Throughout history, the Catholic church has been a refuge and haven for lost souls. In the 600s in England, felons in church were offered sanctuary for 30-40 days from persecution. In the 1980s, Central American refugees were offered shelter in American Catholic churches during civil upheaval. During wartime, churches were generally avoided during conflict, though often subject to change. It only made sense that in the aftermath of Sandy that left Gramercy Green powerless, I did not panic but looked up for guidance.
No, not up to God. Uptown, to Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus, where my boyfriend had power, Internet, and hot running water. This Jesuit university must have options available where a wayward, NYU soul could stay, shower, and get a bite to eat, right?
Wrong. Very wrong. Both of Fordham’s campuses, in the Bronx and Lincoln Center, have a peculiar guest policy, one that is unwavering even to the most needy cause. Because it is a Catholic university, their student policy has a “Moral Growth and Responsibility” clause, which states:
“One such principle holds that sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage. Cohabitation is therefore prohibited in the residence halls. Furthermore, a student is not permitted to request or cajole a roommate to leave his or her room, suite or apartment in order to facilitate sexual activities. Cohabitation may lead to sanctions ranging from Residence Hall probation to dismissal from the Residence Hall.”
This morality clause manifests itself in its guest policy, which prohibits anyone of the signing in a guest of the opposite gender overnight, royally screwed my roommate and I seeking refuge in the great land of power uptown. With no gas to light the stove, and our refrigerator rotting as we plotted, we set off to 60th and 9th, on foot, to try our luck with the fines. Each day someone stays overnight, against the policy, the host must pay a fine that starts at $15 and it doubles each additional day.
Arriving that Tuesday, we soon realized how bad the storm had hit and how long the power could be out. We were facing over a hundred dollars in fines. Our Connecticut families were out of power and contact and MTA was shut down, effectively trapping us on the island with our only connection at the Jesuit university.
With quick thinking, a lot of background James Bond theme music, and a little luck, we signed out at the main desk before the fine could get us. With my boyfriend’s suitemate distracting the guards, we took a back way that looped through the academic building and back to the second floor of the residence hall. Though usually highly guarded, he was not at his post, and with our friend blocking the security camera by talking, we ran up ten flights of stairs and back into the room.
For five days we remained in the apartment-style dorm, sending out my boyfriend for snacks and supplies when needed. By Saturday I was going stir crazy (you can only bake so much) but even seeing statuses of Kimmel and Alec Baldwin did not break my resolve. Having a hot shower, a bed, and perishable food on hand was more important than some entertainment and no plumbing.
When we arrived, approximately 30 other NYU students were lodging at Fordham. When we left, we didn’t know how many had stayed, but many probably had to leave or evade the policy by getting a same-gendered host. I hope that many were able to stay safe. I was shocked to see almost no outreach from Fordham to fellow universities who were struggling, and even more shocked to not see any variance on their policy during this stressful and dangerous time, especially when their facilities were capable when ours were not.