Coming into my senior year at the College, I was disappointed when my friends and I were unable to obtain housing in the co-op lottery. We had better luck, however, in the general upperclass housing lottery and picked into Sewall House. Overall, living here has been a great experience. I appreciate the atmosphere of a smaller house, similar to that of a co-op, with the added bonus of being in a more central location than several of the co-ops. I have also gotten used to the idiosyncrasies of living in the building, most notably that the washing machine and dryer are located within a bathroom. However, one issue still bothers me: the lack of a path to the front of the house.
Sewall’s front door faces east onto a porch. At the north side of the porch, there is a path that leads to Dodd Circle. But at the front of the house, the staircase, facing east, leads to a large patch of grass. This means that if one wishes to access the path to the south that leads to Sawyer Quad, one must walk across this grass.
When I realized there was no path to the front of the house, I was a bit confused. I could not recall a single other building on campus where one must walk across grass to reach an entrance. This seems odd from a design perspective, but I am more concerned with the safety and cleanliness issues stemming from the lack of a path to walk on.
Ordinarily, walking across the grass is no problem. When it rains or snows, however, the grass, as one might expect, becomes muddy. Since the snow in Williamstown may not melt from November to March, the grass may be muddy for several months at a time. In these conditions, it is easy for one to slip and slide, especially considering that the land to the south of the building is on an incline. In one incident, a resident of the house tripped while leaving and involuntarily created a snow angel. I have nearly done the same.
So, after walking through the mud, what happens when one enters the house? The mud gets tracked through Sewall (and probably one’s destination when one leaves). Not only is this unpleasant for the residents, but it makes more work for our custodian, Tammy. This is on top of the extra work that custodians have during the winter when they must shovel snow.
The simple solution would be to build a short path connecting the stairs in the front of the house to the path in between Sewall and Sawyer Library. A path would be significantly less muddy than grass, avoiding the above problems. I estimate it will take somewhere between five and 10 concrete slabs to cover this distance. One may find it odd for a student to be advocating for more construction, but I think it is for a worthy cause and will likely be of significantly lower cost than many of the College’s other projects.
Since there is a path at the side of the building, an alternative solution could be to exclusively use it during muddy conditions, which would require walking around the house when approaching from the south. I will admit that I am capable of doing so. But for somebody with a leg injury or similar issue, or for a visitor, it would be best if they had to do the least walking possible to enter or exit the building. And again, students in no other dorm must face this issue, as far as I know. If there are similar instances of a lack of paths to other dorm entrances, I would encourage paths to be built in these locations as well.
I will be graduating in a few weeks, so I will not be able to see any future improvements, but I wish for the best for future residents of the house.
Michael Green ’18 is a biology major and biochemistry and molecular biology concentrator from Woodmere, N.Y.