Let’s discuss everyone’s favorite topic on campus, based on how much they talk about it: housing.
Now, I’m not innocent of this by any means. I have written multiple articles about housing, on subjects including Jefferson Hall’s conversion from a freshmen dorm to an upperclassmen dorm, the recent flood in said building and the ever-present bug issue across campus dorms. It’s not that I have an obsession with housing, and I don’t think that the rest of the student body here at the College of William and Mary has this addiction either. The reason that I think we keep talking about housing issues is because of how seemingly impossible it is for either the students or for the College to come to a viable solution. The administration is in some deep trouble, simultaneously trying to make dorms more accessible while also trying to keep the older dorms from falling apart at the seams. It’s not as if they can take a year-long hiatus and try to fix everything at once.
The big topic on campus right now is the changes to who can live in Hardy Hall and Landrum Hall next year. As two of the nicest dorms on campus, they are high up on everyone’s list. However, as two of the most updated dorms, they are also the most accessible. This means that dorms like these keep becoming more and more difficult to live in because the College keeps finding other uses for them. For example, last year, Lemon Hall, Hardy Hall’s mirror, was changed from an upperclassman dorm into a freshman dorm in order to provide more freshmen with housing to suit their needs. This was great because now freshmen had more options and did not have to be plagued with housing that could not accommodate them, but it also meant that housing for upperclassmen was more limited, and everyone’s favorite dorm was now unavailable.
I always thought that this was a small price to pay to be able to house freshmen who might otherwise not be able to study here at the College. Why should upperclassmen who have other nice options complain about losing one dorm? They cry for accessible housing for themselves; why shouldn’t their younger selves have the opportunity to live comfortably, too? Also, who can argue with increasing diversity on campus by expanding the definition of a student whom the College can accommodate?
As a sophomore now, though, as I try to figure out where I want to live next year, I do have some more sympathy for their side of the argument. Scrolling through the list of dorms, I immediately struggled to find many dorms that have not had mold issues, flooding issues or a strange, inexplicable bee problem. The latest housing news is that about half of both Hardy Hall and Landrum Hall’s rooms are reserved for language houses and the Africana house.
Right now, those language and culture houses are located in the Randolph Complex, which is not only known for its mold issues and general unappealing appearance, but also is not accessible with elevators. Due to this, many students who want to immerse themselves in that type of living physically cannot have that experience. Also, due to the poor condition of those dorms, many students who could potentially be a part of those programs run away from any idea of it, trying to avoid living in that environment. So, of course, it makes sense that the College would want to relocate this type of housing to a much more desirable and accessible location, as well as to expand the language programs.
As I’m sure you can tell, this becomes a very complex conversation without a clear, correct decision. It’s not right to limit students to where they can live due to ability, but it also is not right to limit all of the appealing housing decisions and try to pretend that all of these problematic dorms are worth our money. I don’t have an answer as to how the College should miraculously complete all of these projects, or even an answer as to how to prioritize these issues, but I do think that everyone should come to terms with the fact that housing is not going to be perfect here for a while. Any decision that Residence Life makes always seems to be the incorrect one, but that’s because there are so many issues at hand that someone will always be disappointed. At the same time, though, I wish that the College would hire more reliable construction companies to renovate these dorms in order to complete quicker jobs over the summers and solve these issues in a more timely fashion. One reason that these dorms are rarely renovated is likely because they cannot guarantee that the dorms will be ready for classes to start at the end of August.
I hope, for everyone’s sake, that this is the last article that I have to write for a while about housing. But, knowing the College, I won’t hold my breath.
Email Alyssa Slovin at