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Delaney ’15: Students deserve better from ResLife

Opinions Columnist

When I came back to Brown for the start of the new semester, I saw many faces I hadn’t seen in almost a year. Junior fall is a time for many students to travel abroad, and my friends were newly returning to life at Brown. At the start of the semester, I also found that I no longer had a kitchen in Vartan Gregorian Quad B. As it turns out, the kitchen was turned into housing for returning study abroad students as a result of housing shortages on campus. During the first week, I ventured up to the third floor to see if any friends were cooking upstairs. However, the third floor, like the second, also didn’t have a kitchen.

Unfortunately for the 148 students who live in New Dorm B, there is only one functional kitchen, located on the fourth floor of the building. I don’t usually cook, but I know that the people living down the hall from me are off meal plan, as are several other residents on my floor. No longer having a kitchen makes things difficult for them. This is not only inconvenient, but it points out two serious problems with housing at Brown.

First, and somewhat less important, is the simple fact that many students go off meal plan but remain in dorms, expecting to have a kitchen available each day. New Dorm, in which all students are either juniors or seniors, offers an example of this popular lifestyle. By using the kitchens as rooms for overflow housing, Brown restricts the ability of students who make the choice to go off meal plan to make their own meals. This is simply unacceptable.

Unacceptable too is the lack of common space available for students to work and study as a result of the housing dilemma. Many students use common rooms to work, get together and escape from their rooms for a bit. Regardless of whether students frequently use a kitchen, a common space or a study room, it should be understood that spaces like these must be available for student use. Converting these areas is detrimental not only to the students forced to live there, but also to those normally accustomed to having them available.

Second and more important is the fact that this situation points out a blatant shortage of housing for students. This results in massive inconveniences for students and a clear reduction in the quality of living for many. This has been a problem in the past — a problem that many have tried to bring to the attention of the administration — but nothing has changed.

Many students are put in overflow housing after studying abroad because the University has not worked out the numbers in terms of available rooms and the quantity of students it needs to accommodate. Sadly, it has become commonplace to visit dorms that no longer have kitchens or common spaces available and meet people that live with unknown roommates.

It is not only returning students that find themselves in this situation. Summer assignment is all too common for rising sophomores and often results in the same scenario. Friends of mine were put into summer assignment after their first year, split up individually, put back together, split into two doubles and finally reunited in a makeshift common room for the duration of their sophomore year.

It is not fair for Brown students to find themselves in these types of situations, especially considering the number of students who are unable to live off campus each year. It does not make sense that so many students are denied off-campus permission when, year after year, Brown is forced to convert community living spaces — mostly kitchens and common rooms — into makeshift dormitories to accommodate an excess.

As I wrote in a column last semester, students’ quality of living is important, and the choice of where they will live for the year is an important part of their college experience. As such, the University should make more of an effort to accommodate all students in a comfortable manner, as well as in a manner that does not inconvenience the remainder of the undergraduate population. One simple way to resolve this problem would be to increase off-campus permission for juniors. Or better yet, to eliminate the three-year on-campus housing requirement altogether.

Housing is too critical a part of college life to be run by a system that is disorganized and detrimental. There are simple solutions that could be put into effect immediately and would greatly improve students’ living experiences. So please, Office of Residential Life, help my friends get their kitchen back, and let my friends living in the kitchen find the adequate living space they deserve for the $11,994 in room and board fees they paid this year.


Daniel Delaney ’15 can be reached for comment at

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  1. kazeegeyser says:

    That last point is key. We are essentially paying $1300/month in rent for the privilege of living on campus, which is totally absurd, especially given the physical state of some of the dorms that haven’t been renovated recently (past 20 years even).

  2. Thanks for speaking up for the residents of New Dorm B.

  3. '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

    have u talked to res life about your concerns

    • New Dorm B resident here! Yup! Several people on my floor emailed Reslife about the frustrating housing situation but they were very dismissive, and simply told us that we had to arrange to get our cooking supplies out of the kitchen-now-dorms in our own time.

      • Honey boo boo says:

        Yup I’ve always brought up concerns like that and nobody at Reslife gives a f*ck. like another poster, I had Black mold problems. Facilities didn’t do much to solve them- said they would have to rip things up to do anything. So even though my parents hit the roof, Reslife would not let me move or anything. They suckkkkk

      • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

        🙁 sorry to hear that. glad you guys have tried to contact brown directly — i find that a surprising amount of the time, students complain and complain without thinking to bring up their concerns to those in power.

