By John McKenna, FCRH ’14
The news that Fordham was #1 in a Princeton Review survey for worst food in the country was not a shock to the many people that have to eat at the marketplace every single day. Now though, we have another thing we’re #1 in: most expensive room and board in the country.
A recent US News & World Report listed Fordham as having the most expensive housing for any school in America, hitting nearly $15,000 per year, well above the $9,000 average for other schools. It might not be so bad if we had great living accommodations to match, but unfortunately that is not the case. Walsh Hall, an apartment-style dorm for upperclassmen, doesn’t even have air conditioning in all the rooms, and it is home to elevators famous for breaking down with students inside them, as happened last year. Surely, if students are forking over nearly $1,500 per month (assuming a student spends 10 months on campus) to live in these buildings, the least Fordham could do is give all students air-conditioning and reliable elevators.
On top of that, you also have one of the strictest guest pass policies a college can have, where fines can pile up even if your guest is one-minute late on the sign-out sheet, as well the hoops one has to jump through if a friend or relative wants to stay over (this was highlighted in a February blog-post). It is much easier to have guests over at other schools, and definitely easier to bring people over from the other dorm rooms, so why does Fordham make it so difficult? Are they worried that we can’t handle ourselves without a rigorous sign-in mechanism, and anarchy would rule? I doubt it.
The rankings for food and housing don’t come as a surprise to many students who eat on Arthur Ave or Fordham Road, or who go to parties and visit friends living on the nearby streets like Hoffman or Crotona. Houses and apartments off campus are significantly better furnished, and come with basic amenities like air conditioning, decent kitchens, and you don’t need to go through the numerous hoops and hurdles just to have people over. And its nearly $500 cheaper per month for that privilege!
As for the food concerns, I was stunned by one issue of The Ram where the Student Culinary Council blamed the students for the bad review. In it, Sama Habib, president of the SCC, attributes the ranking to “a simple bullying situation where the people who do have a problem with [the food on campus] just roar louder than the people who don’t.” Listen, we pay nearly $2,000 per semester for meal plans that half the students are forced to buy, and we are getting served food that not only makes some of us feel not-so-good after eating, it received poor health marks two years ago for cleanliness. Fordham and Sodexo both know that they are near the culinary hotbed of Arthur Ave, and there are two new delis on Fordham Road that are immensely popular with students and locals. It should be obvious that we are going to look at the food through the lens of its competition, but its Fordham’s job to justify the price of the meal plans by serving us food that we can at least be happy about eating. It isn’t like Fordham is strapped for cash or anything.
Fr. McShane always likes to tout his school’s academic tradition, and it is a very good one, as the banner hanging outside McGinley proves, but the reality is that these kinds of ratings hurt the university’s reputation with prospective students, and should be looked at with the same diligence and determination as finding the next great professor. Students go to colleges to better their lives, but where they will sleep and what they will eat are just as important. It’s time Fordham learns that and fixes it if we are to take our place next to NYU and Columbia as an elite school.