Klass will present new dorm plans soon

By Robert Katz

The new dorm to be built on 61st Street and South Ellis Avenue may be attached to the existing, upgraded Burton-Judson cafeteria, and will include many different types of housing, according to Steve Klass, vice president and dean of students in the University. Klass will present plans for the dorm to University trustees on October 28. “Nothing is final until the trustees approve it,” he said.

Residents of the new dorm will eat at Burton-Judson (B-J), which will be changed not only to accommodate the new diners but also to reflect the sensibilities of Bartlett Dining Commons. “People seem to prefer Bartlett,” Klass explained.

The new B-J dining hall will serve meals à la carte like Bartlett, rather than all-you-can-eat. “The feedback we’ve gotten from students is that the all-you-can-eat is not the best bargain, and you should only pay for what you eat,” Klass said.

The dining hall will also likely include Bartlett’s “variety of stations, customizable food, guaranteed freshness, which matched well with à la carte,” said Klass. “With Bartlett, we were constrained by the dimensions of the previously existing building. In this case, we will be able to build from the ground up.”

The new dorm will have roughly 900 beds, including 650 to replace the recently sold Shoreland, and 250 to accommodate the school’s 1999 master plan to increase the student body.

Klass compared the scale of the future housing community on the south side of the midway with the relatively small population of B-J. “We’re talking about 1200 beds south of the midway, when you add the B-J’s 300 beds,” he explained. “That’s a similar order of magnitude of the community north of the midway.” He said that Max Palevsky, Pierce and Snell-Hitchcock have about 1150 beds combined.

However, he noted that currently only one evening bus runs south of the midway. “We’re going to have to take a look at how we get people around the University,” he said. “Whether that means changing the evening bus system, or using a whole other system, I don’t know.”

The last time the University built a dorm was Max Palevsky, which opened in 2001. The University wants to use the lessons learned from that dorm in the design of the new dorm. Klass called the programming studies that took place last year “substantially more comprehensive” than the ones that took place before the design of Max.

Cheryl Gutman, deputy dean of students, housing and dining services, said the programming surveys took three forms. First, there was an electronic survey sent to every member of the College asking them to rank their most important housing considerations. Students ranked the top six as having a single room, privacy, quiet, quiet for sleep and study, a convenient laundry room, the ability to live with friends, security, a private bath, minimal meal plan costs, and proximity to campus.

Second, the University hired an outside company to organize focus groups. The company, called Kieran Timberlake Associates, found that students really wanted diversity in their housing experience. They wanted diversity of rooms, diversity of people. They liked the strong communities they felt in their houses. They did not like Max’s vestibules because they prevented them from seeing who was in the rooms.

Third, the University analyzed the current housing distribution and under the assumption that student had probably distributed themselves in ways they felt best suited their needs. The analysis showed that the 45 percent of housing residents were first-years, 28 percent were second-years, 13 percent were third-years and 10 were fourth-years.

80 percent of freshmen are in doubles and 20 percent in singles. Gutman said that in her experience, many first-years wanted and expected to get a roommate. She said that she had gotten angry calls from incoming first-years livid because they were not assigned a roommate. The school intends to use this research for the new dorm’s design.

For example, said Klass, the main architectural feature of Max was the towers of lights on the building’s corners. “The architect thought it was important, but I don’t know that I would do it again,” he said. “Putting the community space in the corners made it a destination, not a place that community happens informally. For example, in Shoreland, you come off the elevator and you are standing in your house lounge; in Pierce, the house lounges are in the middle of the floor.”

Gutman said that this informal community strengthens the camaraderie of a house. “We feel that a house can self-govern,” she said. She mentioned a new, 18-floor dorm at Boston University with three- and four-bedroom suites. That dorm opened to rave reviews, but Gutman panned it. “18 floors, and no community space. There is no house identity in that dorm,” she said, adding that she hoped the University’s own dorm would “encourage and facilitate a strong sense of community in the house system.”

With more housing closer to campus, University administrators are confident that the new dorm will ease the pressure on existing housing close to campus, thus causing more people will stay in their houses. “We have a really unique opportunity to build around our house system, and not have to fit our house system into a pre-existing building,” Klass said. “We are truly building from the ground up.”

Until a donor gives it a name, the project is being called the “New Dorm.” “Certainly it will be easier for the fundraising people, when they have concrete plans for a dorm,” Klass noted.

Eduardo Mendoza, a second-year in the College, was apprehensive. “I hope the University doesn’t hire another zany architect and regret it later on,” he said. “We wouldn’t want another architectural horror like Max Palevsky. Max just doesn’t fit in with the whole gothic feel of the school.”

Linda Yu, also a second-year in the College, thought that the location was too far from the rest of campus. “It’s too far from the Reg,” she said.

Marielle Fricchione, a third-year who lived in B-J her first and second years, wondered about the physical impact of the dorm. “It would take over the community, disrupt it. I like that backyard. I don’t want them to build back there,” she said.

Russell Stadler, a third-year in the College, thought that the distance to campus was fine, saying, “While it is across the midway, it’s not Shoreland.”

Sarahjon Kerins, also a third-year in the College, said that she preferred apartment living: “In apartment living, you have freedom and you have a choice of who you live with.” However, she pointed out that the dorms were more social and that Max Palevsky, where she lived during her freshman year was “nicer, and had better facilities [than her apartment].”