Opinion: Why isn’t transfer student housing prioritized like Commons is for first-years?

Housing vacancies like Blakemore that transfers are commonly placed in are distanced from campus life and make it even harder for transfer students to adjust to life there.

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Opinion: Why isn’t transfer student housing prioritized like Commons is for first-years?

Blakemore House (Photo by Hunter Long)

Blakemore House (Photo by Hunter Long)

Hunter Long

Blakemore House (Photo by Hunter Long)

Hunter Long

Hunter Long

Blakemore House (Photo by Hunter Long)

Ned Sheehan

When I moved to Vanderbilt in August as a transfer student, I was as sunny and optimistic as I’d ever been.  Here I was, not only at one of the best universities in the United States, but also at a school with a reputation for actively helping transfer students adjust to life here, rather than just throwing them into the already-hectic flow of campus life.  I wasn’t terribly concerned about my new dorm, a cursory Google search had shown it to have reasonable amenities. It took me a few days to realize that Blakemore House, my new home, was quite removed from the rest of campus.

For those of you (and there are a reasonable few) that don’t know where Blakemore is, it is located on Vanderbilt Place, on the far side of the athletic facilities from the rest of campus.  The walk from Blakemore to the main campus hub, Rand, is at a good clip, fifteen to twenty minutes (I timed it)- no small thing on sweltering August and September afternoons. There are no other dorms anywhere close to Blakemore. In short, it is almost totally removed from the rest of campus. In early weeks, my roommate and I began referring to our room as “the black hole”, as the inconvenience of getting anywhere else on campus often kept us in the room, rather than exploring campus or socializing with others.

For some, Blakemore is likely a convenient home. It is a short walk from practice facilities for many athletes, and practically neighbors with Blair.  But, for a transfer student in the College of Arts & Science, it is very difficult. Transfer students do face unique social disadvantages regardless of other factors– we are entering a population that has already had a year or more to bond and form group cohesion.  All of us transfers made the decision to join the Vanderbilt community fully aware of that reality. To place many of us (in addition to my roommate and me, there are at least seven other transfer students in our hall) in a dorm totally removed from campus life on the whole is just contributing to our burden.  Wouldn’t it make more sense for those who have already found friend-groups to live in Blakemore?

Additionally, this placement puts us as far as possible from Commons, a part of campus filled with other people adjusting to a new environment with new people.  After all, we transfers were welcomed to campus alongside the Class of 2023– shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement that we are, to some extent, in the same boat?  

Granted, transfer students do have the option of selecting a Living Learning Community (LLC) house to live in. LLCs, which include Mayfields, McTyeire and McGill, bring together students of similar educational interests. However, these LLCs are special interest dorms, not for the general population on campus. It should also be noted that many transfer students are simply put in vacant dorms in other upperclassmen dorms.  Does it really seem reasonable to stick unsuspecting students into areas where nobody else wants to live? 

When emailed about giving a response to transfer housing, campus administration did not respond. 

To be clear, I am not complaining about the Vanderbilt community on the whole.  I have been welcomed into the community with kindness, hospitality and a helping hand, and for that I am grateful to my professor and fellow students.  I have no doubt that it is logistically difficult for student housing to fit nearly 7,000 undergraduates on campus, especially with the removal of the Towers and other complexities of construction.  But these details, though they may at times seem of secondary importance, are the sort of little things that add up to a good experience for transfer students. I was able to buy a used bike at a reasonable price, and that has made campus life far easier.  However, in future years, transfer students should be able to avoid the long walks and disconnect from the rhythm of campus life that comes from life at Blakemore House. Vanderbilt should make a commitment to ensuring that no future transfer students will only have the option of  living in housing vacancies like Blakemore. Dorms in the marrow of campus life, like in Branscomb, residential colleges or in houses on Alumni Lawn should be set aside for transfer students This will aid an easier transition and adjustment to the new environment, and make transfers feel truly welcomed at Vanderbilt.

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