ORL scrambles to end housing crunch with 'tree houses'

by Tara Kyle | 9/24/01 5:00am

Last year's unexpectedly high yield among accepted students left authorities at the Office of Residential Life scrambling to lodge homeless sophomores; six "tree houses" occupying the lawn in front of the River apartments are the problem's most visible solution.

Plans for the makeshift dormitories came together when an ad-hoc enrollment committee made the decision in July, according to Director of Undergraduate Housing Lynn Rosenblum. Approval from the town of Hanover followed in late August, and ORL informed waitlisted '04s of the available housing shortly thereafter.

Each of the white, double-level structures houses 14 residents, all living in one-room doubles. The tree houses, which carry names such as Maple, Oak, and Spruce House, are coed by floor, with three bedrooms and one common area on the first floor and four bedrooms on the second.

The buildings are equipped with telephone and cable capabilities, and final connections for Ethernet should be in place soon, according to Director of Residential Operations Woody Eckels. All are carpeted and contain bathrooms on each floor, and the first floor "living rooms" will hold some furniture, but no televisions. Residents will have to travel next door to the River apartments for use of laundry machines and kitchens.

Students moved into three houses this weekend; the remaining three are still under construction. Rosenblum said the move-in date will come midway through the term, with the precise date dependent on the construction schedule.

When the buildings are completed, students currently living in lounges in Topliff, Gile, North Fayer and apartments off campus will be asked to move in.

Rosenblum noted that the Office of Residential Life succeeded in finding housing for all '04s who remained on the waitlist as well as students on the cancelled foreign study program in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"A lot of people worked incredibly hard to get [the tree houses] ready," Eckels said.

The question of how long students will be asked to live in these houses remains unclear. The Town of Hanover has approved the structures for three years, according to Rosenblum.

Residents of the tree houses who spoke with The Dartmouth expressed mixed to positive sentiments about their living conditions.

"It's not so bad -- the whole summer I didn't think I was going to have anywhere to live. After all that, having somewhere to sleep is good," Maya Srikanth '04 said, noting that she does miss access to a kitchen and laundry room.

"I'm just happy to be here," said Mike Angelicola '04, who was considering taking the Fall term off before receiving lodging in Maple House.

Area undergraduate advisor Alex Talcott '04 noted that he had received feedback from residents concerned that this was not merely a one-year solution.

"This seems to be an issue of growing pains," Talcott said, suggesting that the College should create a new 400-bed facility rather than erect temporary solutions.

Neighboring River apartments residents expressed a similarly conditioned acceptance of the situation.

"This is the cheapest real-estate on Dartmouth campus," Lonnie Threatte '02 said, adding, "Otherwise, I don't mind; it gets more people down here to hang out."

Threatte also suggested that the College provide more facilities, such as an open social space and transportation to the center of campus, to the increasing number of students in the area.

"It makes the River Cluster feel much more exciting and not so far away," said UGA Sylvie Liberman '02, expressing skepticism that the tree houses will be taken down in the near future. "Historically, the River was temporary, [and] the Choates."

Liberman's roommate, Anne Sosin '02, pointed out a consequence of the tree houses' quick-build structuring: "We can hear [tree house residents'] alarm clocks, their music, their conversations."

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