Students Fear Tight Housing for 2012-’13
Issue   |   Wed, 03/07/2012 - 02:02
Photo by Peter Mack '15
Students examine the housing layouts outside of the Residential Life Department.

Rumors about what will happen for room draw and residential life next year have been spreading like rapid-fire. With stories about how the trailers might once again become first-year dorms to how residential living is going to create more triples and doubles, students are clamoring for answers. Most of the rumors are false, but what is true is that there will be no room for change once the school year starts.

“We actually don’t have a housing crunch, per se. We actually do have enough housing to deal with all the students that are here. It’s just that we’re going to lose Davis as they get ready to do the Merrill Science Center. [But] there are enough empty rooms where if Davis had to be demolished tomorrow, we could put people in other places,” said Torin Moore, Director of Residential Life and Assistant Dean of Students.

There are empty rooms or rooms not filled to capacity scattered throughout the residential areas of Amherst College. The only issue is that these rooms probably would not be ones the students would like or ever choose willingly. According to the current floor plans of all the dormitories, there are enought rooms to fit every student in Amherst next year. Residential life has made it clear that no rooms that are not already designated as doubles or triples will be turned into them. For example, Valentine Hall has 14 rooms that can be designated as triples. There is one room in each of the first two floors of Moore that can also be used as a two-room triples. Chapman has large one room on the second floor that can act as a one-room triple.

Next year, the new addition of Leland allows for two large triples. This is all clearly stated on the residential website.

However, any student living in Val will realize there is not a single student there living as part of a triple. Residents in Chapman will note that everyone in the dorm this year has a single. The four students living in the aforementioned rooms in Moore will vouch that their rooms are definitely two-room doubles, not triples. There are no dorms using triples on campus this year because there was more than enough room to avoid that. Next year, there might not be.

It is true that next year, Davis will no longer exist and with its destruction will come the loss of 56 beds. However, rumors that the trailers will turn into doubles or even triples, possibly for first-years, are baseless – they will remain singles for upperclassmen. Other than the four dorms already mentioned, no other dorms hold triples. Even in Val, it is highly unlikely the current small doubles will become triples next year, despite the fact that they are listed as such on the residential website. However, the large rooms that can act as triples and some doubles in dorms throughout campus that are currently singles, could very well be triples and doubles respectively next year.

“There’s no padding next year. There won’t be any extra rooms, so the room change process won’t be available,” said Student Housing Advisory Committee (SHAC) member Ben McBratney ’12.

This year, students have been allowed to change rooms under extenuating circumstances. Whether it be an issue of incompatible roommates or other pressing reasons, there have been several cases in which students have been able to move into a different room. There are even first-years this year that now live in singles because one roommate moved into another dorm or room. Next year, there is no way for this to happen, which is why the Residential Life Office has been so insistent that students make careful choices for their living situations next year. If there is a problem, students will be forced to deal with it for the entire year.

Students, however, will still be allowed to switch rooms with each other. A student will be able to exchange a room if they find another student willing to do the same. Though these cases are often few and far between, it will still be allowed to happen next year.

What will not be happening is construction during the academic school year.

“Construction doesn’t happen until June 2013,” said Megan Doyen ’13, also part of SHAC.

By the time students return next fall, Davis will be demolished. The biggest difference for the socials will be the loss of 56 spaces. However, aside from the noise typical in that area and the space around Merrill, there will be no disruptions or construction while students still need to study.

Meanwhile, the residential renovation master plan that took a three-year hiatus due to the financial crisis will begin again. Eventually, the entire east campus will be torn down and rebuilt. One at a time, the socials will be demolished to prepare for newer, more aesthetically-pleasing dorms.

“We were going pretty consistently from 1999 to 2009 with redoing and refurbishing the residential halls. As we were redoing things, we were adding extra beds knowing that at some point, our biggest project, which was going to be the socials, was going to happen,” Moore said.

Hitchcock, before it reopened in 2009 as a dorm housing 73 students, could once only hold 36 students. Seligman, which until now has been used as housing for reunion classes and fits only 25, is getting converted to fit 45 and will open for students by the time the fall semester of 2013 begins. These are the dorms, among others, that will fit students in the next few years as one social a year becomes unavailable. After three years to figure out the capability of the College’s endowment, the Board of Trustees felt major projects like this needed to be squared away with their new economic confidence. Though the first and foremost is the science center, the socials remain an important part of this.

Because Davis is in the footprint of the plans for the new science center, it has to be demolished now. The project will impact the eastern part of campus, and part of the reason for the reconstruction of the socials is to create a balance between the dorms and the new center. Though the residential reconstruction will take a few years before it really starts and there is currently no time line set for the demolition of the rest of the socials, at the end the College hopes to have a completed vision that acts cohesively throughout the campus.

All of this will take years to complete. In fact, no current students will see the finished projects before they graduate. The College campus, which has been changing and improving over the past few decades, is and will continue to do so. In the meanwhile, nothing has changed for the process of room draw from last year and the next month will bring increasing information and decisions for students taking part in residential life for the 2012-2013 academic year.