Graphic depicting Gillette House, one of the ten houses on the Ingram Commons (Hustler Multimedia/Vanessa Schor) (Vanessa Schor)
Graphic depicting Gillette House, one of the ten houses on the Ingram Commons (Hustler Multimedia/Vanessa Schor)

Vanessa Schor

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.  

Elise Harris’s double room in Gillette House. (Hustler Staff/Elise Harris)

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.

Elise Harris’s bed decor in Gillette House. (Hustler Staff/Elise Harris)

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.

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Comments (11)

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Steve (Koen) Toggerson
2 months ago

I lived in Gillette from 1964 until I graduated in 1970 when pay telephones in the hall were the norm. We always answered the phone “Gillette Hall. Sharpest girls on campus” (when Gillette razor blades were a thing.) We forged an amazing closeness (emotionally and emotionally) over those 4 years and even though we are now scattered from one side of the US to the other, we still remain the best of friends. Enjoy your time in Gillette. You will always have a friend nearby to turn to!

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Valerie Hinkley Ranney
2 months ago

Thank you for bringing back some lovely memories. I lived in Gillette for 4 years, 1966-1970. It was the newest and most desirable dorm on the Peabody campus at that time. I lived on 3rd for one year, two years on 5th, and one year on the 6th floor (the “senior” floor). 6th floor rooms were about twice the size of other Gillette rooms. The entire dorm was just for women. All of the dorms on campus had a curfew: 11pm M-Th, 12 PM F & S and 11:30 on Sunday – or somthing like that! We had to “sign out” of the building if we expected to stay out past 8pm by indicating where we were going, with whom, and our expected time of return. Then, upon returning, we signed into the dorm with our arrival time. Things have certainly changed, dorms have been remodled, traditions have been outlived; however, one thing remains constant: the friendships forged in communal living. In my freshman year I met a certain group of girls living in Gillette who are my dearest friends to this day. The dorm experiences and expectations of today may be different from my days on campus; however, I wouldn’t change mine for the world! I’m proud to have lived in Gillette. Thanks for the article.

Y
Yolanda Walker
2 months ago

Wonderfully written!

A
Audrey
2 months ago

You know what is a death sentence? Branscomb !!

G
Gillette Alumnus
3 months ago

Much of this is true, as the location of Gillette is probably the best of any house and the shared pride is fantastic. However, much of the positives of this room are somewhat unique to G2. I lived on G5 and had my bed fully lofted like the beds shown in this picture, but the ceiling was so low I could not sit up or kneel in bed and had to wriggle in beneath the ceiling just to afford the space for a chair within my dorm.

L
Luke
3 months ago

I was in Gillette as a freshman in 2013. I will say the second floor rooms are nicer than some of the upper floors (G4!) as floor 2 has laminate and not tile flooring, access to Peabody lawn area, and a common space. (assuming the flooring type is still the case – after – oh my gosh – 9 years).

I think the rooms are small enough that it forces you out of your room to make friends. Once you get into some of the nicer upper classmen dorms (I was in a single the first year new kissam opened) you’ll find the halls far emptier than Gillette.

My 2 best friends from Vandy are from Gillette and we still get together on a regular basis. In fact, they started dating on the second day of school and I was the best man in their wedding. You can take that as encouragement or a warning, haha. You never know who you will meet in Gillette! 😉

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Steve Woods
3 months ago

Nice article on how reviews aren’t everything. You have to see for yourself and make your own judgments. Most people don’t take the time to leave favorable reviews and the negative ones often unfairly skew things to an extreme.

B
Becky
3 months ago

A perfectly written description of Gillette! I’ve said from move in, I don’t understand the negative connotation behind Gillette, it seems great. Clean, aesthetic, laundry facilities…and the most beautiful room I have seen. Looks great to me! Great job, Elise! I can’t wait to read more from you.

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Abbey Woods
3 months ago

As a resident of Gillette, I couldn’t agree more! Thank you for shedding light on our G’family!

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Anon
3 months ago

Best article in the Hustler all year

M
Makenzi Evans
3 months ago

Phenomenal was an understatement for this masterpiece. I love how you included information about the other common areas as well as images of your own dorm to show that there’s nothing wrong with your new home. At all. Beautiful decorative decor. Can’t wait to read more articles that you create. Amazing job Elise!

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