Verbum Ultimum: In Need of Housing

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 4/4/13 10:00pm

With the first housing applications for Fall term due today, the College's housing problems are again at the forefront of students' minds. Many of us have heard friends and classmates complain about the inconvenience of remote dormitories like the Lodge or the space constraints of one-room closets in Wheeler. Given the chronic shortage of quality housing, and considering that nearly 90 percent of students live on campus, the College should renovate some of its existing housing stock and add new, modern dormitories.

There is significant student demand for living on campus, yet the current housing stock has neither the room to accommodate everyone nor anything resembling uniform quality. As a freshman, one might be housed anywhere from the palatial Fahey-McLane or McLaughlin clusters to the dated and decrepit Choates or River. Some receive such low priority numbers that they are not awarded housing until right before a term is due to begin, giving them few options. Finally, students who come back to Hanover after an off-term are frequently shortchanged by this same lack of options.

The College cannot continue to have undergraduate classes of nearly 1,100 students and run on a quarter system that requires continuous shuffling of housing placements without at least remodeling its existing dorms or, ideally, building some new ones. There are several residential clusters the Lodge, Choates and River, to name three that were intended as temporary housing or have been considered for demolition, yet are still in use. Meanwhile, the freshman rooms in Fahey-McLane were intended as doubles, yet they are now used as triples.

While we understand that the recession may have forced the College to reduce new spending on buildings, it seems odd that the administration could find money for the Class of 1953 Commons and the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center but not for dormitory improvement or construction. Moreover, the College has mismanaged several previous construction projects, leading to massive cost overruns. For instance, in November 2010, the Board of Trustees planned to spend $13 million renovating the Hanover Inn; the true cost soared above $41 million. Improvements in the way that the College manages its construction projects could help provide the funds needed for dormitory improvements.

Finally, housing is as good a place as any to start boosting commitments from accepted students. The ability to showcase high-quality student living spaces on tours is undoubtedly a powerful recruiting tool, as a revamped housing stock holds the potential to increase the overall quality of student life. Until the administration is willing to tackle the housing shortage, thoughts of moving to a residential college format will remain fanciful and far-fetched.

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