Washington College Grows Up

By Ji Kim
Elm Staff Writer

Doubles turning into triples, mailboxes in Hodson, the stampede of hungry people in the dining hall—it seems as if Washington College is about to burst from overpopulation. How? The answer resonates with irate students: Too. Many. Freshmen.

The more, realistic answer? Not really. Or rather, this kind of thing has been happening for a while now.

Generally, W.C is rapidly moving forwards with numerous changes that are both exciting and a little overwhelming at the same time. Presently, for instance, the campus is undergoing several projects (cue the Green which is a sad Brown for now) and with more to come (such as the Miller library renovation); Gus the goose is grooving his debut and more changes are taking place within college administration. Mix in a fresh crowd of first year students whom everyone is still getting to know and there seems to be too many things happening simultaneously.

But let’s rewind and dig up a quick Elm article clip-show which reveals that it’s not the first time that lounge areas have been turned into dorm rooms. In fact, the freshmen class entering in the year 2000 was “20% larger than anticipated”, leading to the unlikeable lounge-to-dorm conversion. In 2001, Gibson 100 was turned into a residential hall and Kevin Coveney, Vice President of Admissions and Enrollment Management, had offered insight to the college’s expansion, explaining that students were complaining that the college felt too small; thus, W.C had started gradually expanding since the 1990s.

Looking at recent past years, the numbers continue to rise. In 2008, the freshmen class size target goal bumped up to 400 (over 415 freshmen were enrolled that year) and a five-year plan was also then implemented to increase the student population to 1400. The largest freshmen class was actually that of last year’s—a record number of 448. This year’s freshmen class consists of 400 rather bright students—the “smartest” entering class (mainly having the highest GPA average and test scores) to date. (Rock on, freshmen!)

In the end, however, the point is clear: Washington College is undoubtedly continuing on a path of major growth—we are living in the transitional period from a little community towards a thriving population of…?

The end of that sentence still seems uncertain, but in a survey of RA’s across campus, these student leaders offer their two cents and insight.

Justin Barker, Zone 2 RAD, explains that there are plans for campus growth including a new residence hall. He also notes the hardships that RA’s are having in finding a common area to gather residents in. Barker additionally comments how “the school just doesn’t have that small, cozy feeling anymore.”

Concern about the college’s growth compromising the small, liberal arts atmosphere of W.C is echoed by Nina Sharp, a Minta Martin RA, who fears that W.C “may lose its endearing class sizes” even though W.C will gain “more notoriety and prestige.”

Hunter Draheim, Zone 4 RAD, highlights the benefits of a larger student population. “I think that WAC is moving in the right direction in trying to increase its size. We’ll never end up being a large 10,000 plus size school, but the increase in the size of each class and the raising of standards for these students has increased the overall value of an experience at WAC.”

Anthony Pipolo, Somerset RA, continues this train of thought and remarks how more recognition will lead to more opportunities and resources for students such as more internship options.

Of course, everyone, RA’s to students alike, heavily emphasize the “danger zone” that the crammed dining hall has become (as Sharp comically remarks), and the concern over jam-packed facilities such as housing (“SO MANY TRIPLES!” exclaims Nick Pace, Middle Hall RA) and parking.

Granted, the college is not simply bumbling along and sweeping up as many freshmen they can. There is an obvious plan for campus growth in place and admissions have significantly upped the level for acceptance. In 2010, Christopher Ames, Provost and Dean, stated, “No one is contemplating any level of growth that would change the fundamental, personal nature of Washington College.”

My personal concern, however, is this: does Backup Plan A and B exist and can I know about it?

As Elizabeth Menzie, a Minta Martin RA, matter-of-factly puts it, the college should not be “making promises they cannot keep.” How far are we going to grow and are we going to tread too far onto current students’ quality of life here as they live through the college’s awkward tween years of expanding and trying to fill its large shoes?

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