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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

ResLife to bring a series of renovations to expand on-campus housing options


Adding to the recent changes in the housing lottery process, the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife) plans to make a series of changes and renovations to the existing housing units on campus to maximize their utility and to provide a better living experience, according to Matt Austin, associate director for housing operations in ResLife. Austin said there will be major renovations to Miller and Houston Halls, and efforts to optimize living space in Stratton Hall.

More beds will be added to Stratton Hall by converting existing single rooms in the building into double rooms. Austin said that these current single rooms will provide enough living space for two people when they are turned into doubles. ResLife also plans to turn the basement of the building into a habitable space by making structural changes.

"We are working with our campus planning team and architects to turn the basement into living spaces, common spaces, and installing a new bathroom," Austin said.

Austin added that this is part of bed optimization, ResLife's ongoing project that involves re-examining current housing resources to increase the university's capacity.

"Bed optimization is ... maximizing the space we have on campus to house as many students on campus as we can," he said. "It includes a thorough review of spaces, possible construction and — at times — new furniture being installed."

Austin said that Stratton Hall, along with Lewis Hall, will only house sophomores next year, instead of seniors. Austin noted that this will reduce the number of dorm-style units for seniors, but more apartment-style housing will be available for upperclassmen in Latin Way and Hillsides Apartments. He added that this reallocation of apartment options will add living space for upperclassmen on campus, and that while many juniors and seniors have signed their leases already, there has been a housing waitlist for these units for at least the past two years.

"We understand that some upperclassmen have already signed leases, but we have found in the past that there is more than enough demand to fill our upperclass options provided," Austin said. "By creating more apartment style inventory for [upperclassmen], we feel that we’re tailoring residential options to the experiences our juniors and seniors want."

In addition to bed optimization in Stratton Hall, major constructions will take place in Houston Hall and Miller Hall. Austin said that these two buildings will get elevators, new entryways, renovated bathrooms and upgraded lounges. In particular, approximately 100 beds will be added to Miller Hall. According to Austin, these construction projects will begin in summer 2018 and end by fall 2019.

The current construction plan dictates that Miller Hall will be fully offline for summer 2018, with one half of the building remaining closed in fall 2018 and reopening for the spring of 2019. Meanwhile, Houston will stay fully usable over the summer and fall of 2018, and half of the building will close in the spring, with students from that half moving to Miller Hall.

The other half of Houston will be renovated over summer 2019, and both halls will be fully available for housing in fall 2019, according to Austin.

Austin added that ResLife hopes to add several beds for first-years in Bush and Harleston Halls, and that there will be small renovations in Hodgdon and Metcalf Halls.

Austin, while acknowledging there is more work to be done to house more juniors and seniors on campus, explained that bed optimization plan will allow the university to let more students from those classes live on campus.

"There is a trickle-down effect with bed optimization that occurs any time we create more beds on campus," Austin said. "For each new bed space that we create in our halls, that could give us the opportunity to house one more upperclass student on-campus."

He noted that 525 beds are already allotted specifically for juniors and seniors, not counting the theme and culture houses.

"We’re excited about our progress," he said. "But ... there is more work to be done to help accommodate even more students on campus with the rising rents off-campus." 

He also added that it is the university's goal to provide on-campus housing for as many students as possible, and that the university has been working over the years to maximize its housing capacity, following last year's recommendations from the Residential Strategies Working Group.

"This year we have very high rate of occupancy too, so we are trying to do the best we can to get as many students in the halls as we can and ... not have any vacant beds," Austin said. "Between the efforts that our capital planning [and] campus planning teams are doing with [Capen Village] and bed optimization, and ... trying to communicate with students and get them in the halls if they want to live here, we are really trying to serve as many students on campus as we possibly can."

Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate Historian Jacqueline Chen, a junior, has been working with ResLife to introduce more resource for students seeking off-campus housing. Chen welcomed the renovation plans, and noted that ResLife has been understanding of students' needs on campus.

"I … know that maximizing the number of beds on campus is a top priority for the [ResLife] right now," Chen told the Daily in an email. "I think this is an important step to allow as many students to live on campus as possible because I think this helps students feel connected to one another."

However, not all students think more on-campus housing for upperclassmen should be a priority. Berkay Unlü, a junior who hopes to live in Sophia Gordon Hall next year, said there might not be a need for more on-campus housing for juniors and seniors, as many upperclassmen choose to live off campus at their will.

"As far as I know from my friend circle, no one cares [about on-campus housing options for upperclassmen]," he said.

In the future, Chen added that expanding current residential buildings on campus would be the best way to accommodate the existing shortage in on-campus housing.

"I fear that enrolling smaller classes to alleviate the housing issue will pit already underrepresented students against each other in the admissions process," Chen said. "I think expanding existing dorms would minimize the impact on the Medford/Somerville host community by working with existing infrastructure wile also adding more beds to campus."