College’s inability to adequately anticipate student needs persists

By Sophie Foster

Opinion Editor

Midway through the 2022-2023 academic year, the Washington College Department of Residential Life shared its intentions of spending the summer months renovating the collection of upperclassmen’s dormitories in the North Commons known as Western Shore.

These renovations, completed in late August, included new living room furniture and entirely refurbished kitchens featuring ovens, new refrigerators, expansive cabinet space, fresh flooring, and wall tiling.

They did not, however, include the option for a reduced meal plan comparable to commuter plans, an accommodation called for by students living in Western Shore since the College’s switch to mandatorily residential, on-campus housing in 2021.

According to the WC Housing Portal, Western Shore quarters are now officially classified as apartments, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, furnished living rooms, and fully functional kitchens. Resident Assistants for these apartments were instructed to inform their residents that they were living independently and would no longer receive housekeeping services.

Despite this claim of apparent independence — which should be expected of the pool of largely 20-somethings occupying these apartments — the on-campus meal plan remains mandatory, and the most affordable option for a non-commuter meal plan still leans close to $3,000. Making an additional fee like this a requirement, especially when the WC dining hall continually struggles to meet the needs of students with dietary restrictions, is an unfair expectation made increasingly absurd by the addition of full, private kitchens to so many upperclassmen dormitories.

Ultimately, this issue is small in scope, and is one that will likely find resolution as the College continues to navigate its residential status save for a small number of students commuting from prior residences off campus. It nods, however, to a larger, more enduring issue at WC: that the College is increasingly fixated on glamorous, shiny, pretty new things to show to prospective students, and far less interested in meeting the needs of those already here.

In truth, it seems that the College was ill-prepared to insist upon living on campus when this change was made. If students are going to be given little option other than living on campus, a concerted endeavor to meet their needs must be undertaken. This is an endeavor the College broadly fails to take up.

Persistently, presences of mold, ants, and bats in campus residences are poorly addressed, causing the issues to become perennial and ubiquitous, according to previous Elm coverage.

Most recently, printing kiosks were removed before warning was given, leaving most students without access to a sufficient printing service for class. With attentions turned to the renovations being conducted on the Clifton M. Miller Library Terrace, the College neglects to consider the inaccessibility of flooding brick walkways surrounding the East Commons.

All of this, collectively, is an issue that can be remedied by increased communication between administrators and the student body at large. In fact, notes could potentially be taken from the handling of the terrace renovations, for which library staff have been consistently attentive and communicative as the College works to make the space more available to disabled students.

According to Dean of Library and Academic Technology Dr. Mary Alice Ball, students should not “be discouraged by the library terrace construction,” reassuring the campus that it “won’t last that much longer, and…will look fantastic when it’s done.”

Dr. Ball made it abundantly clear that students seeking the library while construction continues can enter through the marked off fence area leading to Sophie’s Café. The library, including the café, Office of Academic Skills, and Quantitative Skills Center, are all open for their regular hours despite the work being done around them all. Ideally, this standard of communication should be adopted across campus.

Photo courtesy of Elm Archive

Photo Caption: The Western Shore dormitories recently underwent significant internal renovations.

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