January 23, 2014
During Fall semseter 2012, the Committee on the First-Year Experience released its report along with its recommendations for the program’s future. Among these recommendations were introducing first-year courses and restructuring housing with the purpose of placing first-years into specific residence halls.
The initial plan was to implement mandatory first-year courses in the Fall 2014 semester and to cluster the first-year students into Wertimer, half of Carnegie, half of South, most of Dunham, Root and Keehn. This plan has undergone revision, however. While courses designed for first-years will be implemented in the upcoming Fall 2014 semester, they will not be mandatory. Additionally, student protests concerning residence halls previously chosen as first-year housing led to changes. A key reason for the student protests was to save Carnegie as a residence hall for upperclassmen. As a result of the vocalized dissatisfaction, Wertimer, Wallace Johnson, North, Keehn, Major, most of Dunham and half of South will now become first-year dorms.
The present plan also designates that the bottom half of South will be reserved for students going abroad in the spring so that it can ultimately serve as housing for January admits.
These housing changes will have repercussions for the rest of student housing. In order for the first-year clustering to work, the singles in the residence halls designated as first-year housing must be converted into doubles. While this frees up rooms in Root, Minor, Macintosh and part of Dunham, those doubles will not be converted into singles. As a result, fewer singles will be available to students.
Director of Residential Life Travis Hill explained, “When selecting buildings for first-year housing we intentionally tried to protect the largest number of singles possible, which will also minimize the necessity of residence hall renovations. While we initially proposed using Carnegie for first-year housing, students expressed their desire to maintain the quads for upperclass students. We made the alternative decision to renovate North as a first-year residence hall even though it meant reducing the number of singles.”
How big of an impact will this have on student housing? Currently, including RA singles, about 650 singles are available to students. This includes the singles in the suites and the Griffin Road apartments, as well as any pulls that include singles. With the elimination of singles from North, Dunham, Keehn and Major, the total number drops to about 550—a 16 percent decrease in the number of singles available to students. Under the original plan, a smaller number of singles—about 10 percent—would have been converted into doubles.
The impact of this loss will vary by housing lottery. Neither the sub-free lottery nor the block lottery are expected to lose singles (unless sub-free dorms change), but additional doubles in Root will be available in the sub-free lottery. Since sub-free rooms have appeared in the general lottery in previous years, suggesting a lack of demand, it is possible that more sub-free rooms will not be taken during the sub-free lottery.
The largest impact of these changes will come in the general lottery, which will have about 26 percent fewer singles available than in the previous lottery (specifically, about 280 singles compared to about 380 singles). Almost half of these remaining singles are in Bundy East or West. Under the original plan, the general lottery would have had about 15 percent fewer available singles.
Given the extraordinary demand for singles in any given year, it is difficult to comprehend how students in the housing lottery will react. While most rising seniors will likely be able to get singles in the block lottery or the general lottery, rising seniors with poor numbers and rising juniors may be faced with the choice of a single in Bundy or a double closer to campus.
Hill commented, “It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the lottery this year. We plan to communicate clearly with students well in advance so there are no surprises…I strongly encourage everyone to come to the Lottery information sessions that we will offer. Students should keep an eye out for emails with specifics on dates and locations. But if I had to guess, I believe that the Blocking Lottery will be even more popular than in previous years.”
Future developments may ameliorate this problem. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Minor Theater will be converted into a dorm. Initial floor plans suggest that it will contain both singles and doubles in its apartments, which will add about 18 more singles to the pool.
Hill confirmed, “Minor Theater will come on-line as a residence hall in Fall 2015 which will provide an appealing, apartment-style housing option for upperclass students.”
Additionally, the potential reclamation of the Clinton Early Learning Center space in Root allows for additional housing, albeit in sub-free spaces.
The implemented recommendations of the Committee will no doubt have a visible impact upon the very structure of the College campus. However, the ongoing efforts to create enjoyable living experiences for the entire student body will ultimately maintain a positive perspective of housing at Hamilton.