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  • Eric Santomauro-Stenzel

College makes improvements to summer housing

ELIHU ROOT HOUSE - Hamilton has planned several changes to summer housing this year. The changes come partly in response to concerns from last year’s summer residents about heat, space, and social life. Residents, who are required to work full-time at Hamilton, will live in Milbank and Babbitt with window air conditioners in common rooms, a few Residential Advisors (RAs), and expanded social programming. Whereas last year students received free housing on campus as a taxable benefit of their jobs, this year they will pay $84 per week for singles and $70 a week for doubles with a roommate. Residential Life said the fee will be used to fund increased support, the A/C upgrades coming to ~$45,000. More than 200 students are expected to live on campus for some part of this summer.

“This is a good kind of solution for now until we can get some bigger renovations where we can incorporate true air conditioning,” Director of Residential Life Ashley Place told Monitor in an interview, reflecting on months of work to identify a solution to the heat issues from last year. “Ideally, with bigger renovations in the future, we'll be able to address some of the issues a little bit more effectively.”

Associate Vice President for Facilities and Planning Mike Klapmeyer explained his department’s role in improvements in a statement.

“Facilities Management has partnered with Residential Life to improve the quality of life for students on campus over the summer,” he wrote. “Specifically, we will install window air conditioning units in the common rooms for all occupied Milbank and Babbitt suites. This centrally located air conditioning will make the living rooms and kitchens comfortable during the warmest months and will go a long way to help reduce the heat load in adjacent suites.”

The move toward A/C is also part of a larger shift in conditioning. “Longer term, as specified in Hamilton's Climate Action Plan, we endeavor to replace the current heating infrastructure in our residence halls with ground-source (i.e., geothermal) heat pumps. This conversion will provide both facility heating and cooling powered by an increasingly low-carbon electric grid,” said Klapmeyer.

There will also be RAs this summer to promote social life and accountability on campus. “Last year, because we weren't charging for summer housing, I couldn't hire summer RAs, because they are compensated with a free room,” said Place. “That was one thing that we heard over the summer last year: that it didn't feel as much like a cohesive community, that there was a lack of feeling of leadership in the residence halls. Hopefully this will bring us back to a place where the community feels a little bit more tight knit.”

Because RAs are not paid hourly, they will also have summer jobs while on campus, per the College’s requirements.

Place explained that the decision to charge for housing again was in part for accountability, saying that at times last year Residential Life did not know exactly who was living on campus. Some students utilized rooms for storage despite not being on campus, extended their stays beyond their duration of employment, or damaged property.

“We had a lot of problems last summer with common areas, damage, and there being no level of accountability with that. So that was a big issue, particularly in Minor,” said Assistant Director Tanith Sherman.

For 10 weeks in a single, students will be paying $840 this year. Last year, when housing was given for free as a taxable benefit, the most students would have been expected to pay in taxes was $700, with most paying far less, per an announcement from Hamilton’s Business Office last June.

Crowding was also an issue last year in Minor, but with the move to suites this is less likely to be an issue. “Kitchen use was a concern last year for students in Minor. We listened. And because of that, this year, summer housing is only in the suites. So every student will share a kitchen with fewer people,” said Sherman.

Alumni Weekend and other summer events will also use the College’s housing for different portions of the summer.

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