PC Culture

No, Purdue’s Dorm Rooms Are Not Like Prisons

Fence and guard tower at San Quentin State Prison in California (Stephen Lam/Reuters)
Comparing Purdue’s temporary student housing to prison is a slap in the face to anyone who is actually incarcerated.

Photos of temporary dorm rooms at Purdue University have prompted people to compare the living spaces to “boot camp” and “prison” — and that’s absolutely ridiculous.

The dorms in question are temporary living spaces that house eight to ten students, according to an article in BuzzFeed. They made news when a student-run paper, Purdue Exponent, posted a photo of them on Instagram.

“Faced with an excess of admitted students, Purdue University Residences continues to place some students in makeshift rooms in the basements and study lounges of residence halls around campus, like these in Shreve and Meredith residence halls,” the Instagram caption stated.

The photos led to a massive amount of backlash on social media, complete with some pretty outrageous comparisons:

Sorry, but this is totally ridiculous.

Is being housed in a room with eight to ten other students ideal? No. Is the decor of the rooms shown in the photos luxurious? Absolutely not. But comparisons to “jail” or “prison” are more than just a little far-fetched.

I’ve personally never been to prison (not to brag) but I have seen a lot of Lockup, and I know that prisons are far worse than what’s on offer at Purdue. In prison, there are little tiny toilets in the corners of the rooms, and you’re forced to use them in front of other people — some of whom may be vicious murderers, which I’m guessing these other Purdue students are not. In prison, one of your walls is a cage. You’re not allowed to bring the blanket that your grandma knitted for you to snuggle under to sleep at night. Also, it is my understanding that when you’re in prison you’re not allowed to just leave your room whenever you feel like it. Honestly, the fact that I even have to point out these differences is so absurd that I feel like my head is going to explode. Daring to compare these dorms to prisons is a slap in the face to anyone who is actually incarcerated.

What’s more, these communal rooms actually cost far less than the typical student housing at Purdue. Beth McCuskey, the vice provost for student life at Purdue, told BuzzFeed that the students in these rooms pay “the absolute lowest rate” that the school offers, which is about $1,200 per semester. (According to Purdue’s official website, the typical cost of housing is $6,714 per year — or more than double that cost.)

It’s also important to remember that this is just temporary housing. McCuskey told BuzzFeed that the students who are assigned to the temporary dorm rooms are typically reassigned to another room “within the first few weeks of class.” The students in the smaller communal rooms, however, might end up spending most of the semester in there.

Oh, and then there’s this: None of the students are actually forced to live on campus. They are allowed to move into off-campus housing at any time that they choose.

So basically, what we have here is a small percentage of students (McCuskey says that they “typically have 100 of these spaces”) who are essentially choosing to spend a few weeks living with a group of other students and enjoying the benefit of having to pay less than half of the typical cost of an on-campus room. That’s it. That’s not prison; it’s not even a big deal.

In fact, if you consider having to spend a few weeks — or even months — in a room like this to be some kind of insurmountable tragedy, then I’d say that you’ve lived a pretty damn charmed life and should probably stop complaining.

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