Uncertainties With a Deadline
By Catherine Ahmad Walking around the freshman parking lot on a chilly February evening, I could not help but glance at the nearby fields and think about the buildings shortly to be erected there. These snow-covered patches of dirt would soon be home to Washington and Lee parties, concerts, and study sessions. No longer would this area have eerily quiet nights. For many, third-year housing offers many benefits. When reflecting on their years as Washington and Lee students, recent alumni feel that their best moments and memories were during freshman year. One of the main factors that contributed to this feeling was that everyone in the class lived in the dorms. It instilled an atmosphere of camaraderie and unity. In later years, housing options played a role in lessening the friendly atmosphere that our campus is known for. Each afternoon, one would watch as students filed out of their last class, got into their cars, and drove off to various, separate destinations. Not to mention that these destinations included run-down houses with poor insulation and in some cases, no running water. In addition, safety became a concern. Students would have to trek through narrow and sometimes icy roads as well as deal with minor fires that occurred in these off campus homes. However, the administration believes to have found a solution in third- year housing.
Third-year housing will be divided into two sections, the Village Common and the Village Square. The Village Common will contain five apartment buildings and five townhouses whereas the Village Square will contain two apartment buildings, three townhouses, and two buildings designated for public space. The Village Common is intended to be more residential as it will contain a hangout area, a possible volleyball court, and several separate porches and patios. As for the Village Square, it will be located near the natatorium and a pavilion, whose design was inspired by the House Mountain Inn. The two buildings that are attributed for common space will contain dining facilities that contain both a coffeehouse and a pub. While no exact meal plan has been developed for third year housing, it is intended to be as flexible as possible. There will also be a fitness center and a community room, which some classes might be held in. Most apartment flats will be a four-bedroom space with a kitchen and living room in a three-story building. Single bedrooms will be located on the first floor. The apartments will have balconies that face the fields. There will be twenty-four residents within each building. Conversely, the townhouses will be six-bedroom space with a kitchen and living room on one floor. Single bedrooms will be located upstairs. The front porch of the townhouses will be facing the fields and there will be backyard space. There is the possibility of co-ed living spaces but the administration has yet to make a decision. In total, there will be 340 beds in the upper-division housing. The parking for third-year housing will be the current first-year parking lots. There will also be areas designated for pick up and drop off nearby the apartments and townhouses. The cost will be close to the regular room rates found in on-campus housing. There is also the possibility of another footbridge being constructed but due to cost and construction, it is unknown if that will take place.
Change is a constant in life. However, when communities choose to enact changes that will have a significant impact, increased communication and decisions need to be made. First years were emailed on February 19th about moving their cars from the designated freshman parking lot to lots nearby the Liberty Hall ruins and the Duchossois tennis center by March 1st. However, this decision had been made several weeks in advance and was not communicated to the students. It would have been more helpful if students had more advanced notice regarding decisions that will impact them. Currently, there is still a lot of anxiety regarding third-year housing. Will the townhouses and flats be built in time? Are these buildings being constructed on-site? How exactly will the lottery system work? What role will an RA have in third-year housing? Caroline Bones ’18 had similar concerns when asked about third-year housing. She stated, “Beyond all, I think they are kind of rushing into it…it seems a little hasty.” Based on information gathered, construction for third-year housing will begin this March and two apartment buildings should be built this summer. All construction should be completed by the spring of 2016. The administration is confident in this timeline but is hesitant to reveal what the plan would be if construction falls behind schedule. Again, these uncertainties cause concern. Students need to be aware of some back-up plan and should be notified if the timeline does not go according to plan. Many want and look forward to residing in this well-designed housing complex but also desire to know more information besides the structures themselves. An area that is of great concern is the lottery system that will be used for third-year housing. Currently, the lottery system will be similar to the Woods Creek lottery system that is already in place. However, a possible element of a points system might be introduced to third-year housing, especially in the following years. Only juniors will live in third year housing the first year it is implemented but in subsequent years, it will house both sophomores and juniors. No clear answer has been provided in terms of what the criteria will be for this lottery. Already, students have to apply for the Global Service House and other theme houses, which fosters anxiety. Furthermore, the plans that are currently in place will cause about 40 students within our class to live elsewhere because there will not be room for them. While some students might be travelling abroad, living in a sorority or fraternity house, or dwelling in the dorms as a residential advisor, there will be students who will not have the opportunity to live in third-year housing. This problem will be exacerbated in coming years as sophomores gain the opportunity to reside in the complex as well. Additionally, it is unclear whether or not third-year housing will have a residential advisor. The administration has said that there will a student who acts as an advisor in some capacity but their position and oversights are unknown currently. Considering that this project has been in development since 2011, decisions regarding these issues should have already been made. I understand that a substantial amount of work, time, and effort has gone into this development. The administration has consulted with students, members of the community, and other institutions for their input. They have developed this project in order to foster a stronger sense of community as well as provide a safer environment for students. However, these details are critical to the project and need to be conveyed to the student body. In order for our community to deal with this transition as easily as possible, communication becomes a necessity. It is my hope that as the snowy fields on back campus are transformed into townhouses and flats, students will become completely aware of what exactly is taking place.
Image taken from Washington and Lee website