Shoreland stirs student response

By Caitlin Parton

The impending possibility that the University will close the Shoreland has caused a stir among its residents, many of whom feel that the University would deprive the student body of a valuable asset by neglecting the diversity of the current housing system in favor of homogeneous housing options.

With many Shoreland residents attached to their home—they say that the sense of history and its strikingly different surroundings distinguish it from other dorms on campus—a campaign has begun to preserve dorm.

First-year in the College Sam Altschul and second-year in the College Quinn Carey started the Save the Shoreland movement, heavily supported by Hale House on the ninth floor of the Shoreland. The campaign provides an outlet for student expression, open debate and information about the Shoreland. Altschul and Carey are organizing public meetings to augment the movement.

The group has sold about 500 T-shirts, according to the group’s website Profits from the sale are going toward creating buttons, more shirts, and other items.

The University is in the early stages of preparing a study to identify a viable construction site, according to Sherry Gutman, deputy dean of students for housing, dining, and transportation. Once it selects a location—probably south of the Midway—it will continue with the conceptual design phase, the architectural design phase, the construction process, and the opening, tentatively set for the fall of 2007.

“We announced two weeks ago that we were in a process of testing the feasibility of using the Shoreland for something other than a dorm for College students because we believe that it would be the best thing for College students and the house system that provides a network of community for them,” Gutman said.

She added that the process will be complex, and the administration is planning to publicly share the relevant data that will determine the next phase of College dorm construction on via a website entitled “The Future of College Housing.”

Until the University announces a decision concerning the future of the Shoreland, the size of the projected dorm is unclear—except for the fact that it will house at least 250 beds.

Surrounded with buildings and stores, the distinctly residential and apartment-style living attracted many of the Shoreland’s residents to it. “I cannot walk home in five minutes if I have forgotten something,” Altschul said. “This element of distance from the campus, where I attend my classes, work, and eat, means that I have a home that is more personal when I come home in the evening. I have an independent, quiet home that I can go to just to be comfortable and read if I want some time alone.”

Carey, who used to live in Max Palevsky, agreed. She said that the new dorm’s proximity to campus and its intense social surroundings made her unhappy. Carey said that Palevsky also had noise and mice problems, which made her uncomfortable.

Many students still have mixed feelings about the possibility of the Shoreland’s closing. While they are attracted to the sense of community, the distance can serve as a deterrent.

“I grow weary of the commute to campus,” said first-year in the College Jess Robbins. “I hate waiting for the bus. I sometimes don’t want to go out because it’s such a hassle. I love the freedom. I love all the people who live here…I think they should close the Shoreland if they’re willing to build something comparable in character.”

According to a survey compiled by Altschul, over half of the Shoreland’s residents selected the dorm as their first choice. For the remainder, 33 out of 44 said that the Shoreland would now be their first choice, while 6 were undecided. Between 80 and 85 out of a 100 said that they felt a part of the campus community and 53 thought that moving nearer to campus wouldn’t increase this feeling of involvement.

The Save the Shoreland movement plans to continue taking surveys and disseminating information.

Framing the closing of the Shoreland in terms of the University’s master plan of real estate development, Carey said that focusing on the campus to the exclusion of other types of community sends the message that the University’s commitment to diversity is wavering. “It’s not that the University’s decision is bad so much as misguided, and I’m afraid closing the Shoreland will have negative repercussions for the housing community, the University, and the larger Hyde Park community as well.”