First-years divided over mid-year dorm switch policy, North House residents exempt from switch

The dorm switch policy mentioned in the Return to Campus plan aims to give every first-year student the Commons experience.


Mattigan Kelly

The Branscomb Quadrangle consists of four connecting residence halls: Lupton, Scales, Stapleton and Vaughn. (Hustler Multimedia/Mattigan Kelly)

Ryder Li

To ensure that every first-year will have the Commons experience, Vanderbilt has mandated that students who are currently residing on Commons to switch with students living in Branscomb and Towers during the spring semester. 

North House residents, however, will not participate in the housing switch since the capacity of the Commons exceeds the capacity of Branscomb and Towers.

First-year students were initially made aware of this policy before they moved in through a contract released on July 6 and in the Return to Campus plan. 

North House residents were not officially notified regarding the cancellation of their switch until Sept. 28 in the weekly Return to Campus Update

According to first-year North resident Olivia Haeger, North residents realized they might not participate in the switch when all of their virtual roommates are also North residents. 

“After about the first week of being on campus, the rumor was then confirmed by an RA that we would not be moving,” Haeger said. 

Due to COVID-19 protocols, Vanderbilt has implemented an universal single dorm policy for first-years, with some living in Branscomb and Towers. First-years are typically assigned to ten residential houses on Commons aimed at fostering a sense of community and building connections.

On Sept. 28, Vanderbilt sent out the weekly Return to Campus Update that includes details for the upcoming flip.

“Students currently living in the Towers and Branscomb Quad (Lupton, Scales, Stapleton and Vaughn) will be moving to The Ingram Commons, and students currently living on The Ingram Commons will be moving to the Towers or Branscomb Quad,” the email reads.

The email also informed students that the exact housing assignment for students will be released in late October. 

As of now, Vanderbilt has determined that first-year students will continue to be housed one student per room. Students’ house affiliations will remain the same. Moreover, students will move in clusters, so they will continue to live with at least some of the students they lived near in the fall.

 Packing supplies will be provided, and Vanderbilt staff will transport those items to each student’s new dorm before they return. However, the email also states that students are expected to set up their own rooms by themselves, which forbids move-in assistants inside residence halls. 

First-year Jack O’Keefe, who lives off campus, commented that the dorm switch policy is fair to every student.

“It would be a logistical nightmare if some people wanted to move and others didn’t,” O’Keefe said. “Everyone went into the semester voluntarily agreeing to switch dorms meaning if they reneged on that, it would be unfair to people who still want to switch and went into the semester expecting to switch.”

Rebecca Pan, another first-year living in Towers, said that she wanted to switch because of the living conditions of her current dorm. 

“The community is great, but it sucks it’s not cleaned,” Pan said. “Our bathroom literally does not have toilet paper, [and] we had to ask the boys on our floor to give us some.” 

First-years who do not want to switch fear to losing the community they have already established. First-year Sydney Braunstein, current resident of Stambaugh, expressed her concerns over losing the camaraderie with her floor.

“It would be nice to have a choice because of location and not wanting to uproot lives and move, but I understand that we signed a contract, so the current plan is to move,” Braunstein said.

Branscomb resident and first-year Arianna Santiago also expressed stability concerns and added that she does not think she will miss out on a lot since the Commons experience is not what it normally is this year. 

“That community I have been able to build with people on my floor—[since] my floor personally has three different Common’s houses—when we move in the spring, I am afraid of losing that,” Santiago said. 

Dean of the Commons Melissa Gresalfi offered some advice to students. 

“While it is easy to attribute people’s feeling of being unsettled and being lonely because of being spread out this year, it doubtedly has made it harder; but it is not unusual. It is just hard to transition to a new place. It’s harder this year, but it is not easy any other year,” Gresalfi said. 

Gresalfi spoke about the process of community development within different communities. 

“There are lots of communities that people develop. The easiest community to form is the people that live around you. Students on the main campus have two separate communities: their hall community and their house community. Your community develops and diversifies over the course of the year,” Gresalfi said. 

Though the details of the mass move have yet to be publicized, Gresalfi said she is confident that the decision will have students’ best interests in mind.

“I don’t know how they are going to decide, and I don’t know who is going to decide,” Gresalfi said. “I do know that when they decide, like every other decision at Vanderbilt, it will involve a tremendous amount of discussion.”