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Know Thy Neighbor: Interviews with Those Who Live on Campus But Aren't Students

Updated: Feb 14

By: Isabel Silverman

In separate interviews, three members of the Purchase College faculty opened up regarding their experience living on campus.

Cayla Salazar, the Associate Director of Residential Operations and Logistics, has been living on campus for approximately two and a half years at the time of this interview. She lives in The Olde with her husband and child.

Lizz Elvira, the Assistant Director of the Multicultural Center and the Supervisor of the Food Pantry has been living on campus for approximately one and a half years. They live in Fort Awesome with their husband and child.

Lupita Gonzalez, an assistant professor of psychology, has been living on campus for approximately one and a half years. She lives in The Commons by herself.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: Why did you decide to live on campus?

Salazar: It’s a requirement of my role on campus as I’m a part of an on-call rotation, during which I need to be accessible. I’m also expected to respond during an emergency no matter if on call or not. If there’s something like a fire or flooding, I’m on site helping students, day or night.

Elvira: As part of my job with the Office of Residential and Student Life, I’m a part of an on-call rotation where I can be called 24 hours a day for two to three weeks out of the semester. For the rest of my job, my hours are typically from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. I also do some of the evening and weekend events we have. So I negotiated for it as part of my contract because I knew there would be a time commitment.

Gonzalez: It was a good financial decision, I am also not from New York. I had only been to New York once before moving, and it was that same year. It was just the easiest thing to do for me at that time because I didn’t know anyone.

Cayla Salazar (Photo via Purchase College website)

Q: How would you describe the living conditions compared to what you’re used to?

Salazar: I’ve been living on a college campus since I was 18 in a variety of roles, and I knew getting into this field that living on a college campus would be a requirement. So, other than when I was living at home, I only have student housing to go off of.

Elvira: It hasn’t been a downgrade from the apartment we were living in. We’re around more people since we lived in a smaller apartment complex before, but that’s really it. Sure there’s been issues, but I don’t think there are any issues that wouldn't have happened in other apartment complexes. Like, we have white noise machines in the bedrooms, so we don’t hear other people’s noise and so that they don’t hear ours.

Gonzalez: Yes, I did downgrade on the housing. I have had relatively good living spaces in the past. So, it’s not as nice as I’m used to, but it’s still good. I didn’t live on campus when I was in college, I was a commuter. And then when I moved out, while in graduate school, I got lucky with nice apartments and off-campus student housing. After that, I lived in a townhouse that was roomy. That was in Pennsylvania, where it’s less expensive.

Q: How do you pay for on-campus housing?

Salazar: Because it’s a requirement of my job that I have to be on campus, it’s free. They can’t legally make me pay to live on campus when I have to live on campus to work here. But, in a way, I get paid less because housing is included.

Elvira: Because I’m a part of the on-call rotation I get it for free, which is great because this area is very expensive and now we don’t have to pay rent. I don’t know how I would do it otherwise. I used to live around an hour away and I would have to drive in. That was a lot. Though now it takes my husband about an hour to go to work, so we kind of traded off.

Gonzalez: How it works for some professors is that they get free on-campus housing in exchange for us teaching courses. Like how I’m teaching a first-year seminar.

Lizz Elvira (Photo via Purchase College website)

Q: How is your experience living so close with students? 

Salazar: Living close to students helps you get to know them better. Some of them even know me more than I know them. I’ve learned how to nicely introduce myself to my neighbors, letting them know who I am so they’re not caught in situations that they don’t want to be caught in. I have a tradition of dropping off a gift basket for them when I introduce myself.

Elvira: So I love working with students. The whole reason I chose my job was because I wanted to work with students. So, I love that aspect of it. Students haven’t been pushy about me being on campus and they’re not trying to find me at like 1 in the morning to ask me a question on something. The hardest part is my son because he's 3-years-old. He’s vocal and has a lot to say. Sometimes he’ll wake up from a nightmare. I’m always worried about noise-bleed. A technique we’ve been trying is getting him to work on his inside voice and on being respectful. Like, we have neighbors, you can’t come running into Mom and Dad’s room screaming. That’s just not something you can do. As for my son, he loves it. He loves being around the students. He thinks everybody’s his friend so he’ll go up to random people and tell them things. It’s pretty cute.

Gonzalez: A lot of students who see me, they just turn around and don’t say “hi” or anything. So that’s awkward. But then there’s some students who say “hi”. I don’t see students a lot though, like once I go to where I live and I think that that works for me. What I don’t like is the awkwardness of students acting like they don’t see me when it’s obvious. Other than that, I appreciate seeing students and them saying “hi”.

Q: Has living on campus changed your social life?

Salazar: It was a transition. At first, we had friends who also lived on campus, but now we really have to get off campus when we socialize.

Elvira: I don’t know if it’s affected our social life too much. Like, we don’t have friends come visit us on campus, we go to them. Just because we want to respect this space as a space for students. And we feel like if we start bringing our friends in or if we had a party, it just wouldn’t feel respectful for the students. It’s not a negative thing, but it’s something that’s changed with our social life. And we’re further away from my parents now. They live about an hour and a half away. So, that’s been a little bit of a challenge. Especially because they’re the people that I rely on for help with my son.

Gonzalez: Yes, I guess, I don’t know. It’s a little bit isolating, but I don’t know if it's because I’m living on campus. I have the unique circumstance of moving to New York alone and I don’t have any ties to New York. But I’m not sure if moving out of Purchase would help me socialize more, because once you get to being an adult there are very few opportunities to socialize. So I think that it’s just a natural aspect of being an adult.

Q: Have you had any difficulty separating your work life from your personal life?

Salazar: When I first started, it definitely had a negative impact on my work/life balance. I had to learn how to decompress. I started focusing on my family and that I was at home. It was a learning curve at first.

Elvira: I will say that living on campus makes it harder for me to have a work/life balance, just because I am around students 24/7 now. As opposed to before, when I would go home at the end of the day It’s really something that I have to balance for myself. 

Gonzalez: Yes, but that’s not necessarily because I live on campus. I think there are general outside factors that play into that, like how I’m here alone. If I had family here, I think I’d probably be spending less time on work.

Lupita Gonzalez (Photo via Purchase College website)

Q: Is there anything about living on campus you would like to mention or any other last thoughts?

Salazar: It’s a cool experience, but you have to be prepared. Set boundaries and be mindful of your surroundings. Recognize that it’s not the most ideal living situation with the unexpected noises and fire alarms that go with living on a college campus. I find it to be both convenient and inconvenient all at the same time.

Elvira: We send my son to the children’s center, which is right across the street, which is amazing. Just being able to walk my son to daycare and then walk back to work has obviously cut down on so much time for me and has allowed me to have more time with my son. Otherwise, I would be driving and dealing with a commute. Instead, I can wake up in the mornings, have breakfast with my son, and then take a leisurely walk across the street. That’s been kind of a nice benefit.

Gonzalez: I think, in general, I was concerned at first about it being awkward and seeing a lot of students, but it hasn’t been too bad. And I’ve realized that for me it’s been really helpful to have a car because I’m able to just get out of Purchase and go do other things. I think that’s helped me so that it’s not just horrible to live on campus. Yeah, there are a lot of things I’m looking forward to doing once I’m off campus, but there are a lot of things that I do like about being here. I really like the accessibility and being able to just walk to my office. I get more steps in because I live on campus. I don’t need to spend a ton of time in traffic, which is something that I hated when I was in graduate school. Traffic in Austin, Texas was horrible. Being here I’m just glad I don’t have to deal with that traffic. 



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