Last year, around this time, I remember my roommate excitedly telling me that he was able to select a suite in a Greenway dormitory. He was excited because, as a rising sophomore, he thought his chances of getting a suite in the brand new dorms would be difficult. Even with the “33/33/33” policy, in which a third of the new dorms would be reserved for each of the eligible class years, he assumed that the rising seniors and rising juniors would take the suites. However, he was lucky enough to be in a room group with a pick between the sophomores and the juniors, as he had a junior in his group. He was thrilled to be living in a suite — for some students, the most coveted of living situations — and to live in a dorm that the college had advertised as fantastic new living spaces.
Fast forward to right now. Tomorrow is the second-to-last day of room draw. Those on the bottom of the list for rising juniors and rising sophomores will pick their living spaces over the next two days. And the Greenway dorms have barely been chosen. The Triangle (comprised of Mayo, Seelye and Hitchcock) is completely full. It appears that many dorms that were previously less desirable, such as Moore, are filling up more rapidly than Greenway. One thing is very clear: Amherst students do not want to live in the one-year-old Greenway dorms.
To put it bluntly, the Greenway dorms as living spaces have failed. It is simply embarrassing for the college to have built these new buildings, and now nobody desires to live in them. But what did the college expect when it built buildings that contained suites (albeit tiny ones) on the same floor as singles? Suite-style living is more conducive to socializing, and perhaps to partying a little louder, while singles lining hallways tend to facilitate a quieter style of living. Why put these two together? A friend who lives in the Greenway dorms told me that he received a noise complaint during orientation week, a time when students are more inclined to have louder parties due to the lack of classes. This is not to say that the student who complained shouldn’t have; rather, it is just a failure of design that people with two drastically different styles of living have to live together. The students in suites should be able to throw parties with louder music, while the students who want quieter living are equally entitled to that. When you put them together, no one is happy.
What did the college expect when they built dorms that have very small rooms, which were filled with pre-school-esque decorations such as the much-maligned giant Scrabble boards and clothespin bench, and are located in a relatively inconvenient place on campus? Did it really believe that students would be flocking to them? It is disappointing to see such a lack of foresight from the administration.
At the beginning of this year, I wrote in an article for The Student that by knocking down the social dorms and not providing an adequate or comparable replacement, the college risked ruining social life here at Amherst. I included at the end a caveat: it was early in the year, so I didn’t want to rush to judgment. However, it is mid-April and the semester is winding down. I am confident in my belief now: the Greenway dorms have failed in nearly every way. They did not provide an adequate replacement to the socials, where larger groups of students could gather on the weekends to have parties without disturbing students who did not want to participate. They did not create the residential culture that the college hoped for, where different types of students want to live together, because few students seem to want to live in the Greenway dorms at all. And the unfortunate truth is that, because of how recently these dorms were built, we are unlikely to see a solution to these problems any time soon.