Mac Overflow and Empty Rooms

 Photo by Michael Fuller.

Photo by Michael Fuller.

In order to deal with student overflow and the estimated 70 students displaced by Carter renovations, the Residence Life Office increased the capacity for some rooms in Maclellan-Rymer halls, but not every room on campus is occupied and some students are asking why.  

With a smaller freshman class than usual and the fact that the students were 56 percent female, 15 of the rooms reserved for freshmen across campus were left empty. This predicament left a few students disgruntled—particularly those in Founders and Andreas who were looking forward to having freshmen and friends inhabit these unused rooms.       

“I was really looking forward to meeting new freshmen on my hall and was excited to be the friend that so many of the upperclassmen on my hall were to me last year,” says Bethany Beck, a sophomore on Gracewell.

When she returned this year, she was disappointed to discover that, despite the number of freshmen room reservations, only one freshman and two transfer students had been placed on Gracewell.

“I became even more angry hearing that other halls were overflowing and crammed with freshman and was furious for the people who had asked to be on our hall and been turned away because of ‘needing room for the incoming freshmen.’ I feel as though our hall has been forgotten,” she says.     

Carolyn Walters, a senior on Gracewell, is also concerned about the lack of new arrivals on the hall.

“As a freshman, it is important to learn from the wisdom and general life experience of  upperclassmen. Seniors too can learn from the exuberance of freshmen and their willingness to get involved on campus,” she says.  

Christina Warner is a returning senior who requested Gracewell before she departed for her Junior semester at Oxford, but was turned down. Upon returning, she learned that two of the coveted rooms on Gracewell had never been filled.

Frustrated by her discovery, she moved to Jungle—another Founders Hall with empty rooms. Several of her friends who had requested Gracewell were also forced to look for rooms elsewhere.

“With the absence of these potential hallmates, the Founders community feels empty and very unbalanced between freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Meanwhile, Mac is full to the gills. My friends in Mac don’t particularly care for it either,” says Warner.

The majority of Mac’s residents seem to be fairly satisfied with the cheaper room rates and fellowship resulting from the dorm overcrowding. Last February, Jonathan Ingraham, the Associate Dean of Residence Life, visited each of Mac’s four floors to promote the new option to applicants interested in registering for one of the 18 three-man rooms.

A number of returning students were incentivized by the opportunity to commune with more friends at a lesser rate than the $4,585 two-man. A number of incoming freshmen were also attracted to the $4,410 three-man price per semester, a financially savvy decision for those willing to gain $175 in exchange for an extra roommate.

In fact, Covenant originally constructed Mac’s two-man Suites to hold 3 students, and has sporadically opened the rooms up to their full potential during semesters of overcrowding. While the rooms are a little more cozy than usual, the suites’ expansive 12’x 12’ dimensions and attached 12’x 9’ study room provide enough space for a third bunk bed, dresser, and desk.  

Mac’s Resident Director, Jackie Robel, says that the shift has run smoothly. The only negative responses she has received are the emails written by concerned parents before the semester even began. She reports that “we have a lot of returners, but a solid number of freshmen on each hall.”

Aside from the incoming requests for a three-man room, she says that freshmen were allocated to certain halls on Mac in accordance to unique health requests and a student’s compatibility with existing hall culture.  

Lauren MacDougall, RA of Harambe!, a hall with three overloaded rooms, believes that the issue is at worst, something tolerable, and at best, a catalyst for camaraderie.

“The decision to offer three-man rooms in Mac has brought suites closer together and, while I wasn’t here last year, the hall seems to have become much more social,” she says. All of Harambe’s 9 three-man residents are freshmen.   

“While the rooms are more cramped, everyone fits. When the girls have to share a closet, they approach it with an attitude of ‘How do we make this work?’” she says.

Some students across campus regard the Mac overload as an administrative quandary, but MacDougall admits that “I don’t know the nuances and thought processes that went into the decision, but I haven’t seen any problems that would warrant that the school should have thought this through better.”

Andreas has far fewer empty rooms than Founders, and, overall, doesn’t seem quite as miffed about the decision. Prescott Davis, the RA of Bloodfield, reported that the two empty rooms on his hall “haven’t been an issue.”  

Ingraham reports that the present housing distribution plan was formulated early last February while he was juggling the logistics of housing incoming students along with displaced students from Carter.

With the space for 70 beds lost to Carter’s reconstruction and an estimated number of 315 new students—an estimate calculated from the average admission rate over the past five years, Ingraham was faced with a quandary. In addition to these considerations, he had to verify that a healthy percentage of freshmen made up each hall and a few rooms were reserved for possible transfers.  

“We want to make sure that each of our halls are going to provide a good experience. We want to make sure that there are enough students there to have a community, and that we are providing safe and healthy environments for the students to live in. Those are the big things,” he says.

Ingraham understood that the two-man to three-man shift had worked smoothly in the past and finalized the decision before housing requests were filed in April.

350 beds were reserved for freshmen across campus in accordance to the expected incoming rate and the number of students that had applied.

It was late summer when Ingraham received a more accurate figure of the freshman class and, by then, he says it was too late in the game to successfully adjust a predetermined housing arrangement to fit the current population.  

Jonathan has not received any complaints about the issue as of yet.  

When those in the campus community were asked if they thought the plan should’ve been modified over time to fit the current population, concerns about the disruption of premeditated room combinations were broached.

On the other hand, some students assert that the three-man assignments should remain intact, but a dynamic plan provides leeway for adjustment—particularly when the distribution of students is already off balance.  

Robel expressed that reverting the three-man rooms to two-man rooms would subvert the stability of the hall and the expectations of those who had signed up for the room.

“You could go back through and break up all the three-mans, but the roommates are paired together by personality. To take out one roommate would change the dynamics of the room, when one wants to care well and respect the time that has been taken to make these selections,” she says.

Warner also argues that students who had already registered for a three-man should get the room they requested, but concludes that the “school could’ve created a better distribution of the freshmen, as they are much easier to move than returning students.”

“It’s great to make a plan on an estimate,” says Walters, “but any good plan is adaptable.”