College to guarantee housing for sophomores

by Elliot Mattingly | 2/17/06 6:00am

Editor's note: This is the second in a multi-part series focusing on the future of residential life at Dartmouth.

This fall, completed residence hall construction will allow the Office of Residential Life to guarantee housing for all sophomores for the first time since at least the expansion of the student body during co-education. Previously, students with high housing lottery numbers were forced to fend for themselves when it came to housing. Typically, about 200 students were placed on a waitlist for housing, while 500 lived off campus.

Members of the Class of 2009, however, will not face these or many of the other problems associated with spring room draw this year thanks to radical changes in Dartmouth's housing options.

Overall, the opening of dorms combined with the shutdown of Hinman Hall and Hitchcock Hall will result in a net gain of 289 beds, more than enough to guarantee housing for the 200 students.

In the fall, ORL plans to close the two dormitories traditionally regarded by students as the worst housing on campus: the Treehouses and the Lodge. The College constructed the Treehouses five years ago to deal with the over-enrolled Class of 2005. Additional plans include the sale of Hinman Hall to the Tuck School of Business, which plans to tear down the aging residence hall.

Dorms currently under construction will open this fall, including the new Tuck Mall and McLaughlin Cluster dorms. These new dorms will feature radiant floor heating, air conditioning, vastly improved indirect lighting and practically soundproof walls.

Tuck and McLaughlin will feature a mix of singles and quads for upperclassmen and two- and three-room doubles for freshmen.

Dean of Residential Life Martin Redman characterized the new layout of renovated quads and singles as "giving the students what they want."

"Based on surveys we've done, we hear upperclass students want suites and apartments," he said.

Both sets of dormitories will also sport a variety of environmentally friendly improvements, including better, more efficient heating and more effective water heating for showers. The Tuck Mall residences will also utilize geothermal wells to help regulate water temperatures.

The College also plans to systematically renovate all of its aging dorms over the next few years as part of a general housing improvement plan.

"We have a lot of really old buildings, which are great on the one hand, but they only last so long before you have to do some major infrastructure things to them," Redman said.

Hitchcock Hall will close for the 2006 academic year for extensive renovations and reopen in the fall of 2007. Workers will remove asbestos from the walls, replace plumbing and install a functioning heating system. The asbestos in the walls of Hitchcock is also present in New Hampshire Hall, but in both residence halls the cancerous agent resides under at least four inches of plaster in the walls.

Redman described the current non-functioning thermostats in Hitchcock as merely "psychological," but after the renovations students will actually be able to control the temperature of their rooms. The bed count in that residence hall will decrease from over 110 to around 80.

In 2007, the College will repeat the process with Wheeler Hall and New Hamp Hall and in 2008 with Mass Row. Around 70 percent of the rooms in Hitchcock will become singles with private baths, while the rest will be converted to more spacious doubles and triples.

The kitchens in the older buildings will also be remodeled and made more accessible for students, Redman said.

"Basements are not the most desirable place to go cook food," he said.

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