Letter: ASG to work with council on ordinance

    As the occupancy ordinance saga continues to unfold, we have reached out to administrators and city officials to gain a firmer grasp of the situation. We have proceeded with care and caution—before we came to you with our interpretation and plan, we wanted to be sure we had all the facts and all the sides of the story. Our intent is not to inflame public opinion further; to the contrary, we want to emphasize the need for civility and effective dialogue.

    Here’s what we know: Enforcement of the three-unrelated housing ordinance will not begin in earnest until July 2012; the 52 houses on the list released by the city last week have not all been fully investigated and are not under threat of immediate eviction; the university is in discussions with the city regarding the occupancy law; student government representatives have met with and are continuing to meet with both city officials and university administrators on the matter.

    Here’s what is unclear: what enforcement will entail, exactly; what constitutes an enforceable offense; whether safety or occupancy is the key concern; whether a fully up-to-code four-bedroom house with four residents is in the clear (debatable, say city officials—but we need a clear answer).

    We are firmly opposed to the spirit and letter of the occupancy ordinance as it applies to students. At the same time, it is the law. We must respect city ordinances, and we encourage students to comply with the three-unrelated rule as they sign leases for the 2012-2013 academic year; we also urge students not to sign leases for any of the 52 houses on the list. We aim to cooperate when possible but fight when necessary.

    Our plan, over the next few days, weeks, and months, is twofold. Firstly, we will reach out to the student body—this letter is just the beginning—to inform students of the facts, their rights and privileges, and to advise them in their search for code-compliant housing. Simultaneously, we will move to engage city officials, aldermen and university administrators to seek both clarity on enforcement and a possible compromise.
    We are not giving up on the possibility of amending the ordinance. We are redoubling our efforts to build support for a more tenable, mutually beneficial occupancy rule. The prospect of an off-campus population even more thinly and widely spread out is disturbing, distressing, and unacceptable.

    To the best of our knowledge, the university is unable to and will remain unable to provide on-campus housing for any more students than it already does over the medium-term. Scattering 40 percent of the student body all over Evanston would force them to live in even more ‘shrunken worlds’ and walk back and forth from distant off-campus residences in the dead of the night. Undoubtedly, this will also weaken the spirit of the living and learning community.

    University administrators fully understand this situation and the potential consequences for students, and they are very determinedly looking out for students’ best interests—no matter how much their quotes in campus media seem to indicate otherwise. We trust our partners in the administration, and we urge off-campus students to immediately contact the Dean of Students Office with questions or concerns regarding inspections, enforcement and off-campus life in general. Keep them posted—they can help.

    University officials are also actively engaging the city to find a solution that will not involve heavier financial burdens for students and tradeoffs between community and independent living. Administrators have reached a similar consensus—it is best to work with the city’s democratic system to achieve a more amenable solution, because the authority to change ordinances and enforcement policies lies entirely with Evanston’s government.

    We urge civility, cool-headed rationality and cooperation, especially as the students-only town hall and the open-to-all Community Conversations events approach later this month. Knee-jerk reactions from angry crowds would severely damage an already delicate situation.

    We represent you. We are always open to questions, concerns, and suggestions, and we are always ready to help you navigate off-campus life.

    Steven Monacelli, ASG CRVP

    Abir Ahmed, Ani Ajith, Francis Brooke, Ian Coley, Samantha Wei, Alexander Tapling, Brandon McNamara, Jared Cogan — Off-campus Senators



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