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Larger enrollment fuels undergrad housing crunch

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

During Orientation, William Trinh ’12 found his hallway, but there were only five other first-years there. For the time being, Trinh is living in King House and assigned to a Perkins unit, thanks to a housing crunch caused by high enrollment.

With more first-years living on campus than ever before, the Office of Residential Life is struggling to find space to accommodate them. But according to Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life, the strain is only temporary.

With some freshmen now assigned to upperclass housing and lounges, older students are being placed in triples in kitchens and lounges more than in the past.

As a result, almost all hallway lounges and common spaces have been turned into bedrooms, Bova said.

Keeney Quadrangle has three study lounges left, while three rooms in Vartan Gregorian Quadrangle and two in Wriston Quadrangle have been made from kitchens and lounges, Bova wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

The housing strain may not last, though. Bova said that every year, about 30 to 40 students either do not come to campus at all or leave shortly after arriving. These students – whom he calls “melt-aways” – inflate the number of people with housing assignments, at least early on.

“It creates such turmoil in the first week every year,” Bova said. “We house everyone until the dust settles.”

This year, the overflow in the dorms is exacerbated by the influx of more first-years than expected. The class of 2012 has 1,537 students, compared to last year’s freshman class of 1,484. Though all first years have housing, some have been placed in non-traditional dorm settings, such as lounges, kitchens and upperclass housing.

Six first-years are living in King House but are included in a Perkins unit. Trinh said though it is not far, it is still inconvenient for participating in unit activities.

The first-years in King House have all been placed on a “retraction list,” Bova said, which means they will be moved as soon as there are openings elsewhere. However, they will not be moved until all six can be placed, and all roommates will stay together.

Also on the retraction list are freshmen living in converted Keeney lounges.

On the other side of campus, four freshmen are living in New Pembroke #2, normally an all-upperclassmen building. The two doubles are included in New Pembroke #3’s unit.

Bova said that no first-years are living in triples or quads. With the exception of first-years in singles who have special housing needs, all freshmen are in doubles.

The larger number of freshmen has also affected upperclassmen who were on the summer wait list for housing. Of the approximately 250 students on the wait list, many were still able to secure highly coveted living situations, like Barbour Hall rooms, Grad Center suites and Wriston singles, Bova said. About 50 students were placed in triples in large rooms, converted lounges and kitchens across campus. Colette DeJong ’11, who entered the housing lottery in a group of six with a poor number, was forced onto the wait list. She was placed in a converted kitchen in the basement of West Andrews Hall with two other girls.

“It was a lot worse than I expected,” she said. “It looked like a hospital with three beds crammed in.”

Right before DeJong moved back to campus, she heard through word-of-mouth about someone in Marcy House who was living in a double but had no roommate. After a day on campus, DeJong was able to switch into the Marcy room, which she said is a big improvement.

Other students are still unsure about their living arrangements for the coming year.

In April, Kelly Mallahan ’11 and Margaret Watson ’11 entered the housing lottery together but were also forced onto the summer wait list. The last week in August, they received an e-mail with a room assignment in Keeney and the name of a third roommate. The third girl, a varsity athlete, was able to find placement closer to the OMAC in a Pembroke single and called Mallahan and Watson to let them know.

Two days after Mallahan and Watson moved into their Keeney room, their Community Assistant let them know a different person would be moving in with them. Mallahan and Watson have been unable to contact their mystery roommate, and she has yet to move in.

“I understand that they placed a third person in our room. It’s huge,” Mallahan said, “but I’m just upset (ResLife) didn’t communicate with us.”

Bova said the first few weeks of school are always the most tumultuous for housing. As he becomes aware of the “melt-aways,” everyone on the retraction list will be relocated.

As students settle into their dorms across campus, many of the sophomores in converted-lounge triples will be offered new placement as well, he said.

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