Housing Troubles: Residential Life Sees a Decline in Townhouse Interest

Housing Troubles: Residential Life Sees a Decline in Townhouse Interest

Jess Mawhirt

Colgate’s Townhouses are spacious, two-story, apartment-like living environments with kitchens, living rooms and dining rooms, so why is Residential Life having trouble filling them for next year? Some of the issues could be the Townhouses’ distance from campus, the banning of sophomores from the residences, and the interview process that applicants have to go through.

So far, all eight of the Gateway units are filled, with eight students in each apartment. However, only 12 of the other 16 Townhouse units have been filled. Last year at this time, 14 of the units were filled.

One large difference is that, this year, Residential Life is requiring 14-16 residents in each house, compared to last year, when the minimum number of residents was 12. The requirement means that juniors and seniors need to find more people to live with, which may be a difficult task when many Colgate juniors go abroad.

Residential Life is requiring larger groups because the first year class is growing every year and there is less bed space on campus.

Residential Life also wants to make sure it fills the houses with students who are ready for the responsibilities that come with independent living.

“We have slightly fewer filled than we did last year at this time. We are holding out for groups that really want to be living there and have thought through living in the townhouse community together,” Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Residential Life Jennifer Adams said. “We hope some more students will emerge with an interest.”

Another issue is the exclusion of sophomores from the Townhouses. While Adams stated that the Townhouses were never meant to include sophomores, last year, the office made some exceptions. There are currently 20 sophomores living in the townhouses, but, according to Adams, sophomores and Residential Life staff alike have noted that the decision to include sophomores may not have been the best decision.

Colgate’s vision is that students should live together by class year and have more responsibilities as they advance in age. Adams suggested that sophomores may have been better suited living with their peers closer to campus.

“Sophomores who have had difficulty with house and apartment living have been among the first to admit that largely, they were not ready for the independence of townhouse living,” Adams said. “The sophomores who lived in townhouses and houses this year went from one year living with, typically, one other roommate, into a second year living as a group of 16. They were not ready for what that means or how to negotiate with that many competing needs and interests.”

However, sophomore Riley Croghan, who has lived in a Townhouse with three other sophomores and about 12 juniors and seniors since the beginning of this year, disagrees.

“It’s not a huge jump in responsibility from anywhere else,” he said, citing the continuity in meal plan and the utility of the Cruiser. “I really can see no reason by the sophomores themselves would think they weren’t ready [for Townhouse living].”

Croghan said that the administration’s anxiety about sophomores living in the Townhouses may be a result of the Townhouses being outside the jurisdiction of Residential Advisors. He said that anyone who tracks down the information and paperwork to live in the Townhouses has already exhibited the kind of responsibility and dedication needed to live there. There is also no reason, he said, to restrict sophomores to living with other sophomores.

“I can see the merit of keeping first-years with first-years, because it’s such a formative year,” he said, “[But] as long as you’re deciding who you want to live with, that should happen wherever it happens.”

For next year, sophomores are not completely excluded; some are applying for Townhouse and Creative Arts House living, but Adams said that their placement there would be an infrequent exception because Residential Life wants to help them stay connected to their class.

She also noted that students seem to have some misconceptions about the process, which may be why there is not a higher demand and many more applications for the townhouses.

“There is a misnomer out there that townhouses need a ‘theme,'” Adams said. “Townhouses groups definitely do not need a theme for their townhouse…they just have to articulate how living together in a townhouse will benefit their junior and senior year Colgate experience.”