October 20, 2003

Keep Shoreland and U of C's former self

When people ask how much I like the U of C, I always impress them by revealing that I live in an old luxury hotel in which both Al Capone and Elvis Presley once stayed. It's a great conversation starter. Luxury rooms, however, are just one of the many things the Shoreland has going for it.

If the University builds another dorm, it will be similar in concept to Max Palevsky. Another Palevsky-style dorm will likely create more 100-person houses, drastically different from the close-knit 60-person Shoreland houses. And the only way to accommodate the large number of students who would reside in the new dorm would be to build it as large as, if not larger than, Palevsky.

Architecture critic Balir Kamin of the Chicago Tribune wrote, "University buildings used to be high-quality, high-budget endeavors. But judging by the blown details of the athletic center┬ůsuch buildings now are subject to the same ruthless cost-cutting that has cheapened the look of everything from high-rise condos to department stores."

Max Palevsky has a lot of things, but one thing it does not have is character. The Shoreland has character. I don't know why there is less demand for the Shoreland nowadays. It may have a lot to do with the University's tendency to showcase their new buildings on campus. No one will deny Shoreland's proximity to campus as an issue. However, I think the Shoreland mainly suffers from a P.R. problem. If more people knew about the Shoreland, they would want to stay there right off the bat. When making their housing decisions, people simply don't realize how good the Shoreland is.

I feel very strongly that given any choice, I would not want to be in any other dorm besides the Shoreland. Many students living in the Shoreland agree with me. The housing office contends that more people are leaving Shoreland as third- and fourth-years. It is theorized that this problem exists because the recent housing crunch has converted more doubles into triples, making University housing less appealing. It also has a lot to do with the mandatory meal plan required of housing residents, which is no doubt much more expensive than self-catering while living in an apartment. However, I foresee even more people moving into apartments if their primary housing options are all Palevsky-type dorms. A large draw of the Shoreland is that it is an apartment atmosphere with the perks of University housing.

Building a new dorm and decommissioning the Shoreland seems to me like another way the College is trying to become a "normal" school. There is an across-the-board consensus that this year's first-year class is more "normal" than ever. What's wrong with normal? If I wanted more normal I would have turned down the U of C and gone somewhere else. I would have majored in something and I would have enjoyed my freshman year. And I would have stayed in a normal college dorm, maybe an all-freshman dorm, instead of a cool old luxury hotel built in 1926.

There is no doubt the U of C is moving away from its former self. The question is, what specifically do we need to hold on to in order to keep our school's unique character? Wait, did I say unique? Tour guides are told to stop using that word so much. But the Shoreland is unique. Should we stop using the Shoreland as well?

This crossroads can either decommission the Shoreland or make it even better than it is now. I vote for the latter.