Housing: the bête noire of Commons. Concerns about real estate and room assignments permeate discussions of the Commons, frequently overshadowing the system’s programmatic benefits. The hope is that by addressing these concerns, we can get to the good stuff more easily.
My purpose in this post is to describe in concrete terms what the 4/2 Commons system may mean for housing and room draw. If you haven’t looked at the President’s overview of the 4/2 plan, I suggest you do so, as my comments are an elaboration of the bullet points that appear on his blog.
The 4/2 plan stipulates that first years and sophomores will live in the geographical heart of their Commons, while juniors and seniors will be able to draw rooms (almost) anywhere on campus in a seniority-based room draw, free from Commons points. In other words, if housing is a market, we are deregulating the economy for juniors and seniors.
How will this new system affect current housing assignments? Freshmen will see virtually no change. However, sophomores could see a lot of change since the 4/2 plan mandates (let’s speak plainly here) that they live in Commons neighborhoods. In order for this to be possible, we will need to set aside rooms for sophomores in each of the Commons. In Atwater or Ross or even Brainerd, this will not present much of a problem since those Commons already have a goodly amount of “sophomore housing.” But in Cook, where sophomore housing is largely limited to Pearsons (about 70 beds), we will need to reserve beds in Forest to make space for the 100+ first years who now live Battell—a move that will displace some of the juniors and seniors who traditionally live in Forest. You see the problem: controlling the market for freshmen and sophomores will affect housing patterns across campus.
One solution to this potential problem is to build another one or two residence halls. This solution would loosen up the market, and allow us to alter the landscape for Wonnacott and Cook. For instance, a new first-year residence hall on the south side of 125 (across from Ross) would allow Wonnacott freshmen to move out of Battell and live next to Gifford (near sophomores). And it would allow us to thin out Battell, turning doubles into singles for Cook sophomores. Moreover, a second dorm would give us a swing space to house students while we renovate older dorms, like Forest, which need work.
And juniors and seniors? Many of them would live in residence halls that would cease to have Commons designations. This would allow Hall A and Hall B to become the generic senior suites that they really already are. I will speak to some of these administrative wrinkles in my next post.
P. S. Don’t forget the forums to discuss the 4/2 plan that President Liebowitz and I will be hosting on October 18 and 31. Check your email or the Events calendar for details.