Fall, 2001 – Lawrence University, Trever Lounge. Bob Valy sleeps here for nearly three weeks, after arriving on campus late and being told that his room is occupied. The overcrowding forces Valy to move his personal belongings three times. He eventually moves to a friend’s futon before obtaining legitimate on-campus housing.
Present day-Valy no longer attends Lawrence. If he still lived on campus, he might sleep in a lounge, but that lounge would probably be part of a room in Hiett Hall.
For the first three years of this century, residence life had the task of providing Lawrence students with beds when beds sometimes did not exist.
Before Lawrence constructed Hiett Hall, occupancy rates were 96, 93, and 98 percent for the last three years, respectively. Occupancy rates give a general idea of just how cramped Lawrence has been.
The figure for 2002 includes all beds owned by Lawrence. This means opening all small houses to students, using third and fourth floor Brokaw, transforming one Executive House double into a triple and three singles into doubles, and even making students sleep in lounges.
The addition of Hiett Hall has visibly eased the overcrowding problem. The numbers comply. On census day for the current term, Lawrence University was running at 91 percent occupancy.
This is a significant improvement for one important reason: the overall student population increased nearly 10 percent from last year. Currently, Lawrence has 132 unused beds ready for students who will arrive back on campus from studying abroad, or for students who might join the community at a later date.
One concept to which Lawrence has tried to adhere is the desire for flexible housing options. The increase in student numbers caused Lawrence to use this flexibility in bizarre ways, such as when they placed students in lounges.
With those times behind the institution, flexibility takes on a new meaning.
The architect of Hiett Hall thought about the possibility of housing more than the current 183 students in the residence. If necessary, it could hold 70 more students.
While this scenario will probably not constitute a reality, it could keep students from having to sleep in hall lounges.
The future prospect of more students continues to bring challenges to residence life. If occupancy rates were to reach undesirable levels again, Lawrence might purchase more small houses, but students should not expect another residence hall to be built.
A new union or student center will likely be the next building to appear on campus.
With the fate of the fraternity quad unclear, current residence halls will have to be changed.
Renovations are desired, and might start at Plantz or Trever. They would include more beds, possibly some quads, and perhaps an elevator.
Nancy Truesdell, dean of residence life, says, “Having the slightly increased student population brings vitality and richness to campus.”
Initially, this vitality and richness caused housing problems. Lawrence did not have the proper infrastructure to deal with the population increase.
It would now seem, at least for the near future, that Lawrence will be able to accommodate its larger size.
Truesdell said, “I feel even better about the enrollment increase with sufficient housing.” I think many students would echo her sentiments.