Suite Emotion
By The Amherst Student Editorial Board
The demolition and resurrection of James and Stearns in the near future is steadily becoming more than conjecture: several of our peer colleges are improving freshman housing in the hopes of increasing their yield, and Amherst has never been one to lag behind. Sadly, none of us will have the chance to relive our freshman residential experiences, but they may be instructive in thinking about what sort of housing we want for our future freshmen.

A common room on every floor, with one per dorm devoted to studying, would be an excellent addition to freshman dorms. However, if it comes down to a choice between a common room on every floor and enlarging the criminally small rooms in James and Stearns, we'll get much more use for our dollar out of more private space. While it's nice to have space to bond as a dorm, most Amherst students feel that common space is general Amherst space more than it is dorm space, and do their hanging out in friends' rooms rather than in lounges and basements. More storage potential in freshman rooms wouldn't hurt either.

It's worth thinking about the format of freshman rooms as well. Many other colleges offer freshmen the option of suites as well as normal doubles or triples. The new freshman dorms should mix a few suites consisting of a common room surrounded by one-room doubles in with the housing format we've come to know and love. In addition to offering the incoming class more housing options, this measure would also partially address concerns about common space. Suite common rooms are much more conducive to gathering and socializing than are dorm-wide common rooms, and much more comfortable to gather and socialize in than standard rooms.

The design of doubles and triples is also a concern. In general, two-room doubles and triples are preferable to one-room doubles, even if they're somewhat smaller. Triples should, of course, be larger than doubles.

Straight halls (rather than, for example, the Ls in James and Stearns) make it easier to interact with everyone on the floor. Rooms in James and Stearns are currently very dim; designers should take care to light the new dorms well, both with windows and with fixtures.

In any case, students should be consulted further before any major destruction of buildings occurs on the freshman quad. The input of current students on potential improvements for freshman housing will be valuable in figuring out the best configuration for our new dorms.

Issue 03, Submitted 2000-09-20 00:26:46