Thoughts on Suite Living
On Oct. 11, the Board of Trustees approved a new facilities plan which, among other things, called for the Social Dorms to be razed to make way for a new science center. The plan potentially kills two birds with one stone by ensuring Amherst remains competitive in undergraduate science and by dealing with the dilapidated Socials. While the Socials, at present, may be for many an important focal point for social life, these changes are long overdue. The facilities themselves are old and decrepit after years of abuse, and the buildings themselves embody and facilitate a environment and culture from which the College seeks to distance itself as it moves into the future.
Therefore, this juncture presents a unique opportunity for the College to not only materially renovate, but also rethink how it can manipulate physical space to promote and instigate a change in social dynamics. Abandoning the Socials does not necessarily mean abandoning suite living. Suites provide a highly desirable living arrangement for a lot of students, but the College should be careful when designing suites. For example, the current Socials are arranged so that people can access a suite by entering an adjacent suite and passing though the bathroom. This is highly problematic. Suites should be closed spaces with some reasonable expectation of privacy. When designing suites, the College ought to eschew mass socializing in favor of individual living.