From the moment first-years arrive on campus, we quickly conclude that the First-Year Quad (Gilbert, Tiernan, and Hoeing) are low-rise communities. Much older and lacking in elevators, they pale in comparison to the air-conditioned, plasma-TV-lit, Genesee Hall lounges.
Before we know it, our first-year housing perceptions are locked into a standard metric: Genesee is best, the Quad dorms are much less desirable, and Sue B is graced with a dining hall and elevators for lazy people.
Sadly, campus culture accustoms us to evaluating a dorm based on its amenities, rather than what a residential community can offer students beyond shelter. A residence hall and a community have become two very different things at UR.
In Sue B., we are reminded of our lack of dorm identity each time a first-year complains that nobody talks to each other in the halls and lounges after orientation week. On the other hand, the lowly Quad has cult-like traditions (in a good way) of celebrating birthdays in the lounges and communal cooking in the kitchens, and partying together.
Overall, Sue B. is decidedly lacking in tradition. We have no pride in our residence hall, and lack a sense of group identity, instead forming clique-y friend groups. It’s no wonder that now, months into their first UR semester, some first-years wish for different housing, and envision themselves in a dorm where they actually have all the resources to meet their needs
When ranking dorms, the centrality of hall identity to the college experience is vastly overlooked. To first-years, a dorm is only as good as its proximity to Danforth.
At the same time, dorms that are far away from campus are cast aside due to location alone. In higher-ranked housing, a sense of pride is stifled due to a residential complex that values its material aspects. However, residents of dorms in the Quad that may not rank highly on the amenities scale actually have a little more sense of community, and make use of every opportunity to become friends, and have the best time. They do not take anything for granted and come up with unique and creative ways to have fun, like competitions running up the stairs.
However, the root of our lackluster residential culture lies within the housing lottery system — a process that replaces first-years’ enthusiasm with dread for a later time slot. Perhaps it’s this shallow outlook that prompts dissatisfied students to seek a stronger sense of community through Greek life — the dorm vibe just doesn’t come close.
Students at UR tend to prioritize AC, hot water, or a soft-serve ice cream machine over whether a dorm will offer them a residential community.
To revive our housing communities, let’s start with new traditions, whether that looks like campus-wide dorm competitions like capture the flag, communal rites of passage within each hall, or attending hall programs. It’s our obligation to instill a deeper legacy as we pass the baton to each incoming class and look beyond rankings based on amenities.
As a result, traditions will solidify with each coming generation. As of now, our culture stagnates with each incoming class whose criteria for next year’s living arrangements continue to factor in amenities and factor out hall atmosphere.
It’s time now to extend our version of inter-dorm competitiveness beyond boasts of air-conditioned lounges or its hotter (and cleaner) appliances. No longer should we let these physical amenities define our residential culture. This change starts by replacing any sense of disappointment in all that a dorm lacks with pride in what it does have to offer. With this pressing issue upon us, I call for a residential life culture makeover.