There are tight times in dorms as new freshman class is the largest ever

When Norwich accepted its biggest freshmen class ever this year, it caused over-crowding in the residence halls and headaches for university officials and residential life administration.
Norwich decided to increase the amount of students this fall by raising the acceptance rate to 64 percent. However it ended up with more students than expected in the freshman class, accepting more than 100 more freshmen and transfer students than usual, according to Tim Reardon, director of admissions.

This year Norwich welcomed 884 new college and transfer students, he said. “Last year there were 708 total students, obviously significantly more this year than last year,” said Reardon.
“We had set a goal at about 750 students but the goal has shifted every year. Last year it was 750 but we only brought in 704 so we were 42 short of the goal,” he said, Reardon. “So we decided to award a little bit more money to students to help them afford Norwich.”

The result was a big class and a scramble to accommodate them, but also an encouraging trend.
“What we found is that, yes, students actually want Norwich. We just have to figure out what price our students look into to come to Norwich,” explained Reardon. “This year for the fall of 2016 we were able to get more applications completed in a quicker manner, and we actually only accepted about 200 more students than we had last year.”
Norwich residential life got an inkling that the dorms would be over capacity in mid-June after student deposits were made. “The total of civilians were somewhere around 600 students; the original dorm capacity is 568,” said Iphagania Tanguay, director of residence life. As a result, Norwich currently has in the vicinity 30-35 students in rooms converted to dorm rooms from lounges.

“Both dormitories are potentially over capacity but we do have some open rooms where we have one person,” said Tanguay. “We will work through consolidation and we’ve been working through when things become open.”

We want to be “moving people out of those converted rooms so that we can get them back to study rooms,” she said. “It is a slow process and we really do count on everyone being willing to consolidate and work with us so that we can get those students out of there,” said Tanguay.

“In training, we did prepare ourselves to have a lot of kids that were going to complain about who their roommates were,” said Peter Maguire, a 20-year-old resident advisor and world peace major, from Montana. “We’re going to tell them hey, you’re going to have to work this out because we don’t have the room for everybody.”
“We had to pay special attention to the people that are in the (lounge) quads because its four people in a room, that’s really crowded and so we’re kind of talking to them to see how it feels, because res life told us it might be a thing that we keep doing this but a lot of us are saying they’ll never do it again,” said Maguire.

“That’s the number one priority is trying to get students out of there, we do face students that will go into the converted lounges and really like it. They like the space and they find that perfect,” said Tanguay. “Then they don’t want to leave, I encourage them to go into a real room which is a double so that we can get those back to study rooms, she said, noting that will make her feel “more comfortable” about their housing arrangements.

Norwich admissions uses the benchmark of the number of beds on campus to accept the right-sized class, said Reardon. “Knowing that information earlier in the year, they worked to get that number but then they were surprised” at the number who accepted, he said.

When asked about any safety concerns with overcrowded dorms Tanguay said, “Not necessarily, I think we take into consideration that we think about the spacing that we convert, that the places we are utilizing are safe, and that we’re making sure we have our staff accommodate that,” said Tanguay.

The crush of a larger class has also created headaches in how students are assigned to the two civilian dorms, Dalrymple and South Hall. “In recent years we preserve Dalrymple for new students because we believe that they can make the transition moving with their classmates, and we provide different programing for those students,” said Tanguay. “So we reserve a certain amount of Dalrymple for that and then it’s based on their housing form just like upper classmen. They have a deadline for that as well, those are provided to us through admissions,” said Tanguay.

“We spend quite a bit of time and care in trying to find matches,” said Tanguay, making sure that students are compatible and also matching students by academics as well.
“You might not necessarily live with a criminal justice major but how your floor is made up, you might have a criminal justice majors across the hall,” said Tanguay. “We really want to focus on students that are compatible by their activities and sleeping patterns,” she also said.
We do “those things so that we can give them the opportunity to work with someone whose in their major and we do allow students to request each other,” said Tanguay.

Students that didn’t turn in a housing form were the ones potentially assigned to the converted areas because they had missed the deadline, said Tanguay. “If things get emptied out we’ll get the rooms back to study rooms as soon as facility operations can do that,” she also said.

The students are coping as well as they can in the converted lounges. Rhea Dhote, a 20-year-old environmental science major from India began in a converted quad but one student moved out. “I have two instead of three roommates it’s different but it’s not that bad,” said Dhote. There’s enough room but there isn’t enough storage, but “I’d rather be in this, I like it.”
She was a little bit scared to find there were no locks on the converted lounge quad doors. “We did tell the RA’s when we got the room and they said if you do face problems we will figure something out,” said Dhote.

The pros are that you can have everyone around you and watch TV that has cable, said Dhote. “The cons would be if someone is dirty you couldn’t help it, you kind of just have to live with it,” she said.

“It’s been the first time in a while” that Norwich had an overcrowding issue. “We haven’t really had that happen for at least two to three years, this is the first time for Dalrymple that we had to do this and potentially this is second time for civilian students, and one time we’ve had to help the corps,” said Tanguay, recalling a squeeze on the corps side. “We did have to house some corps students because they didn’t have enough room.”

The fact the lounges are different sizes in South and Dalrymple made the housing adjustments complicated. “South hall, based on its square footage and being able to hold furniture, potentially can accommodate four students,” said Tanguay. In Dalrymple, she said her recommendation was three people, based on the furniture it could hold and size of the space.
The housing crunch also meant added costs. “The university had to reach out and order quite a bit of furniture because we didn’t have what we needed in storage,” said Tanguay. Facilities operationsworked all summer ordering furtniture and setting things up and making sure that privacy was maintained, she said.

The squeeze also meant curtailing corps transfer options to the civilian side. “If rooks or even upper classmen corps members wanted to transfer currently, we only had a certain capacity over a certain number; so over that number it was ether stay in the corps or leave Norwich,” said Tanguay. “So they didn’t necessarily have that option to remain at Norwich because we didn’t necessarily have the space for them,” she said.
Admissions officials also created a list for some of the civilian students to defer to spring semester or for students that could commute, to wait until rooms became available, said Tanguay.

Reardon said that for the spring 2017 semester, admissions is going to process files similarly to how they processed them this year, but will likely be looking to push students to do their financial aid applications earlier. That will give the school a better view of what the potential class size might be.
He added that Norwich has looked at another dorm building by 2019, but any decision will be based on need and whether the rising admission trends continue. “I know that the university as a whole, we’re really looking at what the number can be for the next years in coming classes,” echoed Tanguay.

“We’ve tried to be as positive through the entire process. I’m working diligently everyday to get students out of those (converted) areas that they are in,” said Tanguay, who is on the front lines of the situation since her office was moved to Dalrymple Hall. adding, “the size of the class and the entire civilian population was here so we felt like we needed to be over here.”

While the crowding is a logistical problem – “I think a lot of students like to say, do you accept too many students? – Reardon sees a positive side too: “I think it really shows the value of the Norwich degrees actually is really high.”

“More students actually want to come to Norwich, which makes the degree worth that much more,” said Reardon, and that shows that the academic programs at Norwich are appealing.
“The overall value of Norwich. That was able to lead us to enrolling about 150 more students than previously,” said Reardon.

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