Quiet housing remains popular

As a result of student demand, quiet housing was implemented in West College starting in the 2010-11 academic year. Since its implementation, quiet housing has generally enjoyed success as a housing policy, despite initial concerns.

Those interested in living in quiet housing in West apply in one of two ways. The first way is through the lottery process. In this process, students apply as individuals or in groups of up to four students. Individuals or groups are randomly assigned a weighted lottery number based on the group’s class year composition. The second way to apply for quiet housing is through advance placement. Students who feel they show exceptionally high need for quiet housing – be it for religious, medical, personal, sleep or study factors – can fill out a form requesting advance quiet housing placement. Students approved for advance placement are then assigned rooms in West.

Once accepted, students in quiet housing agree to respect students’ need for quiet, at a minimum of ensuring quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day, and other rules or guidelines established by the Quiet Housing Agreement or by the students living in West themselves. These rules and guidelines are not intended to be restrictive, but rather to be helpful to those students looking for a specific housing experience that are consequently living in West.

In 2010, Aaron Gordon, deputy to the vice president for campus life, clarified that the purpose of quiet housing is “not to be draconian about silence as much as it is to give the students who feel strongly about living in a quiet place a chance to build the community around that principle” (“College to implement gender-neutral housing next year,” March 17, 2010).

Sarah Rowe ’13, a member of last year’s committee to evaluate student housing, affirmed that about 60 percent of the community voted in favor of quiet housing in the 2010 spring neighborhood review, indicating a desire for the program that seems to have been sustained to the present. The review also showed a high level of satisfaction for involved students, with students in quiet housing reporting that they were either “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their situations. “The program is going well overall and has a great deal of institutional support,” Rowe said. “There are no plans at the moment to change the program.”

Doug Schiazza, director of student life, also spoke to the overall success of the program. “From my perspective, quiet housing appears to be going well,” he said. “Student interest has been strong each year we’ve offered it.”

However, this sustained high demand means that quiet housing must naturally be a selective process, as West only has space for 41 beds. With more students seeking quiet housing, more students will inevitably be turned away. Those students turned away are forced to find housing in other dorms in their respective neighborhoods that  do not have the same mandates to respect quiet living.

Max Heninger ’14, a member of College Council and the Campus Safety Committee, has been working to address the noise complaints of these misplaced students. “In our discussions with [Director of Campus Safety and Security] Dave Boyer, we found that students calling Security to complain about noise issues are often living in areas that are chronically louder than they would prefer,” Heninger said. “We also learned that the number of students who request quiet housing exceeds the spots available.”

While specific statistics from Security on noise complaints from non-quiet housing residents this year were not immediately available, the results of the Campus Safety Committee’s research thus far and anecdotal student evidence seem to suggest that there has been a recent increase in noise complaints, or at least an increased visibility of the problem on campus.

The preliminary research Heninger and the Campus Safety Committee have done also reveals the potential for an expansion of quiet housing. An expansion would enable the College to meet the higher demand for quiet housing and potentially reduce the number of noise complains that Security receives.

While the committee’s research indicates that an expansion of quiet housing could potentially be beneficial to parts of the campus community, no firm recommendations or plans have yet been made. The administration has no immediate intention to modify the quiet housing program as it stands, particularly because any expansion would necessitate a substantial number of interested students to justify the conversion of an entire dormitory to quiet housing. “Students I’ve spoken to have enjoyed the experience and found it promotes their success in the ways we were hoping it would,” Steve Klass, vice president for campus life, said. “We would need to think about what a critical mass would look like to think about expanding.”