HARRIS: Gillette is not a death sentence
Twenty square feet of space is not the difference between a thriving year and a year of misery.
August 22, 2022
I’ve only lived on Commons for seven days, and I already wouldn’t trade my G’Family for anything.
For months and months before I arrived on campus, I anticipated the announcement of Commons room assignments along with my fellow incoming first-years. I’d watched all the “room tour” YouTube videos and read all the Reddit complaints, and among the variety of opinions and personal takes, there was one consistent stance: Gillette is the worst house on Commons.
When weighing pros and cons, a commenter online wrote that the biggest pro is “you attend Vanderbilt University,” and the biggest con is “you’re living in Gillette.” Flooding and room size (Gillette rooms are notoriously small) were the most recurring complaints. Threads for “surviving Gillette House” were also popular online.
When I finally opened my room assignment email, there it was, waiting for me: Gillette. My heart sank in disappointment—I was the one who would have to live with the laundry list of complaints I’d seen online. Even before I arrived on campus and now after moving in, I’ve received apologetic faces and expressions of pity when I reveal my housing assignment.
When I pulled onto campus for the first time on Aug. 16, I grabbed as many bags as I could carry in one trip and hurried to the front entrance of Gillette. I took the small elevator to the second floor, walked the short distance to my room and slowly opened the door to my new home.
Heart racing and expectations low, I turned the key. Confused, I paused and looked around. I asked myself, “What’s so bad about this? It looks like a dorm.”
As a second-floor resident, my room is spacious and the ceilings are high, our bathrooms are clean, we (unbiasedly) have the best RAs on campus and my roommate and I should be interior designers for the home we’ve made of our space.
The G’Family is real. The handful of early move-in students on my floor have already bonded over Rand lunch conversations and put in more than 13,000 steps each day trekking across campus together.
I’ve visited nearly all of the other Commons houses as well, and I’ve yet to find what possibly gave Gillette its reputation. The notorious 2021 Gillette flooding is a recent event that is constantly mentioned, yet no one speaks of the 2010 displacement of East and North House residents due to flooding or the discolored brown water that flowed from Murray House sinks in 2019. Of the 10 houses on Commons, Gillette does not have the smallest typical room size by square footage (North House does), it is one of only six Commons houses that boasts vinyl tile floors and it has in-house laundry, unlike other houses. As if that isn’t enough, Gillette is located directly across from Commons dining and has its own driveway out front.
When people are constantly telling you there’s something wrong with a place, person or even yourself, you will continuously search for that “wrong” and even convince yourself you see the “wrong,” when in fact, it’s not there. ”
I’ve come to the conclusion that as college students, we are programmed to assign a “best” and a “worst.” What is a college campus atmosphere without running inside jokes, meaningless rankings and hot takes? Are we even Vanderbilt students if we aren’t polling, categorizing and ranking? It’s like there’s an unspoken mutual agreement to dismiss past misfortune regarding other houses and to overemphasize Gillette’s misfortune to keep the joke running. But, in our four years, we’ll create our own inside jokes, pick our own dining halls to slander and together decide which professors we want to unnecessarily bash on RateMyProfessor—no matter our Commons house.
Regardless of your housing assignment, you can make the most of your Commons experience. When people are constantly telling you there’s something wrong with a place, person, or even yourself, you will continuously search for that “wrong” and even convince yourself you see the “wrong,” when in fact, it’s not there.
Every Commons house is great and only slightly different. If you come to college expecting a master bedroom to sleep in with room service and dry cleaning, yes, you will be disappointed. If you come comparing your house to every one of Commons’ other nine houses, yes, you will be disappointed. But if you come in recognizing that 20 square feet of space is not the difference between a thriving year and a year of misery, you will be beyond satisfied with your dorm. Given the experiences we’ll have around campus and Nashville, the top-tier education we’ll receive in the classroom and the fact that we’ll likely spend minimal time in our dorm rooms anyway, no random house assignment will define our four years at Vanderbilt.
Gillette will continue bonding over being the butt of jokes and the rest of Commons will continue vastly overexaggerating our living conditions. But when you’re trekking across Commons to use our G’Laundry and you hear all of our G’Laughs, just know, every day is a party at Gillette, and you’re not invited.