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Pets on Campus: Some Colleges are Opening Their Doors to Man's Best Friend

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Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri has drawn the attention of some with regard to their policy on pets: its A-OK.

According to a recent NYTimes article, thirty inbound freshmen are planning to bring their pets to college this fall. This number represents a 20% increase from last year’s enrollment, obliging the college to redevelop dorm space into a pet-friendly commune called Pet Central. The dorm space will provide a stopgap, student-staffed kennel for short-term care.

Pets on Campus, Student Therapy

Interestingly, there seems to be a psychological aim to Stephens’ concession to pet-friendly dorms. The idea that the presence of the family pet will lessen a student’s anxiety over the transition of moving away from home has driven much of the energy and resource to make the campus more pet accessible.

“Stephens is hoping to smooth the transition of some students who may be so anxious about leaving home or adjusting to college life that a stuffed animal will not be of sufficient comfort. They want the real thing.” _(Steinberg/NYT)

Several concerns have been raised, however, that seeking out ways to connect these overwrought students with home by bringing family pets could risk what some call “helicopter parenting,” a term used based upon the trend of parents who continue to keep their young adult children within an arm’s length, not allowing them to progress in basic adult decision making and betterment.

Dianne Lynch, Stephens College President, acknowledged the possible implication yet still felt the importance of easing the pressure. She told the New York Times, “It’s harder and harder for students to leave home. Bringing this particular piece of home with them may make that separation easier.” (Steinberg/NYT)

Other experts say that young adults who bring their pet to college could jeopardize the transition process all together. “By having your pet there, you could have an excuse not to go out and talk to people." ” -Dr. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute (Steinberg/NYT)

Concerns for Animal Care

Other concerns have been raised over the safety and care of the animals. Students must learn quickly that caring for animals demands a constant attentiveness, and as per the campus’ strict policies on animal care, it will be a tough lesson to learn if students do not comply.

Pet-friendly campuses, in this case Stephens College, have instituted a Pet Council consisting of students and faculty members to make sure these rules are followed. If students violate any of the requirements for student and pet safety, the council reserves the right to suspend or terminate pet privileges.

Noise and nuisance issues fall under these stipulations, in addition to the size and type of animal a student chooses to bring. All pets must show proof of vaccination before admittance into the dorm.

Stephens College is not the only college to open its doors to pets. Colleges like Massachusetts Institute of Technology and State University of New York at Canton permit cats in some dorms, and other colleges such as South Florida and Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania have reserved dorm rooms for student pet owners. (Steinberg/NYTimes)

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