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Colby housing has to be better

Housing at Colby has been fraught in recent years, with each incoming class increasing in size and competitiveness in an attempt to grow the school. Students have been left with a complicated system, often being placed in forced triples and quads, with limited space and resources. This phenomenon has been occurring all over the country at many institutions, but frustration grows as more and more upperclassmen consistently find it difficult to get quality housing at Colby.

Colby has undergone a mission called Eminent Colby, created by the Board of Trustees in 2016, to increase the size and scope of the institution to become a more preeminent force in higher education, choosing to expand facilities, outreach, and most notably, the size of the student body. In 2016, enrollment at Colby was 1,879 students. By the fall of 2021, it had increased to 2,262 students. This is no foreign concept to students living and working on campus – classes are harder to get into, lines in dining halls are longer, and housing is harder to get, with lower-quality results for students. 

Housing has indeed expanded in that time, with the construction of the Johnson Pond Houses, finished in the fall of 2022, and the option to live off campus for upperclassmen. The Johnson Pond Houses offer housing for 200 students, and off-campus options offer 150 more people housing. However, the school has rapidly expanded and continues to rapidly expand each year, faster than the school can accommodate housing needs. 

There have been other issues of cleanliness and overall living conditions that students face. When asked about the conditions of housing, students respond that they have issues with mice infestations, seeing the creatures run all over common rooms and rifle through food items. Some students have even described repeatedly removing multiple mice from their room on their own. 

Students have reported black mold in their rooms and common spaces, which is dangerous to be exposed to and breathe in. Furthermore, some state that they consistently need to wear multiple layers of clothing to stay warm in the winter. Two students in separate dorms told me that the power regularly blows out in their dorm, sometimes in the middle of the night, leaving them with no heat until it is fixed the next day. 

Temperatures are consistently below freezing in winter months, and recently, Waterville experienced temperatures as low as negative thirty degrees. The heat going out in the dorms leaves students incredibly uncomfortable in what should be their safe space. Living in poor conditions that are often chalked up to “college living” endangers the health of students and is intolerable during the winter months.

The housing process works via a lottery system, with each student being assigned a random number by seniority. This occurs after students have applied to specialty housing, which includes senior and downtown apartments, and Heights suites. This lottery system is theoretically fair, assigned randomly, yet the system is rife with under-the-table deals made by the most privileged of students. Each year, some of the wealthiest students buy a higher lottery pick to obtain their first choice housing. This works by nonofficial deals in which a student pays another to have them select better housing, and then switch housing without informing the Administration. Each year, students advertise selling their picks for thousands and thousands of dollars. This is yet another example of how the housing situation on campus is broken and needs to be immediately addressed.

Each year, more and more students report living in adapted spaces, which is the language the school uses when more people are assigned to a space than is appropriate for the furniture and square footage of the room. For example, three students lived in a 169-square-foot room, a room only marginally bigger than some singles. They were left with so little space that they barely had room to maneuver around in the room off of their respective beds, and only had space for one functional desk to do schoolwork. They each had only three drawers to store clothes and shared a closet space so small that most clothes were kept underneath their beds, away from everyday access. 

The issue of housing is widespread and seemingly overlooked on Colby’s campus as a frustrating, but immutable issue. Many students have voiced concerns to the Administration that go unanswered or are brushed under the rug. Many times, the Administration doesn’t have an answer beyond that they can’t manifest housing out of thin air to address the problem as it stands currently, but Colby can stop admitting so many students to their incoming class.

In their size of the college report, released by an ad-hoc committee in 2017, they planned to increase the size of the College by 200 students over the following 8 years, yet they have already surpassed that number, and it doesn’t appear they have plans to curb that increase. The Class of 2025 has 560 people in it, and complaints skyrocketed about the quality of living and prevalent use of adapted spaces, yet the College again admitted a record number of students: 650 in the Class of 2026.

The College has many initiatives they’ve worked on, such as building the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center and the Gordon Center for Creative and Performing  Arts and buying two private islands for research, among many others. If the College can’t create housing to accommodate everyone, then it’s imperative that they slow down the number of students they admit each year. Students deserve to feel comfortable in their own space, and the school should take the necessary precautions to fix the aforementioned issues. 

The College should rapidly expand housing so that students are able to live in rooms with enough space for themselves and their possessions and give them room to live and work comfortably. The process has to become fairer so that all students have an equal shot at living in quality housing and don’t feel the need to compete for housing without issues. Housing is a fundamental factor in students’ success in and out of the classroom — Colby has to do better.


~ Hannah Perfetti `26

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