Flames of the Torch

It seems that during the 2006- 07 academic year, housing was an issue for St. John’s from beginning to end.

The Fall semester started with a housing shortage on the Queens campus, leaving a small but significant number of students to be housed in the JFK Holiday Inn. Eventually this problem was resolved, and the University made plans to construct new residences in the coming years.

Now, however, it seems that there are once again issues with housing, this time in Spain.
When the students participating in the Discover the World program arrived in Salamanca – when they were originally scheduled to stay in Madrid – they discovered that they did not all have housing. The hotel the students were supposed to be housed in had a mere 22 rooms, not enough to hold all of the study abroad students. Nine of these students were then asked to “volunteer” to stay in a seminary for the duration of their time in Spain – a seminary that had no telephones or laundry facilities and was located
in a nearby village that, while only 10 minutes away from the other students’ hotel by bus, was difficult to get to because of the lack of frequent buses and cabs.

Ask any student who has participated in a study abroad program and they will tell you that it is one of the greatest experiences of college, and of their life. The chance to be immersed in a different culture is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Yet St. John’s managed to make the experience one that some students would like to forget.

It was not enough that they changed the destination at the last minute, but then to leave students without adequate housing in a foreign country? That is just irresponsible. But it gets worse.

The University explained the housing change for some students by saying that they were testing other rooming options for the future. Additionally, students were asked to volunteer to be housed in the seminary, but eventually were told that if they did not volunteer they would be selected at random and would have no choice in the matter.

And still, it gets worse. The flub was no oversight by the hotel, but rather a complete disregard for the students by the University. The hotel they booked, which has a
mere 22 rooms, would, even at complete vacancy, not be big enough to accommodate all of the Discover the World students.

It is one thing to leave students in the lurch here in Queens, but to have displaced students thousands of miles away from home and from anyone and anything familiar, and to have done so knowingly? That is one mistake that cannot easily be forgiven.

At a university that claims to always put the students first, it seems as if the students were not thought of at all. One can only hope that this experience does not define the study abroad program for future generations, for it would be a shame to have students miss
out on what should be a wonderful opportunity.