In light of the College’s recent decision to permanently ‘open up’ 20 single rooms across campus, we at the Record commend the Office of Student Life (OSL) for striving to find creative and cost-effective solutions to issues such as next fall’s expected surplus of students living on campus. As a residential college that encourages students to live on campus throughout their education, the College should be flexibly responsive to the changing housing needs of the student body year to year, as well as be well-prepared to ensure adequate bed count numbers.
Given the unexpected circumstances of fewer students deciding to study abroad in the fall and fewer seniors living off campus for the 2015-2016 school year, we feel this recent decision ultimately appeals both to the interests of the student body and to those of the College. Although it may be highly dismaying to rising seniors who were hoping to live in the spacious and centrally located singles of Dodd House, the College’s decision to convert those particular singles to doubles ensures that the resulting doubles will be reasonably sized. Although this may hamper all students seeking single housing options from obtaining an outcome matching their preferences, we find that the conversion of these rooms seems to be the best available option for the time being, especially given the alternative of opening up Dennett basement as upperclassmen housing in Mission Park. Doing so would be disadvantageous to both the first-years living in Mission, who benefit from living in exclusively first-year housing with their entries and Junior Advisors, and the upperclassmen who would be isolated from their upperclassmen peers and lose the opportunity to further interact with them in a residential setting.
However, in order for OSL to continue to be responsive to changing circumstances in the future, we recommend that it should not frame the conversion of these singles as permanent. As those individual living spaces have long been highly valued by members of the student body, the committee should strive to keep them open as singles when not critically pressed to do otherwise in future years.
Furthermore, we believe the College should strive to find a more permanent solution so that similar strains on housing can be avoided in the future. Therefore, recognizing that this conversion of singles to doubles is a palliative solution to a larger issue, we also commend the College for pursuing a longer-term plan, which includes cross-campus renovations and the construction of a new dorm to open in the fall of 2016. We hope this will not only provide a necessary margin of error allowing for flexibility with which the College can find adequate housing in situations requiring students to move expediently or seek temporary housing but also create housing options that conform to student preferences.
In the aftermath of this change, not insignificant in the prevalence of single housing options on campus, it is important to consider the College’s priorities for housing in the future. We commend the College for formulating the plan for the new dorm, which will provide singles for the majority of its inhabitants and doubles for the remaining inhabitants, taking student opinion into account via an online survey. It is important that, moving forward, the College should continue to factor in the types of rooms students want – not the types of room students currently have, which is merely what the College provides – to the utmost of their ability given budgetary constraints.
While we feel the College could do more to prioritize the availability of and creation of single housing options on campus, it has done well in precisely evaluating and accommodating student interests on other fronts. For instance, one of the survey’s results reported suite-style living in which common rooms and spaces are provided for students to socialize in their residential settings are crucial to student’s satisfaction with their living spaces and quality of life on campus. We applaud OSL for incorporating this student preference into its plan for the new dorm.