restaurants, as well as other stores that students passing by might happen to stop into. The rent students pay for houses in town also helps the town economically and the loss of that income may be hurtful to many of the landlords. Renting also often forces students to live directly next to or in neighborhoods with locals, allowing for exposure between the two.

While students at Virginia Military Institute do interact with the town as well, they do not play as active of a role as Washington and Lee students do.

Nothing is for certain, but I strongly urge the university to avoid the possibility of Senior Housing. It would drive a deep wedge between the school and the town. Sometimes, the relationship is rocky at best. But for the most part, the two get along better than most universities and college towns. I also acknowledge that there is likely no way housing could be built by my senior year. But the integrated community is a huge plus for many students and prospective students.

The town of Lexington was a significant factor when I looked at schools, and I hope it remains a factor for many more prospective students.