        • The sense of entitlement among Brown students can be annoying. Brown has spent signficant amounts of money renvoating dorms over the past several years, and at this point probably has the best freshmen dorms among its peer schools. Students want it all–more financial aid, more food options, more study spaces, more first generation students, more international students, more space to practice their musical instruments..etc. All of these demands cost money, and at some point Brown’s administration needs to set priorities. I would rather see Brown continue to spend money on top faculty and research opportunities for students, and try to take out cost in other areas (administration, diversity office, etc). If you want to go to COlumbia and live in an off campus slum in a gross neighborhood, be my guest. I know several Columbia parents who complain about both on campus and off campus housing….which is expensive, tight and not well kept either. I know Princeton parents who complain that given Princeton’s endowment, the housing there is also subpar…..Also, Brown does allow a certain percentage of seniors (and some juniors) to apply to live off campus. Grow up.

          • I know the situation says:

            Having stayed with peers in Columbia and Princeton, I can assure you that our housing does not compare in relative terms to respective markets NOR in absolute terms to theirs.

            The fact that those parents complain can be a function of their own limited perspective and sense of entitlement?

          • Transfer to Columbia and be among 24000 students. See how much attention you get there.

  4. they did the exact same thing to new dorm b last year. res life gives no f_ck, dick bova is a sleaze

  5. tootsiepoo says:

    Agree with this 100%. Good job Delaney- this needed to be addressed, and you were unafraid to do that. Either Brown needs to grant anyone who could be using the lottery (sophomores and up) off campus permission if they want it, or they need to fix the dorms to a state where they are more livable.

    On a side note, I would love to see a piece about the state of Grad Center- I had mold in my room that couldn’t be fixed no matter how many times facilities came.

    My parents did an independent mold test that came out dangerously high. They are thinking about suing Brown once I graduate, since I had constant sinus issues my sophomore year while living in Grad Center that we think came from the mold- never had issues before, and don’t have them now. Know someone else who lived in a grad center room, went to the hospital because her asthma was so bad..and they found black mold spores in her lungs.
    Bottom line: Brown needs to clear this up. Its a liability issue. Parents like mine could easily sue for unsuitable living conditions to which the university offers no alternative, in practice- EITHER LET US LIVE OFF CAMPUS STARTING SOPHOMORE YEAR, OR PUT HEAPS OF MONEY INTO THE DORMS. one or the other.

  6. Same story in New Dorm A. I went to the kitchen two days into Spring semester, and the door was closed and locked. Ok, I thought, this happens, I’ll just unlock it. My key doesn’t work. A day later I see the names of three people on the door.

    This is a serious inconvenience. Luggings kitchen appliances and food up to the fourth floor is a pain, and I’ve only actually done it once. I’ve turned to eating out on Thayer, which has put a strain on my wallet and is terrible for my health. Nowadays I buy groceries at Eastside, and basically live on canned soup and cereal. This is totally unacceptable.

    ResLife needs to get their act together. There is no need to confine students to kitchen-less, unsanitary, often falling apart dorms. Especially when they could be living off campus for considerably cheaper with a much better quality of life, and other students could have access to actual rooms instead of janky re-purposed kitchen and common rooms.

    How can Brown consider itself a top university when this their students live in such a terrible environment with this kind of quality of life?

    • Honey boo boo says:

      I know, you would think it would be in Brown/ResLife’s best interest to not make like 80% of the student body really mad about perhaps the most important part of college life (your dorm). Like when kids back home from high school ask me how I like Brown, my housing experience has been so bad that I tell them they should think about the other Ivies. I haven’t visited another Ivy with worse housing than Brown that doesn’t let you live off campus- at least Columbia lets you live off campus. Jeez.

      Things seem to just be getting worse. now it seems like more and more upperclassmen are being forced into Grad Center, as opposed to just having most of the sophomore class live there for one year.

      Keep these up Daniel Delaney! Your articles are great and vocalize the concerns many of us discuss, but that nobody else at the Herald seems to have the guts to articulate!

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

      it’s THAT hard to get to the 4th floor? i don’t know about new dorm a, but when i was in new dorm b, the elevators were right across from the kitchens…

      • The elevators are about five suites away from the elevator – aka about 20 rooms away. And you have to lug pots, pans, and food up and down, because if you leave anything in the kitchen, you’re basically asking for it to be stolen. And given that cooking generally means more more ingredients and kitchen appliances than used to stick a bowl of soup in the microwave, this means multiple trips up and down.

        It IS a huge pain – especially when you only have an hour for lunch. I know people who have had to go back on meal plan (which is absurdly expensive) because of this situation.

  7. Don’t most schools just have an outside management company maintain dorms? It appears that arrangement works much better than the current in-house ResLife.

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