Whittier College dorms change form

Emu Devine

Some residential students might have noticed a change to the campus from previous years: expanded triple dorms. Previously, triple dorm rooms only existed in a few halls, and now there are triple rooms in all halls aside from Harris and Turner. These new on-campus triples have drawn considerable attention from students, and some have been confused about why this change has occurred. The reasoning was explained in an interview about the new housing with Associate Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino and Director of Housing and Residential Life Lafayette Baker. 

A total of 16 double units were converted to triples, and five study lounges were redone to become dorms. In total, two Wanberg Hall study lounges were made into triples, two Ball Hall study lounges into triples, and one Stauffer Hall lounge room into a quadruple occupancy dorm. The changes were focused on these dorm halls, although all areas on campus were given consideration for conversion. “We looked at rooms that could accommodate triples and study lounges that could accommodate triples,” said Merino-Contino. At first, study rooms were chosen to be renovated into dorms, and, afterwards, existing double dorms were changed to triples.

The process of adding higher occupancy dorms began over the summer, with most of the action taking place this past August. “We consulted with the leaders on campus, and in August we sent an email out asking people to volunteer first,” said Merino-Contino. Several emails were sent out to impacted students on the possibility of their dorm becoming a triple, informing all newly – tripled residents in advance.

According to Merino-Contino and Baker, there were multiple factors that ultimately led to the decision. The most straightforward reason is simply due to the fact that more students have been requesting on-campus housing in recent years. There was a spike in both new and returning students requesting to dorm instead of living off campus. In order to accommodate these larger numbers, it became necessary to create more space and higher occupancy dorms.

This, however, is not the only reason. Internal data trends that Housing and Residential Life has access to over the past six years shows a growing correlation between on-campus, triple-dorming students, higher student retention rates, and community satisfaction. “It’s a new trend, but what we’re also seeing with our partners and University of California Los Angeles and UC Santa Barbara is they’re also tripling, Chapman is tripling as well, and it’s something that we’re seeing as a phenomena currently,” said Merino-Contino, later stating: “We have found that the research shows that students in triples have a higher sense of belonging and community on campus, and we’re also working with our counseling center to provide programming and support for students.” 

Campus leadership saw this as an opportunity to look into this correlation to find what, if anything, is causing it, as well as experiment with looking to help invest in and foster a better campus community. This growing pattern and the potential to build off of it combined with other area schools similarly adding more triples influenced the decision to add more on-campus housing as means to invest more in student enrollment and the campus. They spoke heavily with campus leaders and collectively moved to convert more dorms to triple occupancy to hopefully reap greater rewards from this new trend for the benefit of all students. This is not considered permanent, however, and the door is open to possibly de-triple dorms back into doubles into the future, although there is no guarantee.

In addition, they have paired this investment in on-campus housing with a new focus on resources and involvement for those living in these newly formed triples. Baker described to us, “We’re also working with the Counseling Center to work with the Residential Advisors and the Area Director in the community that’s in triples just to make sure that we can get students proper resources.” 

There have already been efforts to increase awareness of other campus activities and resources, and the plan is to continue to specifically direct efforts to give students in triples what they need to succeed in college and in their living environment. The housing situation is part of a broader goal to create a better environment for students through a sense of belonging on campus and retention from year to year.