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The Dartmouth
May 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The River Runs Achoo It

Pollen, pet dander and peanuts all are common allergies in this day and age. Find yourself a squeamish four-year-old, and chances are the kid has all three. Shellfish and gluten are a bit more exotic, as any faithful hypochondriac would tell you, but there is one allergen more lethal than the rest, far less detectable and for which there is no EpiPen: the River residential cluster.

According to Dartmouth legend, many students have actually developed allergies to the sketchy, supposedly mold-ridden rooms of the River. Nestled close to the Connecticut River but far from the rest of human civilization, students have long decried the River as the worst housing on campus. Engineering students sneer at the browbeaten buildings as they mosey into the posh rooms of the Thayer School, and campus tour guides avoid it at all costs. While it is half a mile from the Green and was built when most of our parents were still teething, it remains to be seen if a person can actually be allergic to the River.

This myth wasn't pulled out of thin air, and Sidney Sands-Ramshaw '13 is living proof that there may be some truth to it. She moved out of the River her freshman year due to her mold allergies. But was this resident really allergic to the River?

"The only proof I have is that when I was there, I was sick, and when I left, I got better," Sands-Ramshaw said. Her allergy to the dorm also spurred allergies to other things, such as various metals.

"My doctor said that when you get that kind of reaction to one thing, your body can become allergic to other things at the same time," she said.

Sands-Ramshaw now lives far from the River, but she retains her allergy to metals, she said.

Another River resident, Patrick Gould '14, relocated because of a stress fracture. Schlepping himself up to the fourth floor of French on crutches and navigating the icy sidewalks prompted his decision move out. Although Gould had a legitimate cause, many believed he moved out for more trivial reasons.

"Many people's first reaction was to assume I just didn't like living there," Gould said. His decision, however, was based on the inconvenience, not the quality and location of the dorm.

According to the Office of Residential Life, injuries and ailments are often the reasons students use when requesting different rooms. Faking a sprained ankle or an allergy won't cut it, though.

"If it's a medical reason, the student must provide documentation," Director of Housing Rachael Class-Giguere said. "If students are claiming to be allergic, they don't say it to us."

She said that students tend to claim other factors like distance as reasons to move out. Only a handful of students change buildings each term due to the limited availability of housing. Of this small percentage, she said few are from the River cluster.

Allergies, real or imagined, are rarely the means through which students change residence halls. This begs the question: why is it so widely held that one can be allergic to the River?

As a River resident, let me put one myth to bed by saying this: The River doesn't suck. Maybe I have to wake up a few minutes earlier to get to classes on time, and maybe my dorm looks like a women's prison. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. It is a testament to this "little dorm that could" that everyone I have met in the River seems genuinely happy to be there. Additionally, the fact that my dorm is substance-free guarantees that I won't wake up to any vomit in my shower. And, because the dorm is so far away, I doubt that I will ever be pestered by any door-to-door salesmen, as they would most likely not bother to make the trip. So take your hamster tunnels, Choates, and enjoy your Plaza-esque rooms, McLaughlin. Me, I'm happy with the River and perhaps a little bit of Benadryl.