Increasing Class Sizes Put Pressure on RLO Services

EJ Canny ’19 currently resides the converted lounge of Ryburn. Despite no access to natural light, his room does enjoy the benefit of a kitchen. Photo by Sarah Woods ’21

By: Mary Margaret Robison ’21

Staff Writer

In recent years, the Davidson incoming class size has grown steadily. This has caused a strain on Davidson’s Resident Life Office (RLO), as professional staff struggle with the question of how to keep students living on-campus for all four years. When many juniors return from abroad for the spring semester, they live in converted living spaces, such as lounges and Base Rich singles; others have ventured to live off-campus.

Dean Jason Shaffer, Director of Residence Life, offered insight into how RLO deals with setting aside space for the larger incoming first-year class. He explained, “We set aside a number of beds for the incoming first-year students based on the anticipated numbers provided to us by the Admission Office. For next year, we have set more beds held for first-year students than the number of first-year students we are anticipating.”

However, since the first-year class has been growing every year, the prospect of building a new dormitory remains present. Shaffer replied, “The number of students in each successive class has only gone up by a few each year— 502 FYs in fall ’14, 512 FYs in fall ’15 514 FYs in fall ’16, 519 first years FYs in fall ’17. Building a new residence hall is an important conversation to be had with the Board of Trustees and leadership of the college as part of the larger conversation about the future of the college.”

He added that there are 150 students currently living off-campus, and about 65 students will do so this upcoming fall. Usually more students live off-campus in the spring than fall because of the housing shortages raised by juniors returning from abroad. Shaffer explained that “students have more control over an on-campus fall assignment than an on-campus spring assignment because students can participate in the lottery instead of waiting to see what opens up.” This system is part of an incentive for students to offset the shortage by going abroad during spring semesters instead of in the fall.

Per RLO policy, off-campus housing either requires RLO permission, which usually occurs during the spring housing shortages, or a penalty fee equal to one semester double-room rate.

When talking to various students who had gone abroad and currently live off-campus, most had positive experiences in their various locations throughout the Davidson area.

Blair Nagell ’19 studied in Sydney last semester and lives off-campus in an apartment at The Linden, behind Harris Teeter. She chose to live off-campus because she knew it was “difficult to find housing” after being abroad, and she had also heard “horror stories” about those who could not find housing or being placed somewhere “random.”

Nagell drives to school every day and carpools with her roommates. Additionally, she hopes to “try biking” once it gets warmer. She explained that she enjoys living off-campus because she can “have access to a big kitchen” and have a space off-campus to “separate home and work.” She said she has also really enjoyed the sense of “independence” she has gotten from living off-campus.

Katy Lawlor ’19 studied in Amsterdam last semester and currently lives in an apartment at Depot. She felt that “Davidson often encourages those coming back from abroad to live off-campus (presumably due to the lack of on-campus housing).” Lawlor explained she has “enjoyed her time off-campus [because] I feel like I have a space to unwind from the busyness of campus, yet close enough to be convenient.” Lawlor drives to class every day but commented that Depot feels “just as close” to Chambers as Akers or Knox do.

However, there are also students living on campus in new or converted styles of living such as Base Richardson singles or converted lounges. Shaffer explained how RLO decides to convert which areas into these styles: “We consider which communities have access to other lounges, how many people we can fit into a lounge, which lounges are easier to convert, which have doors (or could have doors installed), and Hall Counselor-to-resident ratios.”

EJ Canny ‘19 lives in a converted lounge in Ryburn. He said he would “be lying to you if I said I was thrilled when I found out I was going to be living in Ryburn lounge.” However, he admitted, “One pro is the amount of space that we have. It was originally supposed to be four people living there, but two made other arrangements, so it’s just two of us. The room is really large, and we do have a kitchen.” Canny maintained that he still has some issues with his living space, such as “lack of natural light” and “noise from F.”

Maura Tangum ‘20 enjoys living in one of the Base Richardson singles, which until last semester were typically reserved as first-year doubles. She said that it is “really nice” to have her own space. She also appreciates the vast space and “central location” provided by the dorm.

Students, especially those returning from abroad, are inevitably facing decisions about moving off-campus or living in converted spaces. Lawlor reflected on RLO’s regulations requiring students to live on-campus all four years; she explained, “I think students should be able to choose where they want to live. I’m sure a lot of students would still choose to live on campus.”

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