Lawrence loses lounges in battle with housing crisis

Jamie Cartwright

When members of the current freshman class arrived at Lawrence a little over a month ago, most did not know of their class’ massive size or of the impact that it would have on Lawrence University.
However, the effects of the Class of 2014 are strong and widespread. As one sophomore put it, “It’s like there aren’t any sophomores or juniors on campus anymore. The seniors stand out as campus leaders, but the freshmen fill the rest of the school to capacity!”
Campus housing is maxed out, and as a result, Lawrence’s Residential Life Office has made tough choices about how to solve the campus housing crisis. This has lead to the most significant change made to campus life this year – the fall of the lounge.
In most residence halls, a lounge acts as a sort of living room for students. Some students even say that their floor’s lounge is the primary means of forming a strong floor community. But last summer, almost all of the floor lounges in Kohler Hall and Colman Hall were refitted as dorm rooms for students.
Making lounges into dorm rooms was likely the most efficient and cost-effective solution to Lawrence’s housing crisis, but some students raise questions about its effect on student community life, specifically that of entering freshmen.
Reflect back on your first few weeks as a freshman at LU. Do you remember the panic of finding a place to sit in the dining hall – or the excessive hand shaking and infinitely repetitive, “Hi, what’s your name?” Or even the strange, but somehow helpful, Welcome Week activities?
Just over a month ago, these freshman patterns were in full swing for the some 450 first year students at LU. And for those freshmen living in Colman and Kohler, the lack of lounges was probably not the biggest dilemma on their minds.
However, students like freshman Mathias Reed, a Kohler resident, find that although the loss of lounges was not detrimental to cultivating good floor communities in the long run, it may have hurt the process early on.
“It affects the floor community because there is no longer a good place to just hang out,” he says, “I don’t really think a lounge would guarantee floor closeness, but it would give us another option to have fun and hang out.”
Freshman Annesley Clark, also a Kohler resident, pointed out that the way Kohler is constructed causes isolation between each side of the building. According to Clark, a lounge “would be a nice common place to get to know people from either side, especially early on.”
Some residents of Colman viewed the situation a little bit differently. In fact, freshmen John Troup and Pablo Morales of Colman Hall believe that individual floor lounges would actually detract from the Colman atmosphere they have come to enjoy.
Troup says that the large first floor lounge has a thriving community that encourages more inclusive, large-group congregating. He goes on to say, “It’s like a big party; I get to know everybody from all around the dorm, and I like that better than just being close with my floor.”
The overall contentment with the lounge-less floor situation is relieving to Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Amy Uecke. She oversaw much of the effort to combat Lawrence’s housing crisis, and she explained the gravity of the situation.
During the summer, the university had to figure out how to house about 50 extra students. Lounges weren’t the only areas of residence halls that went through changes. Some residence hall offices were eliminated, and Lawrence guesthouses were sacrificed to house some upperclassmen.
According to Uecke, the answer to the question of whether lounges will be reconverted in following years will depend on the admissions process and how many students choose to come to Lawrence. However, the residence life office is committed to providing spaces like lounges as much as possible in the future because of the strong community bonding that a lounge enables.
For the most part, students seem to find ways of socializing no matter what their living situation. A number of students simply felt relief that Lawrence did not have to resort to temporary housing in local hotels, like at some larger state schools where population fluctuates for the first few weeks of the semester. It seems that although lounges were taken hostage in the process, Lawrence seems to have won the war with the campus housing crisis.

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