Traditional dorms make way for progress

| Contributing Reporter
Beaumont Hall, seen here, is one of three traditional freshman dorms still standing on campus. (Charles Herrera | Student Life)

Beaumont Hall, seen here, is one of three traditional freshman dorms still standing on campus. (Charles Herrera | Student Life)

All traditional freshman dorms on the South 40 will eventually be replaced by modern-style ones as a part of an ongoing process by Washington University to enhance the residential life experience.

The current Rubelmann Hall, followed by Beaumont and Lee, are slated for demolition, according to Justin Carroll, assistant vice chancellor for students and dean of students.

“There is, however, no specific timeline for when this work will actually be completed,” Carroll said, citing factors like maintaining adequate beds for students and the ability to finance further projects as crucial to the administration’s future decisions.

The old Shepley, Eliot, Liggett, Koenig and Umrath houses have already been replaced, while Park and Mudd underwent renovation.

There are currently no plans for the remaining traditional sophomore dorms to be knocked down, according to Carroll.

Traditional dorms are characterized by their shared bathrooms and—for Beaumont and Lee—riot-proof hallways reminiscent of mazes, while modern dorms enjoy private-suite bathrooms and more luxurious facilities.

Carroll cited several reasons for the University’s replacement of the traditional dorms.

Traditional dorms, he said, lack the academic support facilities that modern dorms provide, such as seminar rooms, multipurpose rooms for art and architecture students and music practice spaces.

In addition, traditional dorms “are not accessible and are not equipped with the latest safety features,” he said.

The existing utilities and internal systems are outdated and difficult to replace.

Carroll said that modern dorms also provide a sense of campus unity between professors and students and between classes.

“The older facilities do not have accommodations for faculty families to live in residence, or spaces for faculty associates to spend time with students,” Carroll said. “All of our new facilities allow students the opportunity to get to know faculty on an informal basis.”

(Paul Goedeke | Student Life)

(Paul Goedeke | Student Life)

Moreover, freshmen in Lee/Beaumont Residential College alone are not paired with a sophomore dorm, said Erica Townsend, the residential college director.

“The sense of community is different,” she said. “I think the University wants that sense of tradition to be consistent throughout, just to have a uniform experience as much as possible, that all students have similar opportunities from the minute they step on campus.”

But many residents of traditional dorms are said they are less enthusiastic about the change, citing the sense of community that traditional dorms provide.

“It gives me the traditional college experience,” said freshman Ben Prager, a resident of Lee. “It’s a shared experience that we’re all going through this together.”

Townsend said the setup of traditional dorms facilitates socialization. “Just in general, when people have to share more space, whether it’s study rooms or bathrooms, they tend to socialize more and get to know each other better,” she said.

“The hardships of sharing a bathroom are greatly exaggerated,” Prager said. “Why should everyone be forced into the same experience?”

Lee residential advisor Ted Herbstman agreed, saying that traditional dorms have “more character.”

“The college experience isn’t about living in a hotel room,” said Herbstman, a senior.

While it is true, he added, that students in traditional dorms cannot meet with professors in their dorms, they can still contact professors by other means.

“You can seek out help if you want it. So I don’t think that alone is enough of a reason to knock them down,” he said.

Townsend said students in traditional dorms are generally satisfied with the experience.

“People who come in here disappointed they’re not in a new hall end up enjoying their experience a lot,” she said.

According to Carroll, decisions have not been and will not be made without taking into account the desires of residents.

“Student input is gathered through a variety of means, such as RSAB [Resident Student Advisory Board], focus groups held by architects and forums arranged by SU and CS40,” he said.

  • Though I agree that a facility such as Lee could stand considerable updating, I would hope that community living will always be an option for university students. On the whole, I believe it is a much better way of building relationships among students, while suite-style living can certainly insulate students from many opportunities. I would also advocate for students to have a choice for same sex accomodations (vs coed).

  • John

    This sentence is incorrect. “Are said” should read “have said”.

    But many residents of traditional dorms “are said” they are less enthusiastic about the change, citing the sense of community that traditional dorms provide.

    Good article though; it covers the main points.

  • I’ve lived in both types of apartment styles. The traditional style is best if you want true student interaction. Common areas is where you make friends. Suite living leads to isolation, you might as well live off-campus or in grad housing.

  • Correction to my note above: my house is a privately owned affiliated house, not an annex. I say this just in case the word “annex” has legal ramifications. It will remain my residence, to share with our community, and to host our expanding Coop Library. An independently owned house provides legitimacy to our nascent cooperative network, which otherwise might be perceived to be entirely in WashU’s pocket.

  • Nathan Orlofsky

    LEEEEE NOOOOOO!!!! Best dorm ever, terrible idea to get rid of it.

  • The University paid a lot of money to convert the two bedroom apartments of the WashU Coop’s flagship Perry House into three bedroom apartments, in order to facilitate cooperative living. This reduction in privacy has worked very well for us, and ought to be a model for future student housing, especially in our off campus network. Cooperatives make better neighbors, or so we like to believe.

    Perhaps some students require more privacy. Why have a “one size fits all” housing policy? Let’s have more cooperatives, to complement our luxurious new dormitories.

    Thanks especially to Justin Carroll for his steadfast support of the WashU Coop, from the very beginning, when even our sympathizers were sure we would fail.

    Lecturer Dr. Jerome Bauer
    –whose privately owned home is a special residential annex of the WashU Residential Cooperative, by the will of the students…