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Since the University became a residential college in 1951 with the completion of Wriston Quadrangle, overcrowding has been a persistent problem.

A four-part series run by The Herald in the fall of 1968 proclaimed that all normal and emergency on-campus rooms had been filled, prompting the director of housing to call the construction of new dormitories "the greatest need in the University."

At a time when the University had plans to significantly raise enrollment from 5,200, the series raised particular concerns about how the rise in off-campus living could turn Brown into more of a commuter than a residential college.

By contrast, a front-page article at the start of the 1980 spring semester announced a vacancy of 75 beds for that semester, the result of a new residence hall opening. The new dorm provided necessary relief ­— the previous semester, 42 sophomores had to live in lounges due to an unexpectedly high first-year matriculation rate.

According to a housing official at the time, the 75 excess rooms did not significantly affect the budget and allowed for greater flexibility in room changes.

 "Dormitory overcrowding is over at Brown — at least for this semester," the article proclaimed.

But just five years later, Mike Trotter '58, then a member of the Corporation Committee on Student Life, told The Herald a very different story.

"All over campus, we don't have enough rooms — they have been cannibalizing other space such as dance practice rooms and lounges and turning them into dorm rooms," he said.

The following semester, residents of Andrews Hall, Keeney Quadrangle and South Wayland House again saw lounges disappear to accommodate an excess number of students living on campus, The Herald reported that fall.

In the fall of 1991, The Herald reported that the Office of Residential Life overbooks on-campus housing by about 30 or 40 students each year to account for unplanned vacancies during the semester and thereby reduce the number of empty beds on campus. That semester, the strategy resulted in 28 transfer and visiting students being housed in common spaces.

"It is a reality that there are going to be transfers," a transfer student told The Herald at the time. "They should plan ahead for us."

Two decades later, the practice of purposefully overbooking on-campus housing to account for unplanned vacancies is still in place, according to Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life and dining services. Stories of the impact of overcrowding have been increasingly prevalent in recent years.

A Wooley Hall residential peer leader told The Herald in fall 2005 that his unit was missing out on birthday parties and get-togethers because they lacked a common space to hold such celebrations. At the time, Bova said this overcrowding was the result of a higher number of current students seeking on-campus rooms than expected­ — one cause of this year's overcrowding as well.

A spring 2008 Herald article lamented the loss of Keeney lounges and its effects on living units' communities, recounting low attendance at unit events in unconventional locations, a pizza party in the hallway and study sessions in a laundry room.

During the first week of September 2008, The Herald reported that "almost all hallway lounges and common spaces have been turned into bedrooms" due to an unexpectedly high yield in matriculation for that year's first-year class.

"People want to use the kitchen," a sophomore living in a converted common space told The Herald in fall 2009. "So people come and knock on our door to use the kitchen, but since we are here, they cannot use it."

In spring 2010, the Herald reported that an inspection of 200 common spaces around campus by the Undergraduate Council of Students found that approximately two-thirds of the rooms were no longer used as lounges, and most had become dorm rooms.

But despite recent signs from administrators that an expansion of housing is on its way, there has been little indication that any institutional change will be made to prevent history from repeating itself.

 

— With additional reporting by Greg Jordan-Detamore




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