January 23, 2014
Before students first arrive at Hamilton, they are given the option of living in a double, triple or quad; no freshman can avoid socialization by requesting a single. This forced cohabitation ensures that students learn to live with others in close quarters and that first-years have a ready-made base of potential friends.
While everyone goes through this initial phase--some enjoying the experience more than others--by the time students reach senior or even junior year, many desire to live in a single room. Singles appear in a variety of locations--dark-side suites, Griffin Road apartments and light-side dormitories, to name a few--and the privacy and flexibility of a single appeal to a large number of upperclassmen. For example, seniors and juniors often populate the four singles of a Babbitt or Milbank suite and, in turn, find younger students to fill the double. Sleeping in a single is inextricably linked to seniority privilege on Hamilton’s campus.
Yet, while demand for singles is strong on the Hill, the supply of singles is about to shrink (see this week’s cover story). According to Max Schnidman ’14, 100 fewer singles will be available for next year’s housing lottery (550, down from 650). Of these 550 spaces, 270 singles are in substance-free areas and 140 singles are in Bundy, leaving 140 singles across the dark side suites, Griffin Road, 4002, 3994, Root Farmhouse, Eels, Ferguson and the dark side dorms not converted to first-year-only housing. In fall 2015, 18 more singles will open up in the new Minor Theater dormitory. Of course, singles not taken in the substance-free lottery will remain available for the general lottery.
How did we get to this situation of 100 fewer singles? While the well-intentioned new first-year housing plan, with its emphasis on placing all incoming freshmen into the same building and converting singles into doubles, played a large role in this change, another important cause was the student protests last year to keep Carnegie as an upperclassman-only dormitory. Because of the decision to keep Carnegie freshman-free, Residential Life has decided to convert the 40 former singles in Wallace-Johnson, North and Major turned into first-year housing.
The consequences of this change will remain unclear until the dust settles after this year’s Housing Lottery. Most likely, the already-intense competition for the suites in the blocking lottery will approach a Hunger Games-esque contest. In addition, students who desire singles will have to live in substance-free housing, even if they do not want to, and the sophomore fiefdom of Bundy might see an influx of disgruntled older students.
Are these housing changes good or bad? If you prioritize living in a single above all else, like many upperclassmen, there is little to cheer. For the seniors who still enjoy sharing a bedroom, however, keeping the quads available in Carnegie was worth the cost of lost singles. Whether the incoming first-years benefit from the new housing plan more than the upperclassmen lose remains to be seen. More than anything, these unintended consequences of the housing plan and the subsequent Carnegie protests illustrate the timeless lesson that there is “no such thing as a free lunch.”