Right after women’s basketball and the Darla Moore School of Business, the University of South Carolina loves to boast about having the best first-year student experience in the country.
In early September, the U.S. News and World Report’s annual undergraduate rankings put UofSC at the top of first-year experiences. Between an unmatched football culture, incredible student organization, and the celebrated University 101 course for first-time freshmen, it’s hard to be bored during your first year at UofSC. Yet, despite all of the attention UofSC has been getting for being so welcoming to first-year college students, they’re relocating over 200 of them with almost no warning; Nearly all of those students are freshmen.
On October 21, 2019, after three days of rumors circulating across campus, Cliff Apartment residents were formally notified by University Housing that Cliff would be “offline by January 2020,” this month. Only two months after moving in, students were told that they had to be out of their residence hall by January 14, 2020.
After spending months searching for roommates, buying bedroom necessities and preparing to make one of the biggest changes of their lives, Cliff residents had one question: why?
The short answer is the Campus Village. UofSC gained state approval for the construction of a 210 million dollar campus housing expansion that will eventually house almost 2,000 students upon its completion. Stage one of this multi-million dollar project is what’s tearing down Cliff Apartments and throwing students into new housing.
The announcement was met with a tremendous amount of backlash. Students and their parents took to social media in attempts to make UofSC postpone the Campus Village project until the end of the 2019-2020 school year. #SaveCliff, a GoFundMe dedicated to hiring an attorney for Cliff residents, multiple online petitions, communications with news outlets, angry phone calls to UofSC Housing representatives and calls to get the Governor involved. There was a call to arms for Cliff Apartments. Hundreds of people were angry because of what UofSC had done.
This anger was not unwarranted by any means. Transitioning to college is one of the most difficult experiences that a young adult has to go through. Suddenly you’re thrust into living on your own and are required to take care of yourself the best way you know how. There’s not a mother or big sister two doors down to help you deal with everyday issues. UofSC is celebrated because they work diligently to make that transition as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Forcing students who are in the middle of this life-altering change to do it all over again makes their transition into adult life more challenging than it has to be. For that reason, UofSC’s decision to shut down Cliff was irresponsible and not reflective of their U.S. News and World Report title.
University Housing is working tirelessly to make Cliff residents’ situation as painless as possible. Cliff students are relocating to housing across campus, with most moving to upgraded housing like 650 Lincoln for the same price they were paying at Cliff. These students were dealt a bad hand, and no one has the power to change that; however, they are not going to go through it alone.
Students at Cliff are not being forgotten by the UofSC community. When it became clear that no one could stop what was happening to Cliff, the UofSC community adjusted its goal: to make the second transition as sweet as the first one.
The University of South Carolina has the best first-year experience because of its community. When something happens within the university that no one can control, the 6,000 individuals who work on campus spring into action. Student Government, Garnet Media Group and countless other student organizations reach out to their peers who need help. All of these people do their best to make sure that the students are okay. They walk around campus every day intending to make it a better place.
The social media activism for Cliff is evidence of the community at UofSC. All of the work that was put in by parents, students, and strangers to save Cliff was from a place of love. All of the work that individuals across the community continue to put in comes from a place of love. UofSC is not Number one for first-year student experience because students get everything they want. UofSC is on the top of the list because even when students can’t get exactly what may be fair, this community rolls with the punches.
This community sees conflict and faces it head-on. This community refuses to let anyone go through hardships alone. This community does exactly what the Carolinian Creed says: “demonstrates concern for others, their feelings, and their need for the conditions which support their work and development.”
“Crises” are not difficult to come by. New tragedies strike every day and cause someone to lose a little bit of hope. But, the people at this university are always there to remind students that every tragedy passes, and every crisis only lasts for a second. The people at this university are not going to let anyone struggle on their own.
The University of South Carolina does not make the “right” choices all the time; no person, institution, or organization is without flaw. These choices are not what makes UofSC a great place to be. UofSC has an exceptional first-year experience because of the people here. As well as a second, third, and fourth. UofSC’s community will continue to take care of its own.
This university will continue to grow stronger together, crisis after crisis.