I am shocked by the decision of Mayor Thomas Menino and the Boston City Council to single out college students as the target of a new regulation that restricts the number of students who may share a residence. There is no doubt that students are part of the economic lifeblood of Boston or that the great majority of college students are responsible members of the community who are only trying to survive in the expensive housing market of Boston. Yet the mayor and the City Council, despite their vaunted enthusiasm for affordable housing, have chosen to make it more difficult for college students to find a place to live.
This is not merely “redefining the family unit,” nor is it a measure to regulate housing density. It is a discriminatory measure directed specifically at college students. It does not matter how big the apartment is, or how many bedrooms it has. It does not matter how quietly the students live. If five crack dealers choose to share an apartment, the City Council has no objection—but if they decide to register for college classes, it suddenly becomes a crime against the community. If the Council had proposed to discriminate based on race, ethnicity or sexual preference, this regulation would have been met with the revulsion that it deserves, but, because students are perceived as lacking in political power, they are seen as legitimate targets of abuse by public officials.
Why have college students been singled out as scapegoats for the rising cost of housing in Boston? Because they are perceived by the City Council as safe targets, lacking in political power. The only way college students will cease to be the victims of this kind of persecution will be if students choose to become to involved in local politics.
I call upon every student—and everybody who still remembers being a student—to register to vote in Boston and to take an interest in local politics. Take a moment to write down the names of the heartless bureaucrats who supported this measure last December—City Councilors Maureen Feeney, Michael Flaherty, Steve Murphy, Sam Yoon, Salvatore LaMattina, Bill Linehan, Charles Yancey, Robert Consalvo, John Tobin, Chuck Turner, Mike Ross, Felix Arroyo and Jerry McDermott. Put it in your wallet. Give a copy of this “enemies list” to every student you know. Carry it with you to the polls—and if you see any of these people running for re-election or for any public office at all make a point of voting for their opponent. Unjust persecution of college students will only end when it becomes political suicide.
Terrell T. Gibbs
The writer is a an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine who lived in Boston as an undergraduate student.