Students Petition for Continued Access to Substance-Free Living
By June Pan '13, Managing News Editor
Members of the class of 2014 have stepped up to demonstrate the existing demand for substance-free housing on campus. Erik Christianson ’14 and Johnny Citarelli ’14 organized a petition signing on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 8, in support of upperclassmen substance-free housing options.

“The petition is hoping to prove to housing authorities that Health and Wellness will not meet the spacial demands of sub-free applicants this year with such a large freshman sub-free population,” begins the Facebook description of the event. “We ask the College to renew its search of possible dormitories.”

The petition states that the availability of substance-free housing should not be limited only to freshman and the students who can fit into Valentine Dormitory, the current location of the Health and Wellness theme house.

The idea for this petition began when Christianson, along with a group of other freshmen, met with President Tony Marx, Dean O’Hara and Dean Hart earlier in the year. When one of the students asked about options for upperclassmen sub-free housing, he was told that their only option was Health and Wellness.

When the freshmen spoke with Kristy Gardner ’12, President of Health and Wellness, they discovered that Valentine would likely be unable to accommodate all the rising sophomores who wished to live in sub-free housing next year.

The theme house has recently expanded from one floor of Valentine to include both floors. Gardner acknowledged that not everyone who currently lives in Valentine chose to live there.

“There’s always a few people who ended up in Health and Wellness via opt-out and don’t stay,” Gardner said, “but otherwise most people do.”

According to Gardner, Health and Wellness has had high retention rates in the past few years, and she expects this trend to continue among current members, as well. Factoring in the populous sub-free community of the class of 2014, Gardner does not believe Valentine will be able to accommodate every student who applies for Health and Wellness this next year.

Christianson expects that, among his class alone, at least 70 students will apply for sub-free housing. There is only space for 50 people in Valentine.

The Presidents of Health and Wellness spoke with College Council last fall, hoping to find a permanent solution to the availability of sub-free housing. At the time, College Council decided that Valentine was sufficient for the needs of Health and Wellness and would not allocate further space for the theme house.

“It’s a little depressing to see the administration turn down sub-free applicants,” Christianson said.

After consultation with Gardner, Christianson and Citarelli put together a petition to gauge existing interest in Health and Wellness and thereby demonstrate to the administration that there is indeed a demand for sub-free upperclassman housing.

“There’s a substantial group of Amherst students who are sub-free or support the sub-free lifestyle,” Gardner said, “and we’re trying to ensure that upperclassmen who want to live in sub-free housing are able to.”

“Their frustrations were our inspirations,” said Christianson, referring to past efforts to expand Health and Wellness.

Gardner values her theme house for its role in fostering community and friendships. “There’s a wonderful community in the freshman sub-free residences, and we want to carry that forward for the upperclassmen.”

Christianson hopes that the administration will respond to student demands and allow Health and Wellness to expand, or else permit the creation of a new sub-free dorm altogether. Signatories to the petition so far include not only freshman, but a large group of seniors as well.

“Which is heartening to us,” said Gardner, who appreciated this show of support from students for whom next year’s housing is no longer a personal concern.

In addition to tabling at Valentine Atrium, the sub-free petition will be circulated around the school for the remainder of the week.

Issue 14, Submitted 2011-02-09 02:27:35