The newbie dilemma: Modern or traditional?

| Contributing Reporter

Riot-proof halls and communal bathrooms are soon to be a thing of the past. With Residential Life to shut down Rutledge and Myers residence halls next year, to avoid overstepping the Clayton fire marshal’s bed quota, and the creation of two new modern dorms, the debate over modern and traditional dorms is as heated as ever.

Some of the most pressing issues on the minds of Washington University students and prospective freshmen are where to live and which form of housing is more appealing. Students have the option of choosing the “old-school,” vintage living arrangement of a traditional dorm, or a modern one, which has won Washington University a place in the “Dorms Like Palaces” ranking in the Princeton Review.

Additionally, students have to take into account whether they want to share a bathroom with a suite of students or a whole floor. Some worry that suite-style housing makes a floor less social.

For the past decade, the University has demolished traditional housing, which features communal bathrooms on each floor, in favor of modern suite-style housing, in which all individual suites have private bathroom facilities. In addition, all remaining traditional dorms and modern dorms that opened this fall have been provided with TempurPedic mattresses.

Old dorms were renovated over the summer to resemble newer dorms. Rubelmann, Lee and Beaumont have all been fitted with new carpet, swivel chairs and an interior paint job.

These significant housing changes may or may not be serving the needs and desires of all incoming freshmen.

Andy Marsh, a freshman living in Lee Hall this year, chose to live in a traditional dorm for the social element that communal bathrooms and the absence of suites bring to each floor.

“[I chose to live in traditional housing because] I really liked the idea of a more social dorm,” Marsh said.

Marsh acknowledged that there are some benefits that come from living in a modern dorm, such as living in a newer building and having elevators, but he still prefers the traditional housing.

“Besides becoming really good friends with your suitemates and maybe a few other kids on your floor [as you would in the modern dorms], you become friends with everyone on your floor in the traditional dorms,” he said.

Parker Spielman, a freshman currently living in Danforth House, finds modern dorms to have environments conducive to socialization as well. He said this is especially true of dorms that have straight long hallways, such as Dardick House and Eliot House. Just as Marsh is happy with his decision to live in a traditional dorm, Spielman is happy with his modern living arrangement this year.

“It seemed ideal to live in a suite with four people,” he said.

For Spielman, having a private bathroom is a more comfortable and convenient amenity than communal bathrooms. When he visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology his senior year of high school, he found himself in a situation involving a female student using the men’s bathroom. After this incident, he decided that he would prefer suite-style living.

As far as living in a dorm that lacks TempurPedic mattresses, Spielman thought that the mattresses currently in Danforth and other modern dorms are neither good nor bad, and that it is a norm among students to bring a mattress pad to school to increase the comfort of the provided mattresses.

As the debate over modern versus traditional housing continues for current students and incoming freshmen who will live on the South 40 next year, one fact remains: Traditional dorms are slowly being abandoned in favor of modern housing.

  • Matt

    I absolutely agree with what Andy said. The traditional dorms are much more social. I think that when you live in a traditional dorm, there are certain quirks, nuances, and a culture that is unmatched in the cushy living of modern dorms. I personally live in Lee, but have friends who are in modern, and they say the only good thing is the spaciousness and the “private” bathroom.
    WashU should build new dorms that are “traditional” style… except for the riotproof halls. Give new freshman what they really want- social living in a beautiful “palace”