For as long as any current students have been at Williams, the college has experienced a “housing crunch.” Increased class sizes and renovations in residences have contributed to the pressures on the College’s dorms. The housing problems reached a new level last spring, when 14 rising sophomores were temporarily left without housing for the year.
In the past, the Housing Office has employed stopgap measures to solve this problem. They have converted singles to doubles in East and Fayerweather, common rooms to student rooms in the Freshman Quad, Fitch North from primarily upperclass housing to a first-year entry, and faculty housing to student housing.
There was a time not so long ago when Williams students boasted that they were virtually guaranteed a single room by sophomore year. This year some sophomores find themselves spread across campus, living in row house doubles. Not only is this arrangement less than desirable for the sophomores, it changes the personality of the row houses, traditionally populated primarily by seniors. Indeed, last spring some seniors, hoping to find singles together, found themselves crossing their fingers and praying that West, home last year to many sophomores with low picks, would not be full by the time their pick came up.
The problem is clear: there are too many students for the existing housing. When the class of 2000 came to campus it was the largest class in Williams history. The classes of 2001 and 2002 have also been larger than the the traditional average. Apparently the target class size has been permanently increased.
There are two possible solutions to this problem: the college could erect new housing to permanently rectify the problem, or the target class size could be reduced. If the target class size remains what it is now and no real improvements are made to increase the physical availability of housing, it will continue to be difficult for the College to maintain the high standard of housing it once boasted.
Admittedly, Williams has had, and continues to have, some of the best student housing in the country, but the observable drop in the quality of housing over the past few years is nonetheless disturbing. The situation is far from intolerable, and Williams students will undoubtedly continue to make the most of their housing arrangements whatever they may be. The most troubling thing about the recent housing trends is not the prospect of students without housing — no one doubts that Williams will provide housing to all its students — but that the College has failed to propose a permanent solution to what is evidently a permanent problem.